Chilli & Apricot Chutney

SWEET KICKS

Green fingers is something that I seem to have developed as I’ve aged. I’ve discovered the joy & sense of pride that comes from keeping my plants alive, growing my own food & generally adding a bit of colour into the garden & home (I’ve become a real proud plant mama).

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One of my best crowning achievements this year was by far the success of my chilli plant. A beautiful specimen bought barely in his youth from my local garden centre. With a little bit of love & a glorious summer full of sunshine (& a little miracle gro), I soon found myself in abundance with massive green chillies. I can’t even describe the excitement I felt with each watering of this little plant, the anticipation of seeing just how much my chillies had grown by, I was so proud. (I imagine this is why people get into gardening?).

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My biggest whopper of a chilli measured in at a massive 11.5cm by the end of the summer. It’s not going to win me any prizes at the village fete for obscenely large fruit & vegetables but I was impressed.

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Nevertheless, it’s no good having a massive crop of food with no plans on eating them, so I began to use them simply in dishes, by chopping them up & scattering them through or sprinkling them on top of my pasta or salads. But my pride & joys were too good to merely be chopped up & lost in a dish, they deserved pride of place, to be the star of the show (yes, I was proud).

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In traditional summer abundance fashion, I decided that I wanted to preserve my efforts, enabling me to enjoy them even in the cold winter months & reminisce back on my achievements. But how…?

Now I’ve made chilli jam previously but in my experience this doesn’t keep well & I wasn’t sure that my green capsicums had the colour or the kick to fare well in a jam. Chutney, this was the answer!

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The best way to preserve my chillies was in a well-balanced, flavourful chutney (plus I could kill two bird with one stone by making a big batch & keeping some for Christmas gifts, allowing others to appreciate my green fingered goodness!). Question is what could I pair them with that wouldn’t overpower their flavour but instead compliment it?

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Chutney is almost always made with some kind of fruit. This fruit is combined with sugar, vinegar & a selection of spices to create an aromatic condiment for cheese or meats. So I decided that fruit was my best option. When it comes to pairing flavours, I tend to look at the seasonality of ingredients, I find this works well as each element of whatever your making will be at their very best at the point of creation (basically, only using seasonal ingredients).

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Chillies love the long, sunny days of summer & are at their best during this time, as are apricots. This was the fruit which I decided would pair best with my chillies as apricots are sweet without being too sweet & are subtle enough in flavour to allow the heat of the chilli to shine through (plus it makes for an attractive colour pairing for my gifting purposes).

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The result is colourful, sweet but spicy, well-rounded chutney that goes oh so well with cheese & crackers. During the summer I enjoyed this with platters of cured meats & cheese & simple lunches al fresco in the garden. During the winter, I’m really looking forward to cracking this out at Christmas time, with a selection of cheeses, a glass of wine & cheesy Christmas films.

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CHILLI & APRICOT CHUTNEY

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg apricots
  • 6 chillies
  • 450g granulated sugar
  • 125g dried apricots, chopped
  • 50g sultanas
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 tbps freshly grated ginger
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 350ml white wine vinegar

Method:

  • De-stone & chop the apricots & onions
  • Finely chop the chillies, removing the seeds if you prefer
  • Place all of the ingredients into a maslin pan or a large heavy bottomed saucepan
  • Bring everything to the boil
  • Reduce to a medium head and simmer the mixture for 1 1/4 hours until it has thickened & become pulpy
  • Leave the chutney to stand for 10 minutes before potting into clean, sterilised jars

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