Thursday, 6 September 2012

Still Crazy: Green Plum Chutney

Even after having had two goes at making a sauce for a pair of roasted duck breasts, that still left a lot of plums to get through.  My plan for the greenest of them had always been chutney.  Not unlike the similarly green tomato chutney that was the subject of one of my very first posts on this blog.  The technique was pretty much exactly as described for that, although I left out the turmeric, which didn’t really seem a necessary or appropriate complement to the plums.  I also notice that in the two years (two years!) since I wrote that post I have become rather more of a purist in the spice toasting department.  I now toast the whole seeds in the dry pan prior to pounding them to a powder with pestle and mortar, rather than vice versa.  How much difference that makes to the flavour of the finished dish I couldn’t really say – marginal would probably be about right, but it does reduce the chances of over toasting, i.e. burning, the spices and ending up with something acrid and bitter rather than warmly flavour enhancing.  It’s also possible that it – again marginally – makes the pestle&mortaring easier, so given that it’s not actually any more hassle (although it does, admittedly, take a minute or two longer) you really may as well.  It does slightly change the order of events – as before, I now start by toasting spice seeds, but then they’re removed to be pounded, and the chutney cooking itself starts with the garlic, chilli and onions softening gently in oil - in the same pan, you may as well make use of any residual flavour the spice toasting as left behind.  Then I add the powdered spices to the onion as it cooks.  It’s not a radical change.

Green Plum Chutney

1kg green plums
4 small onions (about 400g)
100g raisins
150ml cider vinegar
Star Anise
Cinnamon stick
Chilli (dried or fresh)
Spice seeds – black pepper, coriander, mustard, cumin, fennel etc, toasted and pounded together with rock salt

Stone and quarter the plums; peel and dice the onions small; finely slice the garlic and chilli (as usual I’m leaving quantities of those to you and your taste – I use plenty). 

Soften the onion, garlic and chilli in a little oil (I used olive, but sunflower, groundnut etc is fine), sprinkle with the spices, add the plums and cook till starting to soften, then add the raisins.  Cook a little more and add the vinegar.  Keep cooking till the consistency’s suitably gloopy and the vinegar’s eye-watering punch has mellowed.  Spoon into sterilised jars.  Serve with tangy cheddar cheese (assuming you don’t have a dairy allergy – sorry Becca) or a pork pie.

Ah.  Pork pies.  I’ve said it before and I’ll no doubt say it again:  I do like a pork pie.  I’ve also said before that I was definitely going to make one myself, one day.  That day has yet to come.  I do now, though, have the good fortune to find myself working a day or two a week down at Borough Market – probably London’s (and presumably the UK’s) biggest and best food market – as part of my day (or more often evening) job for Borough Wines.  Our stall is almost directly opposite Mrs King’s pie stall, and Mrs King, it has to be said, does make exceedingly good pies.  They are that rare thing these days – a pork pie that actually tastes of pork.  And with proper crispy, crumbly pastry, and jelly and everything.  Mrs King’s pies inspire me to make my own, while simultaneously raising the question ‘why bother?’.  So far, I admit, the question comfortably trumps the inspiration…

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