On dark autumn mornings when the wind is thumping along the roof and the rain is hammering against the window I know that it is going to be an “inside day”. Resolutely delusional and optimistic, I still believe that if I tackle the mountain of paperwork on my desk or discipline myself to doing some do some of the ironing, without getting too grumpy, that after lunch the weather will improve and I can get as far as far as the polytunnel without having to alert the Coast Guard. All morning I watch the squalls hurtling along the horizon and the waves pounding the reef and try not to be a sulky child.
It is tempting to seek refuge by the fire with tea, cake and a good book, but I have a guilty secret – there is a big bag of green tomatoes from last year lurking in the freezer. There is no excuse, it has to be turned into chutney before I start this years batch!
My chutney recipe is a closely guarded secret, mainly because it varies from year to year depending on what’s available on the day. On this particular afternoon there were some small and very hot Apache chillies, Hungarian hot wax peppers (small, yellow and a funny shape), an assortment of rainbow coloured sweet peppers, desert apples from the supermarket (variety unknown, past the “sell-by” date but only 25p for a big bag), onions (a supermarket bargain again as they were a “non-standard” ? size), a vast array of spices, sugar of various hues from dark brown molasses to soft light brown, and some ancient cider vinegar. Oh yes don’t forget the garlic (lots), especially at this time of year.
Making chutney appeals to my frugal instincts, it not only uses the occasional fruit and vegetable gluts from the garden but it can be supplemented with the periodic eccentricities of our local supermarket – one week apples are £2 a bag and the next 25p. It is also pretty fool-proof, although beware of the chillies of unknown strength!
I like making chutney, but I find that I get distracted by repetitious chopping and if I’m not careful I am prone to lose parts of digits. My knife skills are not be envied. This is when Dave arrives, aka Mr Brubeck and his trio, with some very cool jazz. Rock ‘n’ roll, blue grass, Celtic fiddles or some thumping Beethoven would probably result in the loss of whole fingers!
Finally it is all in the preserving pan and gently simmering and the jars are ? In the shed. I’d forgotten to bring the jars into the kitchen, so on with the waterproofs and wellies, a dash to the shed, wrestle with the barn sized door in the wind and an unsteady lurch back to the house clutching a large box. At this point I’m ready for some calming Mozart and a cup of tea.
Whilst rootling around looking for potential chutney ingredients, I’d discovered a half-full jar of pesto in the fridge. Not suitable for chutney but a candidate for savoury muffins. Not too demanding on the baking skills thus giving me time to stir the bubbling brew in the pan from time to time. By the end of the afternoon, the sun had come out, the chutney was cooling in the jars and the muffins were on the table. Maybe not a perfect day, but not a bad way to spend a stormy afternoon.
I do not have a chutney recipe to share, but you might like the Pesto Muffins.