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).
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?).
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.
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).
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!
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?
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).
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).
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.
CHILLI & APRICOT CHUTNEY
- 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
- 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