Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

It's Christmas Eve and my favourite time of the year. As I write this I am looking out the window to see snow on the ground, Christmas songs are playing in the background, the ham is cooking, stock is simmering ready for tomorrows gravy and the Cranberry, Orange and Port Sauce is done.

Preparations have been in full swing for several weeks. Mince pies, cheese straws, sausage rolls, stuffing, and pigs in blankets are all done and have been in the freezer ready to make their big appearances over this festive season. Presents are wrapped, cards written and all the decoration are up. I have just opened 'No 24' on the advent calender, and the time is now here.

I would like to now wish everyone that has taken the time and the trouble to read any of my posts, all those wonderful people that have placed great comments, a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Christmas is all about spending time with you families and loved ones, seeing joy in peoples faces as they receive the presents you give, the excitement and anticipation of children for what Christmas Morning will bring them. I hope all of you and your families have a fantastic festive season.

Merry Christmas!!!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Spiced Golden Plum Chutney

One thing that stands out for me of late summer or early autumn, is all the great fruits that we have growing in the UK, like apples, pears and plums. I have always had the urge to go out, pick some of these fruits and take them straight into the kitchen, but have never done it. My sister and her partner moved into a lovely house out in the country a few years ago, with a long back garden, with a large vegetable patch at the end backing onto fields. In the garden they have both a plum and a pear tree. This year the plum tree was absolutely dripping with fruit.

Every time I was in the garden, I was always wondering and thinking of what I could do with these plums. I finally decided on creating a chutney using the wonderful Golden Plums on the tree.

Making a chutney is something that I have never done before, so this was going to be interesting. I wanted to come up with a chutney that would be sweet and sour, have lots of intriguing spices going on and a little kick of chilli. I went through many books and recipes to get ideas, and to work out the balance between the vinegar and sugar. These plums were really sweet, and by the time you had finished cutting them in half and removing the stone, your hands were very sticky!

I made this Spiced Golden Plum Chutney around the 16th September - but I had purposely not posted this until I had the chance to try it, after it had been left in the jars. After all it may have been a disaster, and I had gone and given you a recipe that was a dud! When I tasted it just before I placed it in the jars, I though I had put way to much chilli in the chutney.

So last weekend we had some family visiting, and had cooked some turkey to have cold as part of a buffet for that evening. This, I thought, would be an ideal time to open and see what had happened. My sister was over as well, so she was able to try it as well. When I first opened the jar, there was this sharp, sweet aroma scented with ginger, cinnamon and star anise. It was smelling and looking promising. Then came the time to taste it, I was still nervous the chilli was going to blow your socks off. It was very fruity, with a subtle taste of the star anise, cinnamon and ginger. It wasn't too sweet or too sharp, and the chilli had mellowed and was just right. It went down a storm with everyone - especially my sister, and was great with cold turkey (can't wait for Boxing Day!). There is still something missing from it though - it's not perfect yet. I haven't yet put my finger on it. Possibly too much garlic, not enough ginger or cinnamon? But I only used a small amount of my sisters plums this year - have a feeling I will be using a lot next year to make this again.

Spiced Golden Plum Chutney

Makes enough to fill around 3 normal sized Jam Jars

kg Golden Plums
3 Shallots, finely chopped
2 tbls Olive Oil
200ml White Wine Vinegar
6 tbls Water
2 Cinnamon Sticks
1 Star Anise
200g Golden Castor Sugar
2 cloves Garlic

2cm piece of Ginger, peeled
1/2 tsp dried crushed chilli
Salt and Pepper to season

1. Half, stone and chop the plums.
2. Grate the garlic and ginger.

3. Place a heavy pan on a medium heat, and soften the shallots, garlic and ginger in the olive oil for 5 mins. Do not allow them to colour, just soften.
4. Add the plums, vinegar, sugar, water, cinnamon and star anise to the pan, and stir well. Allow to simmer gentle for around 20 mins.
5. Once it has all cooked down and at your desired consistency, put the chutney into sterilised jars and seal. Leave for at least 4-6 weeks in a dark cool place.