Unctuous plum chutney

chutneyFullNot sure about you, but I love a good chutney. I can quite easily leave dressings off my salads – in fact I prefer them ‘naked’ – but I have to have a chutney, pickle or a decent sauce with my cold meats and cheeses. It’s just not right to have a quality slice of ham or a good cheese without them being paired with a preserve that makes them really shine.

This is one of my favourite preserve recipes to keep stocked up. It’s also a really lovely coloured chutney, with a warm red hue. I only mention this because many chutneys are necessarily just ‘brown’ because of their ingredients – not that there’s anything wrong with a brown chutney – but it’s nice to have a jar of something a bit more colourful!

The recipe is best when made with British in-season damsons in autumn, but any plums will do at any other time of year. This a great use for any hard plums you’ve purchased that require further ripening at home. In late spring, foreign imports of very hard plums start to appear so it’s a great time to make a chutney, a jam or a compote.

I really think the nigella seeds add to this, so I would urge you not to omit them. However, if you are finding it difficult to obtain them, then black onion seeds could be substituted but they do impart a slightly different flavour. In this case I would only chop up one of the onions to balance the flavour of the chutney out better and crush up a quarter teaspoon of fennel seeds and add those in too.

Equipment
  • Large heavy saucepan
  • Three empty, clean and sterilised 180-200g glass jars with lids
  • Cutting board, knife, spatula
Ingredients
  • Plums, stoned and diced – 300g (weigh after the stones are taken out)
  • Carrots, peeled and very finely diced – 60g
  • Red onions, two small onions, finely diced – 2 whole
  • White wine vinegar – 100ml
  • Red win vinegar – 90ml
  • Chilli, a red mild-ish chilli, finely chopped (seeds and all!) – 1 long or 2 smaller chillies
  • Fresh ginger, grated – about a 1 cm piece
  • Dried chopped apricots – 80g
  • Nigella seeds – 1 teaspoon
  • Tomatoes, chopped – 60g (I used baby plum tomatoes)
  • Salt – 1 teaspoon/5g
  • Soft brown sugar – 300g
Method
  1. Put the pre-diced/chopped plums, carrots, onions and both amounts of vinegar in your saucepan and bring up to a simmer
  2. Cook at this level (please no heavy boiling) until the vegetables and fruits start to soften a little – about 12 minutes
  3. Now add in all the rest of the ingredients and stir until combined
  4. Let it all simmer, stirring regularly (to ensure nothing catches on the bottom of the pan) until the chutney becomes sticky and unctuous
  5. While it is simmering, keep an eye on it to turn the heat down as the liquid evaporates to keep it at a gentle simmer – you don’t want it to boil
  6. This simmering stages takes one hour to get to the right consistency (providing you are simmering and not boiling the hell out of it!)
  7. Arrange your sterilised jars (see my recipe post for lemon curd about notes on how to sterilise jars at home) so they are close to hand and uncluttered  by anything else (clearing a space and having them close minimises your chances of fumbling and burning yourself)
  8. Carefully tip the chutney into the jars, using a jam funnel if you have one. Please be careful not to burn yourself, although chutneys are not quite as lethal as jams and marmalades
  9. Gorgeous with cured meats or cold chicken, this chutney also is a good marriage for a strong cheese and can be stirred into sauces to make a rich accompaniment for game

ChutneyJar.jpg

Pomegranate, plum and strawberry curd

I love fruit curds – very retro and very under appreciated. Not only are they great in sandwiches, on toast and for scones and pancakes and similar things, but I often use them as either cake or tart fillings. I sometimes mix them with a little whipped cream or will use them in place of jam in a layer cake or in place of creme pat in a fruit tart.

You can pretty much make a curd with any citrus or berry fruit. This one is glorious and because the fruits used are so sweet I’ve not had to add so much sugar, making it a lighter curd (lemon or orange curds need a lot of sugar). The finished result tastes like an artisan strawberry ice cream – it’s totally delicious.

Notes

You don’t need a thermometer to make a curd, as you can just keep going until it thickens (curds are a very ancient dessert and they definitely didn’t have sugar thermometers hundreds of years ago). However, if you have one, the curd will thicken at around 82-85C.

Equipment

  • A glass bowl and saucepan or double boiler/bain marie
  • Balloon whisk
  • Various bowls
  • Knives, spoons, wooden spoons
  • A fairly open sieve (ie not a fine one)
  • A blender or hand blender
  • A sugar thermometer (easier but not strictly necessary)
  • Glass jars with lids – you’ll need about 3 typical-sized jam jars (around 300 – 325ml each)*

*to sterilize the jars, either pop them in a hot oven for 10 mins or stick them through a hot wash on your dishwasher. Lids can’t go in the oven, so hand wash these then give them a quick rinse with some water from a just-boiled kettle.

Ingredients

  • Victoria plums (or your favourite – damson would be good when in season) – about 6
  • Pomegranate – 1 largish
  • Strawberries (very ripe or those just about to ‘go over’ would be perfect) – about 150g
  • Unsalted butter – 100g
  • Sugar – 50g
  • Lemon juice – 1 teaspoon
  • Eggs, medium – 4

Method

  1. De-stone the plums, take the leaves off the strawberries and take the seeds out of the pomegranate
  2. Pop all the fruit in a blender and whizz until fine (or use a hand blender)
  3. Strain through a large-holed sieve as you want to keep the plum skin, the strawberry seeds don’t matter if included and even a few pomegranate seeds are also ok
  4. Keep the fruit puree to one side
  5. Get your saucepan and glass bowl or bain marie going. Bringing a few centimetres of water to the boil in the saucepan and pop on the bowl
  6. In the meantime, lightly whisk the eggs in a small bowl and leave to hand
  7. Put the fruit puree, the butter, sugar and lemon juice in the top bowl and let it melt together
  8. Once the butter starts melting, use the balloon whisk to smooth it all out and add the eggs. Don’t let the mix get too hot before you add the eggs – if you’re worried take the bowl off the boiler for a minute and add the eggs while it is not being heated (if you have a thermometer you can check the temp is no more than about 55C at the time the eggs are added). Put the bowl back on the boiler if you did take it off
  9. If the eggs start to look like they’re going into scrambled eggs, take the bowl off the heat and give it a good whisk before returning to the boiler
  10. Turn the heat up and keep whisking until the curd is smooth and thickened
  11. Pour into your pre-sterilised jars
  12. Keep in the fridge

Pomegrantates - on the recipe for pomegranate, strawberry and plum curd Ink Sugar Spice