Never fail recipe for fruity chutney

I love making chutneys. Not only is the end result always good, but the whole process is pleasant. Cutting up huge amounts of fruits, getting emotional about the onions, stirring in a huge pan with bubbling stuff that smells fantastic… Really worth the hassle.IMG_20130817_165535

Over the years I tweaked the recipe so that it actually never fails. Here goes.

Amounts are for about a liter, I generally make 2 or three times as much, but it is more to have an idea about the proportions.

  • 700 grammes of fresh fruit
  • 300 grammes of dried fruit
  • 400 grammes of onion (that is 2-3 big onions)
  • half a bulb of garlic
  • 50 grammes of fresh ginger
  • 40 grammes of mustard seeds
  • 250 ml of vinegar
  • 50-100 grammes of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon of allspice
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 TABLEspoon of cayenne pepper

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And here is how you do it:

  • Cut up the onions and the fruit into pieces of the size that you wouldn’t mind encountering in the end product
  • Grate or blend ginger and garlic cloves
  • Toss all ingredients in a big pan and bring to a simmer
  • Stir frequently while letting it simmer for a few hours until it has a nice consistency, watch out for the spatters: they sting
  • While the stuff is still hot, spoon into clean jars, and put the lid on.

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From experience:

  • it gets done faster if you first glaze the onions in the microwave a bit: put the cut up pieces in a microwave dish with lid on, put on a low wattage (400 or so), for 10 minutes
  • I always doubt whether I was serious about the cayenne pepper when writing down the recipe, that is a LOT of cayenne pepper, but yet it doesn’t even remotely seem spicy when it is done (it does seem spicy when you taste it when it is still hot, but when it cools down, it disappears)
  • Same is true for the garlic, it doesn’t taste remotely garlicky, so I generally add some more. I love garlic 😀
  • Vary the sugar depending on how sweet your fruits are, which depends on their ripeness etc. I rather have too little sugar than too much.
  • Whatever fruits you use, the end product is Brownish Muck™, but it tastes good
  • I prefer yellow mustard seeds, but the dark ones are fine too
  • Any kind of fruit works, but I think it is nice to have at least some firmer fruit in like mango, so that you have a nice chunky end product. Generally, the dried fruits provides nice chunks too. I have tried apple, pear, melon, nectarine, prune, mango, pineapple, all nice, when mixed too.
  • I never experienced my chutneys getting too dry when simmering, but when that happens, just add water. It does generally seem a bit too wet. That is where the dried fruit comes in: to absorb wetness. Also, let it simmer without the lid on so the water evaporates. I really like to use dried apricot, but also used raisin, dates, figs, prunes and papaya, and mixes thereof.
  • Keep refrigerated when opened, and when you do, it will stay good for up to a year, but it won’t last that long.

IMG_20130817_213819(Someone more kitchen oriented than I once told me that I should put the jars upside down until they have cooled. I have no clue why, but ok).

Enjoy!

Sentenced to fingerfood

What I would normally do on my birthday is to take my parents out for dinner. Of course, now that my dad’s entire stomach is removed including the 9 cm tumor in it, that is not a fun option anymore.

When I heard that his stomach had to be removed I was stunned. I didn’t know you could live without a stomach, I thought he would have to be tube fed for the rest of his life. On top of the nasty polyneuropathy he’s dealing with, that would just be too awful. So I googled like mad to find out about living without a stomach and was amazed! One of the very inspiring stories I read was that of Hans Rueffert, (interview was here, but I don’t think the link works at the moment), a chef who lost half of his stomach and esophagus to cancer. He wrote a cookbook, Eat Like there is No Tomorrow. When my dad survived the operation and got home again, I ordered it and gave it as a present to my parents, thanking them for all the tomorrows we already had since the operation and very grateful for all the ones to come.

Now, exactly 3 weeks after the operation, my dad can eat and drink practically anything, but in small quantities. Also, it is recommended that what he eats has more proteins and fat in order for him to stay on weight. Of all the nasty things that have happened to my dad, this particular side effect is not one the worst at all.

So I will be off to my parents to celebrate, and bring a very nice bottle of wine and some of the most rich fingerfoods I could think of :D. Of course, since I have been working at losing weight in earnest for the past 10 months now, I didn’t really have to think long 😛

So here goes:

  1. Obtain pancakes. I am lazy, so I get them ready made from the supermarket.
  2. Obtain stuff to fill them with. Anything will do as long as you have something that sticks to the pancake. Here’s what I did this time:
    – I blended grated Gouda cheese, chicken sausage and cream into a nice paste, added spring onions for decoration
    – Cream cheese, topped with smoked salmon, and some freshly cut chives
    Other options:
    – Soft blue cheese (magor works well, or just blend blue cheese with creamy stuff yourself) and chopped up dried dates
    – Hummus and sliced olivesYou get the idea!
  3. Make sure you have the filling at hand.
  4. Check your pancakes to see if you can roll them without them breaking. Particularly cheaper ready made pancakes have a tendency to be a tad brittle when cold and so they break when you roll them, which is useless. It is not that bad if you happen to have the breaking kind, normally, just putting them in the microwave for 10 seconds or so allows them to be rolled without breaking. Don’t make them so hot that your filling melts!
  5. Now, put down one pancake, and spread whatever sticky stuff you chose on the entire pancake, making sure it touches the edges very well.

    See here is the paste I made of chicken, cream and cheese:

  6. Then add some spring onion (or whatever), and roll the pancake as tight as possible.
  7. If you have a thick filling, like the smoked salmon, put it mostly to one side, the inside of the roll, to prevent the roll from unrolling (that is also why you need a sticky agent, the cream cheese in this case).
  8. Cut off the sides which are obviously not as tight as the middle, because they will never be good rolls.
  9. Eat the cut offs straight away.
  10. (No seriously, you need to make sure that what you’re making tastes well, of course!)
  11. Put the rolls together tightly in a container and put it in the fridge for a while so that they get the chance to stiffen up a bit.
  12. With a sharp knife, cut into neat little rolls.
  13. Serve!

Now I am hungry! So I am off to my parents 😀

When life gives you lemons

Preserve them!


Here’s how to go about doing that.

  1. Save and thoroughly clean some jars and their lids.
    Your average lemon needs approximately 14 cm3 of preservation space (that’s 140 ml). In the Netherlands, the standard large jars for veggies and beans and such are 650 ml jars. (Hey! that’s almost 5 lemons!)
  2. Obtain a number of lemons that would nicely fit your jars.
  3. For each lemon (or per 140 ml), you need approximately 25 grammes of salt (about 1.5 tablespoon or 4.5 teaspoons)
  4. For each jar, you need a handful of black pepper corns, cloves, one cinnamon stick and one or two bay leaves.
    I actually doubt it does an awful lot for the taste, but it makes it look nicer, I think.
  5. Toss the lemons in some moderately hot water and thoroughly brush and rinse them.
    Most lemons have a layer of wax on them, which is not bad for your health, but we want to preserve lemons, not wax.
  6. Get a big cutting board and a nice and a good and sharp knife (I love my Kyocera ceramic Santoku knife).
  7. Crack your knuckles (optional).
  8. Cut the top and the bottom off each lemon and cut it into 8 pieces, like this:
  9. Cut the white middle part away. This is for three reasons:
    – The white stuff isn’t tasty and doesn’t add to the whole Preserved Lemon Experience®
    – Same goes for the pips, and if you cut the middle part away like this, you can get rid of most of the pips (don’t bother to try to get them all)
    – You need the juice to come out of the pulp, and if you cut them like that, you neatly cut open all the segments, which helps a lot
  10. Put some salt on the bottom of your jar and make a layer of your doubly quartered lemon bits. If you are not confident about just tossing salt in, just weigh and set aside the right amount of salt for your current jar, and estimate a bit of an equal distribution from that. It will all mix in the end, but it’s just nicer to start with a bit of a nice distribution.
  11. Also toss in a few cloves and peppercorns. For decorative purposes, try to aim for the sides, so you can see them from the outside. Add a layer of salt.
  12. Repeat this step for a third of the lemon bits designated for your current jar. Then decoratively arrange the bay leaves and the cinnamon stick to the sides of the jar so that they show nicely on the outside.
  13. Repeat the layering for another third of the lemon bits designated for your current jar.
  14. Now comes the Serious Squeezing®, part one.
    What I do is find some kind of rather solid object that fits through the neck of your jar, put it in a plastic bag, and lean your entire weight on it when shoving it into the jar, squeezing your lemon bits. I used a bottle of soy sauce.
    At this point, you should start to realise that it might indeed be possible to squeeze the number of lemon bits in the jar that I said would fit in there. 😉
    Note, if you postpone this part to the end, you will squeeze a lot of precious lemon juice out of your jar. So do it now, not later!
  15. Continue with the rest of your lemons, cloves, pepper corns and salt until you fill the jar to the very rim. The Serious Squeezing® in this part is all done with your fingers to avoid overspill of the precious juice.
  16. This step is optional, it’s just because I have little patience. I heat the jar in the microwave for about 15 seconds per lemon. This should make the jar feel hot to the touch without things actually boiling. Salt just dissolves in hot fluid better than in cold and I like it that it sort of sucks vaccuum if you put the lid on when it is hot.
  17. Put the lid on firmly.
  18. For the next couple of days, turn the pot around every now and then, so that the salt gets the chance to dissolve well and the brine spreads everywhere.
  19. Put the jar away for TWO MONTHS, or at least 6 weeks.
  20. Enjoy your preserved lemons!
    They will keep a long time. Theoretically, that is. They taste so good you will need to make a new batch soon, but you get my drift.

You ask how to enjoy your preserved lemons!

Well, open the jar and just smell them, for one! Isn’t that a great zesty smell?

But you can use them in actual food, too :D. Generally recipes say to toss the pulp and just rinse the salt off the zest and use that. I find that if you just use the pulp in say, a chicken curry, you don’t need to use extra salt and it isn’t so wasteful. Great idea akshly: just take a lemon bit, cut it up finely and toss it in your curry. Or your chili con carne. Or your pasta bolognese. You can use the pulp to marinate meats and fish in, makes it so lovely zesty.

Some official recipes:

And I am sure you’re very adept at googling more recipes, yourself 😉