I am at my happiest in the kitchen when the seasons change and there is a host of new ingredients to play with; foods that have been absent for a while that deserve a big 'welcome back' like an old friend who you've not seen for ages.
One thing I love to make at this time of the year is chutney. For me it's an autumn thing: a 'chutney session' is usually sparked when I'm lucky enough to be handed a heavy bag of plums or apples from someones garden tree. This year it was apples so I selfishly shut myself away in my kitchen to sterlise my empty jam jars and fill the air with vinegar, onions, fruit and spices: it the stuff that makes your eyes water.
Once the chutney is bottled and cooled I take a bit of time to make some pretty labels and then they sit in the dark at the back of my kitchen cupboard until I'm ready for them. That time will be Christmas. Some will be given as gifts, some will be enjoyed with a Christmas cheese board and a jar or two will remain in the dark at the back of my kitchen cupboard simply for the comfort of having a jar of homemade chutney to hand should I need it.
900g / 2lb shallots peeled
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 tbsp olive oil
450g / 1lb light brown soft sugar
900g /2lb cooking apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
5cm root ginger, grated
1 tbsp mustard seeds
300ml / half a pint red wine vinegar
400ml / 14fl oz red wine vinegar
Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F / GM 6. Place the shallots and garlic in a large roasting tin and toss with the oil and 3 tbsps of the sugar. Bake for 30 minutes, turning frequently. Remove from the oven, season and set aside.
Place the remaining ingredients in a large pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 15mins. Stir in the shallot mixture and simmer for a further 15 mins until slightly thickened.
Spoon into warmed sterilised jars and seal. This chutney can be eaten straight away, although the flavours will mature if you can leave it for a few weeks.
A note on sterilising jars: Simply heat the oven to 140C /275F /GM 1. Wash the jars throughly in hot soapy water, rinse and leave upside down on a rack to drain. Then, 15 mins before you're ready to fill the jars, pop them into the oven and heat for 10 - 15 mins. Pour the chutney into the jars while they are still warm and seal.