This warm, softly spiced jam-cum-chutney, is based on a recipe by my friend Michele Cranston, whom I aptly met over a box of nectarines. The following summer we spent an afternoon making her Nectarine + Chilli Chutney together, and now I can’t bear the thought of Christmas without a jar of this alongside our glazed ham. The recipe can easily be scaled down (try starting with a kilo of fruit), or up - a box of fruit and an afternoon shared with a few friends is perfect and you’ll each go home with at least a couple of jars. It is equally as good with barbecued fish or roast chicken; spooned over poached eggs at breakfast; and alongside a nice, sharp cheddar. As with most chutneys, it likes a little time for the flavours to marry in the jar, so plan to make this at least a couple of weeks before you want to eat it.Read More
'Remind me to tell you about the time I looked into the heart of an artichoke.'
Bette Davis as Margo Channing, 'All About Eve' (1950)
If I had to choose just one vegetable to eat for the rest of my life, it would undoubtedly be artichokes. I seem to wait all year for the couple of short months when artichoke risotto, Carciofi alla Giudia (Roman Jewish-style artichokes), artichokes braised with vermouth, and Carciofi alla Brace (grilled artichokes) are on high rotation. I've even been known to plan trips to Europe around artichoke season.
Baby artichokes, which are actually the little 'volunteer' flowers that shoot off to the sides of the main head, usually appear later in the season. A box of baby artichokes (40 or so) stripped of their tough outer petals will yield just a couple of precious jars to be stirred through pasta, sliced and used to top pizza, as antipasto, or eaten straight out of the jar; so it's not unusual for me to make several batches each season in a bid to eke them out as much as possible. Sold by the box, they should be relatively inexpensive, but it's worth noting that larger globe artichokes can also be prepared the same way should baby artichokes (carciofini) prove difficult to forage.Read More
'The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday -- but never jam today.', Lewis Carrol (Alice in Wonderland)
Summer is synonymous with jam - at least as far as I'm concerned. Every summer, due to my propensity to buy kilos and kilos of fruit, making jam seems to fill my every spare moment. I am head down, bottom up for most of the season; sometimes bottling two or three batches a day -- at that rate, it's never long before I've lost count of the jars I've filled. A treasured copper jam pan barely leaves the stove top transforming apricots, greengages, cherries and nectarines, but nothing more fragile and beautiful than figs into jam...Read More
I think of blood oranges as the jewels of the citrus world: superficially, because each and every time I cut one open inevitably I hold my breath: but mainly because they're *so* seasonal (unlike most other varieties of citrus which are a little disconcertingly, readily available year-round). When I see them, I buy them. Full stop.
If I'm stressed or procrastinating about something, or I simply find myself with *too many* strawberries, apricots, beetroot, artichokes, cherries, blood oranges... I usually retreat to the kitchen for a couple of hours of washing, chopping, stirring and waiting, surrounded by bottles and jars - 'preserving the season'; be it with sugar, vinegar, salt or oil. I always seem to feel much better for it and there's a lot to be said for being able to open one's pantry and find it chock-full of jars of homemade pickles, jams, bottled fruits and chutneys.Read More
Bottling fruit is one of the simplest, most rewarding acts in the kitchen, but one oft fraught with doubt and fear. For me it's a nostalgic act; taking me back to cool winter evenings spent watching my Nanna open the highest cupboards in her kitchen, climb up a little ladder and stand on her tip-toes to reach for one of the precious jars of fruit she had preserved the summer before. My favourites were always the apricots, from the old tree by the back fence - they were *almost* as good as the ripe fruit Grandpa would pass us, still warm from the sun, juice soon dripping down our chubby chins. The apricots I buy don't seem to taste like apricots these days, bred for appearance and longevity rather than flavour; harvested too soon; travelled too far...Read More
One thing about growing your own fruit and vegetables is that often after waiting for weeks and sometimes months, suddenly there is an abundance, which is wonderful of course, but eating beetroots (or anything) every day for several days running can challenge even the most devoted beetroot-lover.Read More