Chilli and tomato relish with goji berries

tomato, chilli and goji berry chutney

When you’re of the foraging persuasion, you find yourself constantly on the lookout for new produce to plunder. It’s surprising what you see growing right under your nose if you keep your eyes peeled. Just round the corner from us, someone has hops growing in their front garden. On the shortcut we take to our local Aldi, there are grapevines, elder and goji berries. All this, within just a few hundred metres of our house.

I was vaguely aware that goji berries can sometimes be found growing wild in the UK, but this was the first time I’d found them and was curious to see what I could use them in.

Despite the more familiar dried berries being thought of as a sweet snack food, fresh goji berries are apparently often used in savoury dishes, and I decided to put them in this relish. (Or is it a chutney? After a bit of Googling I’m still none the wiser.)

Goji berries 3

Ingredients

  • 12 ripe, normal sized tomatoes
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped roughly into large chunks
  • 6 or 7 red chillies (deseeded or not, depending on your preference)
  • Fresh (not dried) goji berries, washed (I picked about 70g, but as many as you can get your hands on)
  • 200ml white wine vinegar
  • 200g caster sugar

Cut the tomatoes in half and place cut side up in a roasting tray (without adding oil). Cut the tips off the garlic, brush them with oil and nestle them among the tomatoes. Roast in the oven at about 180°C for half an hour to 40 minutes, until the tomatoes look nicely softened and are starting to colour a bit. Remove and leave to cool.

Once the garlic cloves are cool enough to handle, slip off their skins.

Whizz the garlic, onions, chillies and goji berries in a food processor until they form a fine mush. Scrape out into a large pan, then thoroughly whizz the tomatoes as well and add these to the pan too (you might need to do this in batches).

Add the vinegar and sugar to the pan and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer, stirring constantly. You want this to get to a nice sticky chutney consistency, which could take a while so be patient. When you can scrape a spoon over the bottom of the pan and leave a clear line, you’re pretty much there.

Divide into hot sterilized jars and seal.

This made 4 small-ish jars. It can be eaten as you would any chutney or relish – I think it’d be ideal dolloped in a burger.

Generic apple and sultana chutney

It feels a bit early to be making chutney- it’s usually more of an autumnal activity. However, I was visiting my dad recently and couldn’t resist scrumping a basket of apples from the two trees in his garden, which are already laden with fruit. The apples aren’t sweet enough to eat as they are, so I thought I’d make a batch of chutney.

If you’re just beginning to dabble in the world of preserving, chutney is a good place to start as there’s not much exact science involved- you just chuck everything in a pan and cook it until it looks ready. You don’t need to worry about jam thermometers and checking for setting points or straining jellies through bags for days on end. It has what an ex-colleague of mine would call “A very low fuck up potential”. The most faff that’s involved is preparing the jars- scrubbing labels off and sterilizing them (more on which later). The preparation of the apples admittedly did also take a bit of time, as I had to peel, core and chop lots of very small apples. However, you could always rope in an extra person to help out with this or get one of those gadgets that peels and cores apples (which, as I was preparing these apples, I did consider scurrying off to Amazon to purchase). Having your headphones in also helps- incidentally it turns out that ‘Blue Monday’ by New Order is an excellent accompaniment to chutney making.

This recipe was mostly made up as I went along- I had a basic idea of what I was going for and just sort of added ingredients and spices as I went, tasting it and adjusting accordingly. As I was adding the spices, I realised the chutney had taken a slightly festive direction, which inspired me to add a dash of rum in a moment of Christmassy cheer. It probably wasn’t necessary though. In my enthusiasm, I also forgot to weigh the apples before I prepared them, so the weight is an approximation. To give you an idea, I used all the apples in the basket pictured above. I guess all this further illustrates my point that chutney isn’t an exact science and is very difficult to balls up.

Ingredients

(This made five and a half jars)

  • About 2kg apples- peeled, cored and chopped into 1cm ish cubes
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 3 or 4 handfuls of sultanas
  • 120g fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 400g sugar (I used caster sugar but you could substitute some of the sugar with dark muscovado for an extra hint of Christmas)
  • 400ml cider vinegar
  • A tablespoon of ground ginger
  • A tablespoon of ground cinnamon
  • A tablespoon  of mixed spice
  • A teaspoon of grated nutmeg
  • A dash of dark rum (optional)

Add all the ingredients to a large pan. Bring to the boil and then simmer (stirring regularly) for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the chutney is thick and syrupy. Turn off the heat and ladle into hot, sterilized jars using a jam funnel* and seal (I use cellophane held in place with an elastic band and then put the lid of the jar on over the top).

Leave to mature for a few weeks before using/ palming off on friends, relatives and colleagues.

*Which in this case I had to wrestle off my boyfriend, who was wearing it on his head in an attempt to impersonate the tin man from The Wizard of Oz. Very helpful.

A note about preparing jars and sterilizing equipment

Preparing jars is my least favourite part of making preserves, especially getting the old labels off. Sometimes, soaking the jars in hot soapy water is enough and the labels easily slide off. Failing this, a good scrub with a nail brush used specifically for this job often works. However, you inevitably end up with a few jars still covered in infuriating sticky label residue. I’ve used both Goo Gone and Sticky Stuff Remover, and I have to say that Goo Gone is the most effective of the two in getting rid of even the most stubborn residues. It’s a good idea to have a stash of jars which have already been de-labelled to save messing about when you’ve got a cauldron of jam/ chutney/ jelly on the go.

Once you’ve got your labels off, you need to give the jars a good thorough scrub in hot, soapy water. To sterilize them, I immerse them in Milton for 20 minutes, then put them in the oven on the lowest possible setting for at least 30 minutes. Don’t forget to sterilize the lids as well.

Most decent books about preserving will give a variety of methods for sterilizing jars, so it’s just a case of finding out what is easiest for you. Apparently you can use a microwave to sterilize jars as well, but I don’t have one so this isn’t an option for me. It’s also important to sterilize your ladles and jam funnel, which I do using boiling water.

When life gives you mangoes, make mango chutney

When Owen worked in a smoothie bar, he used to bring home all the old mangoes when they’d outlived their time on the fruit display at the front of the bar. I always thought it was a bit odd that they didn’t actually use these mangoes in the drinks and bought in boxes of mango purée instead, but I guess it would be a bit of a hassle peeling and chopping loads of fresh mangoes. Anyhow, the free mangoes were all very good, but there’s only so much fresh mango two people can eat without getting fed up with it. So, I looked for alternative uses for all these slightly wrinkly looking mangoes which were cluttering up my kitchen. I’ve tried all sorts of things, including mango jelly (which was my first attempt at making proper jelly and didn’t turn out very well) and mango cake (which was a disaster- just an absolute mess). The only mango-based cooking venture that’s really been a success for me is mango chutney, of which I’ve made countless batches since finding out how to make it. The recipe below is my version of one I found on the BBC Food website (read it here, if you like). I’ve cut out the bit at the beginning about salting the sliced mangoes, as while I’m generally fairly patient with cooking, I didn’t really see the point in doing this. If you’ve only got two or three mangoes, just adjust the amounts of ingredients accordingly.

Ingredients

  • 4 large mangoes (peeled, stoned and chopped into small chunks)
  • 2 cooking apples (peeled, cored and chopped into small chunks)
  • 450g (1lb) caster sugar
  • 600ml (1 pint) white wine vinegar
  • A chunk of root ginger- about the size of two thumbs (peeled and grated)
  • 4 cloves of garlic (peeled and crushed or finely chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon English mustard powder

Put all the ingredients into a big pan or pot and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for while (at least 30 minutes) until the chutney is thick and syrupy. Put into hot, sterilised jars and seal (I use cellophane over the top secured with an elastic band, then put the screw top lid on).

A note about blue garlic

I’ve noticed that when I make this chutney, the garlic tends to go a kind of bluish-green colour. I assumed that this was due to some sort of chemical reaction between the sulphur in the garlic and the acidic vinegar, and a quick bit of Googling confirmed my theory. I’m not sure of the exact scientific logistics of it, but apparently it’s not harmful in any way, even though it does look a little unsightly. If you have any tips on how to avoid this, please do share.

Growing a mango plant

I never seem to have grown out of my childlike fascination with germinating and growing seeds and stones from fruit and other random plants. As an aside from the above recipe, this is how to sprout a mango stone and (hopefully) grow your own mango plant if you’re that way inclined…

Now, before you get excited about having your own mango tree and picking fresh mangoes, warm from the sun- these plants are unlikely to survive indefinitely in our unpredictable UK climate, and even if they did grow big enough to fruit, the mangoes would apparently be horrible and fibrous (I’m basing that last bit on what I’ve read online- I obviously don’t know from experience). So yeah, I don’t want to be a party pooper, but this is still a fun project, especially for children, should you have/ know any.

Start with a stone from a mango that’s had all the flesh stripped away from it. This should be a long, oval type thing with fibres and things all stuck to it. This is actually more of a ‘pod’, and the seed you want is inside. Use a paring knife to slide gently into the ‘seam’ around the edge, being careful not to damage the seed. Carefully use your fingers to prise open the pod, to reveal what looks like a big bean. Plant this in a pot with the end poking out of the soil, then put a clear plastic bag over the pot and tie at the top to make a kind of mini greenhouse. Leave this somewhere warm and sunny until the seed sprouts, then take the bag off and leave in a warm, sunny place to grow.