Recipe: Spiced Tomato & Red Pepper Chutney
EATERS DIGEST AUGUST ’14 FEATURE
What inspired you to make chutney this month Carla?
So I got jack of spending eight dollars a jar for amazing chutney. Yes it’s incredibly delicious. Yes I’m happy to pay for locally produced, good quality condiments. However the problem is not the price so much as the startling rate at which it disappears in my household. We, (the two of us) get through a 350g jar a week. Easy. I worked it out. That’s a four hundred and sixteen dollar annual chutney bill. That’s return flights to somewhere in the Pacific Islands. I’ve decided enough is enough. I can have my Vanuatu and eat my chutney too.
Isn’t chutney one of those fiddly, time consuming and confusing things that only chef-like individuals, Indians and members of the Country Women’s Association have the time or the inclination to make?
This recipe will knock your socks off. I won’t lie—it takes a little time. But as for complexity, never fear, it’s actually not scientific at all. I was worried at first that this might be one of those food algorithms that require weird components that are either temperamental or difficult to pronounce, or both. But it’s so simple. There’s an intuitive matter of balancing your sweet, salty and acid flavours and playing around with spices but that’s about as complex as it gets. My advice? As ever, taste and smell everything as you go.
But chutney’s one of those things I buy once a year at a CWA fete stall and then it ends up hibernating in the recesses of my fridge for the next six months while I wonder what to do with it.
I think what you’re asking here is, ‘What can I do with this chutney?’
The culinary applications of chutney are as numerous as the Pacific Isles themselves. I use it on sandwiches and wraps, as a side with cooked or cold meat, (it matches beautifully with both white and red meat). It works as a condiment with curry and rice dishes. It is a most devilish accomplice with eggs, cooked any way. It works with a BBQ, a picnic or a party spread. My partner would argue that it is no better placed than when paired with cheeses of all descriptions. So make it the new best friend of your party cheese platter or your irresistible cracker and cheese snack frenzy.
What ingredients will I need and how long will it take?
Prep time – 25 mins
Cooking time – 2.5 hours*
You will need - A large pot and several airtight sterilised** jars—I recycle old supermarket jars. By my calculation this recipe will make about 1.5 kilo of chutney. I filled two peanut butter jars (350g) and three smaller (200g to 300g) jars with the final product.
*Note that about 2 of the 2.5 cooking hours will be spent with chutney simmering on lowest heat while you paint your nails or landscape the garden while checking and stirring occasionally.
**Sterilising and storage is way easier that you think it is.
When chutney is just finishing, place jars and lids in oven on 120 (Celsius) for 20 mins. Remove the jars carefully (use a tea towel) and fill with hot chutney. Screw on lid and turn upside down for 2 mins, then turn upright. If done properly, the chutney should keep for 3 months in a cool dark place and 6 weeks once opened in fridge.
2 tsp black mustard seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp ground cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp good quality salt.
5 medium ripe tomatoes, finely diced
3 medium brown onions, finely diced
2 red peppers (capsicums), finely diced
1 apple finely diced (skin on)
2 inches of fresh ginger, finely chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large red chilli sliced thinly*
1 cup sultanas, currants or raisins
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar**
1.5 cups apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons light olive oil (or any mild flavoured oil)
*Leave out the chilli if you’d prefer a mild version. Double it for diabolical flavour.
**Most recipes call for much more sugar (two cups or so), which totally freaks me out. The apple and sultana bring natural sweetness to the recipe, though the sugar itself does help with the glazed, glossy finish of the chutney once it has reduced.
Now what, genius?
Are you being sarcastic or is that a genuine compliment?
Okay so you now have all your ingredients diced, sliced and measured out. Take a minute to clear your kitchen space and tidy up. Make sure the jars and lids are clean and ready to roll. A clean kitchen is a happy kitchen. (Oh, if you only knew the irony).
Add oil to your big pot and throw in your mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Toast them off for about one minute on medium heat or until the seeds start to pop. Then add your diced onion and keep the heat between low and medium. Sweat the onions with the lid on until they become translucent.
For more flavour give them a little hit on high heat to brown before turning the heat back to medium and adding the rest of your dry spices. Stir continually at this point to avoid too much of the spice sticking to the bottom of your pan. Add a little more oil or a teeny splash of water if needed.
Once the aroma of the spices are creating a heavenly food halo in your kitchen, add your chopped garlic and ginger. Stir for another minute. Add tomato, capsicum, apple, chilli and sultanas at this point. Keep stirring. The juice from the fresh tomato should help deglaze any spice that might have stuck to the pot. Scrape it with your wooden spoon. Stir for another 2 or 3 minutes and let the ingredients start to soften a little. Then add the sugar and vinegar and stir some more.
At this point you want bring the mixture to the boil and then slowly bring it down to the lowest simmer you can manage. Keep the lid on. Leave it gently bubbling away and come back and stir every 15 minutes or so. This should simmer for about 2 hours with regular checking and stirring. After 2 hours, remove the lid and let the mixture reduce for a while. Depending on how much it has already thickened you might want to turn up the heat slightly.
You’re looking for a glossy, rich consistency that’s not overly sticky but also not so watery that it will dribble off your cracker. Remember, it will thicken somewhat as it cools too. When you’re happy with the consistency, replace the lid to keep it hot and turn it down, or off.
Now all that remains is to preheat the oven and follow my instructions above for sterilising and jarring your delicious and frankly butt-spankingly good spicy tomato and red pepper chutney. You’ll be happy for months!
Recipe & photography by Carla Versitano