Archive for the ‘Condiment’ Category

For the last year I have collected glass jars. At first this was because some friends of mine were getting married and they needed many jam jars for decorating the venue, but then the venue changed and I just kept collecting jars. I carefully scrubbed the labels off pots of mustard, sundried tomatoes, honey and cocktail gherkins. It turns out I eat a lot of cocktail gherkins, enough to make me worry that I might be damaging myself with all that vinegar. But anyway, I digress.

Yesterday I realised that there was no more room in my jar cupboard and something would have to be done. I also took a moment to wonder what 18 year-old me would think about 28 year-old me having my own cupboard full of jars.

I selected a jar and pickled some spring onions and fennel adapting a Jamie Oliver recipe from the December issue of the Sainsbury’s magazine. I don’t think of these as a wintery condiment though. They belong to early spring when the days are getting longer and the suggestion to eat outside is an eccentric one rather than just plain mad. They are exactly the right colour.

To make some pickled vegetables measure out enough white wine vinegar to fill a jar, bearing in mind the veg will take up some room. Heat the vinegar in a saucepan along with some fennel seeds, a cinnamon stick, the peel of a clementine and a teaspoon of sugar. For one large jar of pickle I used half a teaspoon of fennel seeds, half a cinnamon stick and the peel of one clementine. Bring the vinegar mixture to the boil. Sterilise the jar you will use (just boil it in a pan or put it in the sink and pour boiling water from the kettle over it). Place the prepared vegetables in the jar and pour over the boiling vinegar mix. In about a week the pickles will be ready to eat. Jamie says they will keep for a few months unopened but, being the kind of person who happily eats around the mould on old cheddar, I would easily double that.


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A Christmas Chutney


Around this time of year my Mother often asks herself where she went wrong to produce three children who are so completely and utterly in thrall to the wonder that is Christmas. Her despair implies a concern that our obsession with the festive season is but a thin veneer hiding some dark, dark chasm of emotional instability. Is cynicism so entrenched in our culture that even my mother has come to view enthusiasm for Christmas as tantamount to being mentally retarded?


Pollyanna is usually used as a derisive moniker these days even though she was adorable and lovely (I’m thinking Hayley Mills here). I am not very Pollyanna-like most of the year, more of a weeping Cassandra, but I reserve the right to become incredibly happy and filled with JOY from November to December without being thought of as a complete loser.


Please don’t get me started on commercialisation either. The herds who bleat on about the commercialisation of Christmas are just miserable gits who have been gifted the modern ‘curse’ of commerce as a reason to excuse their perpetual irritability and lack of independent thought. I think their entire philosophical outlook must be moulded by reruns of Grumpy Old Men and Jeremy Clarkson columns (for he is their God).



If you are one of these individuals who suddenly finds themselves coming over a bit communist around late November then why not just start making your own cards, give all your loved ones a (collectively farmed) satsuma and don’t watch any TV so as to avoid any of the dreaded commercialisation. You should probably spend the rest of the year in a remote yurt so as to avoid reaping the rewards of our commerce-driven society. Nobody likes a hypocrite.


I can’t imagine many people who enjoy food and drink could really hate Christmas. They might profess to but would they actually turn down the mega roast on the 25th December on principle, or the endless mince pies throughout the festive period or the chance to live as a socially accepted alcoholic until January?



Christmas, or rather the contemplation of it and preparation for it, is my absolute favourite time of the year. I love the smell of red cabbage and cloves, the fairy lights and angel hair, Mariah Carey on repeat, the Father Ted Christmas special, children about to wet themselves with excitement, a good ham, Baileys and Dubonnet, children actually wetting themselves with excitement, arguments and tears, teenagers with ASBOs singing God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen aggresively, going to Mass a bit drunk and confessing an annus of sin, brandy butter, chipolatas, and oh so many condiments.


This post might seem somewhat premature but it isn’t if you are making chutney which needs a good month to mature. I have recently made Christmas Chutney using a Delia recipe which can be found here. I last made it a couple of years ago and it smelt as good as I remembered. Apparently you can use a food processor to dice the dried fruit but I like to cut it myself even though it does take about an hour. I think I may have been a luddite in a previous life. It’s a delicious fruity chutney which is amazing with ham and damn good in a cheese sandwich.


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