We were watching the weather forecast on ITV the other night and I was impressed that the young lady presenting it managed to use the word 'lovely' to describe what we were in for over these last few days no fewer than ten times.
I observed at the time that 'lovely' is a subjective term used to express a matter of opinion rather than an objective description of climatology, but even an obstinately grumpy soul like me would be hard pressed to deny that it's been another fantastic weekend weather-wise.
I dragged the family around a boot sale this morning, which to my delight yielded a huge bag of cooking apples which means that I'll be busy making apple and red pepper chutney for the next few days.
I've been vegetarian for more than quarter of a century, vegan for quite a lot of that time as well, gave up smoking before the kids were born, and stopped drinking alcohol a few years ago, so have almost run out of vices - but I do get twitchy when we have nothing in the kitchen capable of giving a very strong stilton a run for its money in a big fat crusty sandwich.
Last year there seemed to be few cooking apples to be had - we couldn't even get them from the market (they bruise easily apparently and the traders end up having to throw loads of them away). We recently ran out of what I made the year before last and have been reduced to buying shop-bought chutney, which just doesn't seem a satisfactory way of doing things at all.
This week I thought I'd share my favourite chutney recipe for any of you who happen to have a garden full of windfalls (or know someone else who has) and a couple of hours to do something with them.
I'm also offering for your listening pleasure the second of the kids' compilations referred to in my first post a few weeks back, which would make ideal listening while you're wumping up some of that good wholesome chutney in the kitchen!
Regarding the recipe, I've not found the quantities and measurements to be particularly critical, and it's quite forgiving of any liberties you take with it - rather more so than the Christmas cake I made one year when I realised after it had been cooking for an hour that I'd missed the sugar out and then took it out of the oven to attempt to stir it in, hoping that no-one would notice.
When we came to try to eat it we were unable to cut the thing, and I struggled to do much more than prise lumps out of it using large screwdrivers. Even the birds were unable to make much impression on it when we hung it outside for them to graze on over the winter.
One of my first attempts at baking involved making a coffee cake, and because I had no coffee extract as called for by the recipe I substituted half of a small jar of coffee granules - with startling results, but few takers for a second slice.
Anyway, this is a recipe that even I struggle to mess up. I'm posting it more or less as it's written down in the book. Adaptations and observations I've made to improve it along the way are in brackets. I normally make double quantities, but you need a huge great pan for that.
Red Pepper and Apple Chutney
2kg (4lb) apples
500g (1lb) red peppers
750g (1.5lb) onions
1.5 cups raisins [I find that just about any dried fruit does the trick]
2/3rds cup sultanas [ditto]
2/3rds cup currants [ditto]
2.5 cups brown sugar [I've used white, it turns out a bit pale but works as well]
1 tablespoon black treacle [or molasses, or Golden Syrup, or just about anything thick, gooey and edible]
2.5 cups (625ml) vinegar [NOTE - This is where I fall out with this recipe. I use spiced pickling vinegar and find that HALF this amount is ample, otherwise the result is just incredibly runny! Using spiced pickling vinegar also means you don't have to add the spices, which makes it even easier. Best way I've found is to start with half of the given amount and stir a bit more in when it starts looking a bit dry.]
1 tablespoon coarse salt [I use table salt, and cheap stuff at that]
[If you're not using spiced vinegar, you'll also need]
[I usually put in up to one chilli pepper depending on what's to hand and how brave I'm feeling when I make it - it gives it a real kick, but it depends of course on how much of a kick you'd like it to have].
1. Peel and core the apples and chop finely.
2. Seed and chop the peppers with the onions, raisins and sultanas.
3. Put [about half - see my note above] the vinegar in the saucepan and throw in the rest of the ingredients.
4. Simmer for one hour, stirring frequently. [IMPORTANT - you really don't want it to stick to the bottom of the pan and burn, I did it once and even though it was edible we could have done without the lumps of charcoal floating around in it!]
5. Pour into sterilised jars and put a few of the remaining spices [if you've used them, see note about spiced vinegar above].
6. Put lids on jars.
7. Allow to cool.
As long as the jars and lids are sterilised and airtight it'll keep a long, long time - we have eaten it after a couple of years and it tasted even better than the day it was bottled.
And now, here is the second of my compilations to keep kids quiet on car journeys. The first one, if you missed it and would like to check it out, is here.
01 Frank Sidebottom - We Will Rock You
02 Bonzo Dog Band - Hunting Tigers Out In Indiah
03 Melanie - Brand New Key
04 Betty Hutton & Howard Keel - Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better
05 Allan Sherman - Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah
06 Johnny and the Hurricanes - Rocking Goose
07 The Muppets - Mahna Mahna
08 Pat Boone - Speedy Gonzales
09 Henry Hall - Teddy Bears' Picnic
10 The Avons - Seven Little Girls Sitting in the Back Seat
11 Peter, Paul and Mary - Puff The Magic Dragon
12 Mel Blanc - I Taut I Taw A Puddy-Tat
13 Rolf Harris - In the Court of King Caractacus
14 The Pipkins - Gimme Dat Ding
15 Doris Day - How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?
16 The Wombles - Remember You're a Womble
17 The Goons - I'm Walking Backwards for Christmas
18 Pinky and Perky - Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf
19 The Scaffold - Lily The Pink
20 Tony Christie - Is This The Way To Amarillo
21 The Wurzels - I've Got a Brand New Combine Harvester
Download it here
Happy pickling, enjoy the sounds, have a nice week, and thanks for dropping by. If you'd care to leave a comment to let me know that you've been it would be lovely to hear from you.