The Red Death (Roasted Tomato and Trinidad Scorpion Chutney)

There comes a point at the end of every growing season when I tire of making and freezing more and more batches of tomato sauce for pasta for the next nine months. One of the ways I deal with the excess—after giving loads away to undeserving and ungrateful bastards—is by making spicy tomato chutney. My general go-to recipes are this and this (versions of each other). This year, however, I put a twist on the second one that turned out remarkably well. I’m not referring to the fact that I used a Trinidad Scorpion pepper from my garden (I normally grow Habaneros for my satanically hot pepper needs but our local nursery didn’t have any this year). No, the twist was that I oven-roasted the tomatoes first. I’d made a batch of regular oven-roasted tomatoes with herbs with some garden San Marzanos a few days earlier. We normally eat those in sandwiches with mozzarella and arugula etc. but it struck me that the concentrated, savoury tomato flavour would probably make an excellent spicy chutney as well. And so that’s what I did with my next batch of San Marzanos and then with an even larger batch of Amish Pastes. The result is a complex, hot chutney that you can dab small amounts of on top of sliced, dressed tomatoes, smear lightly in sandwiches or eat as you would a regular achaar/pickle alongside dal and rice. The first step—oven-roasting the tomatoes—will take a long time. But it needs no supervision and once the tomatoes are ready the rest comes together very fast. Continue reading


Green Tomato and Habanero Chutney

As with my ongoing onslaught of eggplant recipes this chutney has its origin in a need to use up excess produce from my vegetable garden: in this case, green/unripe tomatoes that fell off the vines while I was picking ripe ones and many, many peppers, hot and sweet. The first version was made entirely by the seat of my pants, with nothing measured. I filled three jars, kept one for us and gave the other two away. That would have been the end of it except that the recipients raved about it and two of them in particular have been persecuting me endlessly for the last couple of weeks to replicate it and post the recipe. Well, I have some good news and I have some bad news. You want the bad news first? Well, I wasn’t able to replicate it exactly. The good news? This is pretty close anyway and very good in its own right. Will it get Ben and Lisa off my back? That remains to be seen. In the meantime, they and our friends Aaron and Kip are the only ones other than us who ever tasted the original so that shouldn’t matter very much to the rest of you. Continue reading

Golden Beet Pickle

I usually post only one recipe a week but my backlog of recipes is getting a bit long and so I’ll be putting up the occasional bonus recipe post on the weekends for the next couple of months—not every weekend, mind, but 1-2 weekends a month. First up is this recipe for a simple achaar made with golden beets, the milder, sweeter cousin of the more familiar red, the one that is less likely to make you panic the morning after. It has its origins in a carrot-garlic pickle I posted the recipe for back in August. That recipe eventually morphed into one for a combination carrot-red beet achaar that I never got around to posting a recipe for. This is a simpler prep than both of those and may be even tastier. It comes together very quickly and goes well with almost anything. In addition to eating it with dal and rice since making it earlier in the week I’ve been drizzling the “syrup” over pan-seared fish as well. No matter how you eat it I think you’ll enjoy it. And, oh, this is not tested for ph etc. and I wouldn’t suggest that you keep it around forever. This recipe makes one jar that you should store in the fridge and finish within a month. Continue reading

Tomato Chutney, Take 2

I posted a recipe for a spicy tomato chutney a couple of weeks ago. Here now is a variation on it that is less hot but has a more complex flavour. The major things that are in this that were not in the previous are habanero chillies, ginger, Sichuan peppercorn and—wait for it, wait for it—raisins. The latter—I fully admit—were put in there mostly to troll my friend Aparna—a renowned hater of dried fruits being added to anything savoury—but they work really well here. Speaking of haters, when I posted the recipe of the first chutney on a food forum a gent there got very wound up about the fact that the recipe did not follow the convention of listing the ingredients in the exact order in which they appear in the preparation. He was apparently so confused by this that he had to stop reading. This is one of the most hilarious things I’ve come across in a while. You’d have to work really hard, I think, to be confused by that recipe. As for the convention itself, I suppose it may be a useful one. My own recipes rarely follow it, and when I cook from any recipe I set all the ingredients out and then follow the cooking steps—it hardly matters whether I set the ingredients out in the order of the cooking steps. My position, in any case,—as I noted on Twitter—is that you fuckers should be happy I list quantities and cooking times at all, having been “trained” by my mother on a steady diet of “a little” and “some” and “cook till it smells good”. If it really does bother you so much you should apply to management for a refund. Continue reading

Peach-Habanero-Ginger Chutney

Before I became a pickling fool I used to be a jam-making fool. My jam making has slowed to a trickle in recent years with one exception: peach chutney/jam. I make one version or the other of it every year. Ginger always goes into it (as in this jam with bourbon from five years ago) but the rest usually depends on what’s at hand. This year what was at hand was a lot of habanero peppers from my community garden plot and so I decided to throw them in. To cut the heat I added apple cider vinegar and then at the end I randomly decided to roast and powder some cumin seeds and toss them in too. One of the reasons my peach chutney varies from year to year is that I never write down whatever seat of the pants improvization I come up with. This year, however, some of the friends I gave a lot of the chutney to liked it so much that I wrote it down the next day. I don’t know if I’ll make it the exact same way again next year—I probably won’t—but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t make it like I did, is there? Continue reading

Spicy Tomato Chutney

I’ve been on a preserving tear over the last few months, filling jars with pickles and chutneys of various kinds. The greatest beneficiary has been the missus who has been heard making demands at lunch that the full array of pickles be placed on the table. The secondary beneficiaries have been various undeserving friends. In some ways it is easier to make pickles (by which I mean achaars as we call them in North India) in large quantities, and since I’m making so many, we have more than we can eat ourselves. The only real roadblock is the ongoing shortage of lids and bands for Ball jars. Ideas for pickles, I have no lack of. This is largely because I have a copy of Usha’s Pickle Digest. I’ve been making pickles from the book and also improvizing some recipes of my own. Such, for example, was the carrot-garlic pickle I posted a recipe of a few weeks ago. And such too is this spicy tomato chutney. While the carrot-garlic pickle was more of a pure improvization, this one starts out as a mashup of two adjoining tomato pickle recipes in the Pickle Digest. To that mashup I add a few twists of my own. The results, if you’ll forgive the immodesty, are outstanding. Continue reading

Carrot-Garlic Pickle

My pickling career began late, in my late 30s, with a couple of carrot pickles whose recipes were posted on the Another Subcontinent cooking forum (R.I.P) many years ago. Later, I branched off into green chilli and lime pickle as well. I have already posted the recipe for a lime pickle from the almighty Usha’s Pickle Digest. After finally getting my hands on my own copy of that book last year, however, I’ve become an all-around pickling fool. I currently have seven home-made pickles on the go. The greatest beneficiaries are friends who get 50% of my production. It is, you see, easier in some ways to make pickles in larger quantities than smaller; and if you have as many pickles on hand as I usually do, it’s better to give a big chunk of your production away than to risk it going bad on your countertop or in your refrigerator. Continue reading

Cranberry Chutney (Thanksgiving 2015)

Cranberry Chutney
We host a dinner every year for our friends who are in town for Thanksgiving. I usually do the classic meal centered on roast turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce etc. (plus lots of add-ons). This year I”ve decided to Indianize the meal. My friend Sandra says that immigrants incorporating the flavours of their source cuisines into Thanksgiving meals is a longstanding Thanksgiving tradition in its own right, but the truth of the matter is after 22 years in this country I’m a little bored of eating (and in the last decade and more, making) more or less the same meal. Sure, I’ve brined and spatchcocked the turkey and improvised different spice rubs; sure, I’ve made various different stuffings and cranberry sauces—but this year I wanted to go further. And so here is the core of this year’s menu: turkey “roast” in a Kerala style; pulao in place of stuffing; spicy and sour roasted squash soup with tamarind and coconut milk; mashed roasted squash with ghee and garam masala; and this cranberry chutney. I made a test batch this week and it came out quite well. Continue reading

Raspberry-Peach Jam

Raspberry-Peach Jam
I mentioned in a comment last week that I would be making another batch of peach-ginger-bourbon jam and some straight-up peach jam this week. I did make the second batch of the peach-ginger-bourbon but ended up making a raspberry-peach jam with the rest of the peaches. This because our CSA’s limit on raspberries this week was one quart, which is not enough to be worth the jam-making effort for a raspberry-only jam, and for unappetizing reasons that I’ll go into later, we weren’t going to be eating the berries as is. So, another combo jam it was. But I did manage to keep myself from adding booze to it.

I’ve only ever put raspberries in multiple berry jams before (I’ll have my “Red, Black and Blue” jam up soon) and I’d imagined that what I might end up with was a mostly golden peach jam with raspberries suspended in them. No such thing happened. Despite there being twice as much peach in there as raspberry, the raspberry dominated, both in terms of colour and flavour and of course they disintegrated completely. It’s tasty though.  Continue reading

Spiced Peach Jam with Bourbon

Spiced Peach Jam with Bourbon
Did you really think you were going to make it out of the week without another jam recipe? Suckers! Yes, WordPress’s statistics tell me that my regular readership’s interest in my jam-making is inversely proportional to my desire to make jam and describe my jam-making. The only time any of my jam recipes gets any views is if a food site links to them. This one’s got bourbon in it though, so maybe it counts as a whisky post?

I make peach jam and chutney every year. Normally I make a straight up peach jam and a peach jam with ginger. This year I decided to spice and booze it up a bit. Herewith the quite successful (in my view) results. (I’ll likely have a peach-ginger-habanero chutney recipe too for you to ignore in a few weeks—I’m waiting for the fruit on my habanero plant to ripen.)

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Blueberry-Plum Jam

Blueberry-Plum Jam
I have this terrible fear that I missed peach and apricot season entirely while in Los Angeles. Missed from the point of view of jam making, that is. At least the local co-op had only very sad looking peaches and apricots when I went in late last week. What they did have though were attractive Dapple Dandy pluots/plums and blueberries. And so, here is a recipe for an improvised blueberry-plum jam.

As I’ve said before, one of the great attractions of making your own jam is that you can create chimerical combinations that you don’t usually see in stores. As it turns out, this is a combination that seems to have occurred to many jam makers—the web is lousy with recipes (and far more attractive photographs than mine).

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Pineapple Chutney

Pineapple Chutney
I bought a pineapple for a fruit salad for the younger brat’s birthday party. In the chaos of preparing for the party—which included an extended wrestling session with an inflated and partially filled kiddie pool that could have been the showstopper in a Buster Keaton film—I forgot to cut up said pineapple for the fruit salad. I then forgot about the pineapple until the day before we were to leave for Los Angeles. Admittedly, this is a hard thing to do; not forgetting in general: any fool can forget all kinds of things and I often do. But it is difficult to forget a pineapple because, unless you actively hide it, a pineapple is a very visible thing, almost flagrantly so; tends to catch the eye—there’s a reason Carmen Miranda didn’t put a pineapple on her head (didn’t want the competition, you see); and if she did, it also proves my point. So unless you hid a pineapple—and who could forget hiding a pineapple?—it would be hard to forget a pineapple. But I did. And then I saw it and I had to do something with it that didn’t include eating it as we had lots of other fruit to finish before leaving and when it comes to the frantic overeating of fruit it is mangoes and not pineapples I am partial to. The effort of making jam from one pineapple—not to mention the uncertainty about canning said jam given that pineapple is a high pH fruit—did not appeal. Chutney then. Continue reading

Star Anise-Scented Pluot Jam with Apple Cider Vinegar and Cointreau

Pluot Jam with Cointreau
This jam is merely a variation on the pluot jam I posted a recipe of a week or so ago, but what’s the point of having a blog if you can’t make entirely superfluous posts? I was moved to make it for three reasons: 1) quality apricots are not in season/available here yet; 2) the local co-op had a different variety of pluots in which made this seem like it could count as a different fruit (though for some reason they didn’t list the variety); 3) after the Galliano experiment I wanted to play around with other liqueurs/liquors as well.

As it happens, I think this jam is better than the previous. It also recycles an element of another pluot/plum jam I made a few years: the use of star anise to scent the jam. The star anise doesn’t actually get jarred with the jam, by the way—it just makes for a more arresting photograph; though I don’t know if it would be a problem if it was jarred. If anyone has any opinions on whether it would be a problem from a spoilage perspective if it were to stay in there please chime in. I’m inclined to think it might be a problem from a flavour perspective anyway as the star anise might get too woody and/or assertive.

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Pluot Jam with Apple Cider Vinegar and Galliano

Pluot Jam
A few years ago I made a pluot jam scented with star anise that came out rather well. This year I thought I’d try adding a different set of flavours to the jam and decided to use Galliano, the herbal liqueur, a bottle of which I’ve been trying to finish for who knows how many years now (there aren’t really very many palatable cocktails that call for it). This seemed like a good way to infuse the jam with anise and other botanical flavours without having to fish around for stray pieces of spices, as I remember having to do when I used whole star anise (and, of course, anything that makes more of a dent in this bottle of Galliano is a good thing). For the hell of it I decided to add some apple cider vinegar as well. This sort of thing is the other great benefit of making your own jam: once you develop a bit of confidence you can make experimental jams that would make Dr. Moreau’s head spin.

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Straight Up Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam
On Thursday I posted a recipe for strawberries in syrup. Here now is my recipe for a very simple but also very excellent strawberry jam. It only has three ingredients (well, maybe four): strawberries, sugar, lemon juice. When you have excellent, perfectly ripe strawberries that you just picked yourself the day before, you don’t mess around.

One of the pleasures of home-made jam, as I said on Thursday, is that you get to keep the sugar low, or at least lower than in most commercial jams, and this jam puts intense strawberry flavour and not sugar front and center. The lemon juice is there for acidity, necessary both to keep you from killing people who eat your jam months after you make it and to help release the pectin in the fruit. Pectin is what you need to get the jam to jell/set and strawberries are not particularly high in pectin. Some/many home canners get around this by using commercially available powdered pectin. I’m not one of these people.

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Slow-Cooked Strawberries in Syrup

Strawberries in Syrup
A couple of years after we got to Minnesota we joined a CSA—the excellent Open Hands farm, just outside our town. Our CSA is different from most in that it gives us a lot of flexibility. Rather than receiving a random box packed by the farm, we go to the farm on our pickup day and make our own selections from different categories of greens and veg: if you don’t want kohlrabi (as I never do), don’t take any kohlrabi. The other great thing about Open Hands is that they have a bunch of stuff for “U-Pick”—things that we can pick ourselves in the fields (over and above the rest of the stuff). The amounts and selections vary over the season but peas, beans, cherry tomatoes, tomatillos, herbs, flowers, and, most excitingly, strawberries and raspberries are all available for picking. And it’s not just a handful or two—this past week I picked 4 quarts of strawberries on our pickup day.

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Lime/Lemon Pickle (Indian Home Cooking Week 2)

Lemon Pickle
In the first edition of Indian Home Cooking Week I promised a post on chapatis, parathas and pickles and only provided chapatis and parathas. For this edition I promised a post on pickles and here I am with a post on one pickle. But it’s a good pickle. And with some easy variations it becomes as many as three pickles—so, as you can see, I did not lie a second time. That’s just not the kind of person I am. I have also not always been the kind of person who made pickles. It always seemed a daunting proposition involving greater patience and a lower propensity to screw up and kill people with botulism than I possess. But, as with most forbidding things, it turns out that when you look into it it’s not actually very difficult.

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