Tuesday 28 May 2013

My subtly spiced and sumptuous rhubarb chutney

I absolutely love pickles and chutneys yet - apart from my wonderful tomato-chili jam - I've never made any myself. But last week I visited my friend Sue (the most prolific and sucessful veg (and plant) grower I know - Masterchef's "veg guru" Gregg Wallace would surely "dive right in" and stuff big ham-sized handfuls of her PURPLE SPROUTING BROCCOLI - which I've NEVER seen in Belgium before - into his greedy gob...) and I left with (amongst other lovely vegs and plants) a big bag of rhubarb. So after looking through loads of chutney recipes I finally devised my very first own batch - which I'm extremely pleased with (AND it can be eaten straightaway):

Surely this hipster rhubarb should be on Instagram?

1kg rhubarb, trimmed and chopped (in the food processor)
350g (4 medium) onions, chopped (in the food processor) - red ones are nice for colour
3 cloves of garlic
400g light brown sugar
500ml cider (or white/red wine, or apple) vinegar
150g raisins
1 tbsp each of (ground or whole) cardamon, coriander, black pepper, cloves, cinammon, mustard, ginger and tumeric
zest of 1 orange

Put all ingredients into a large heavy-bottomed pan. Stir well and bring to the boil. Turn the heat right down to a mere simmer and let cook for 2 hours, checking and stirring frequently. Divide the hot chutney among sterilised jars, seal and set aside to cool. 

You do need to check - and stir - the mixture frequently as it can easily catch on the bottom of the pan.
You can of course use other dried fruit instead of the raisins - I topped up the amount with a few dates.
There is no need to sterilise your jars - just put them (on their own) through the highest temperature wash of your dishwasher and let them dry completely.
You will get approx. 3 x 500ml jars of chutney.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Pumped-up pasta with salami & fennel kicks

I've been writing my blog for seven months now but I haven't given you a SINGLE pasta recipe so far - which is simply scandalous as at least one is on the menu every week! So without further ado here is one of my favourites:

This recipe is very slightly adapted from Jamie Oliver's "Happy Days" book and it's just wonderful: the salami-fennel combination is unusual but it works SO well - hearty and filling yet delicate and fresh at the same time!

ca 4 tbsp olive oil
140g good ltalian salami, skinned and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 heaped tsp fennel seeds
1 fennel, halved and finely sliced, feathery tops reserved and chopped
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
a little dried chili (optional)
500g dried pasta (penne, spaghetti or linguine)
2 handfuls of breadcrumbs
a sprig of chopped rosemary or 1/2 tsp dried (optional)
(serves 4)

Put 1 tbsp olive oil into a large pan. Add the salami and the garlic.
Lightly crack the fennel seeds and add to the pan. Cook for 1-2 mins on a low heat – the fat should cook out of the salami and it should begin to get crisp.
Add the sliced fennel and stir, then put the lid on the pan and increase the heat to medium. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the tinned tomatoes (and the chili if you like).
Cook slowly for 25 mins until the mixture has thickened. Season to taste.
Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.
Then make some crunchy breadcrumbs: fry two handfuls of coarse crumbs with the rest of the oil (and the rosemary) until crispy and golden brown.
Drain the cooked pasta in a colander and add to the sauce. Mix and serve with the green fennel tops and the crispy breadcrumbs scattered over.

Use a chunky semi-soft "rustic" salami with big globules of fat for this.
 If you haven't got any fennel seeds in your cupboard, you might have a (forgotten) packet of fennel tea though - which is exactly the same ie crushed seeds! 
The sauce is, of course, equally delicious without the breadcrumb mix.
I always make double quantities of the sauce to freeze. The fennel does draw a bit of water when defrosted so I let each portion defreeze in a fine-meshed colander.