Once we finished picking blackberries this year, almost immediately we made the move to apples. Friends passed on a bag of the first fruits to fall from their tree and so my mind turned initially to crumbles and tarts and then to chutney.
Chutney is one of the nicest things to pass on as an edible gift and one recipe in particular seems to get most favourable feedback from those we give it to. Another plus is that it’s extremely easy to make in one pan on the hob.
It’ll be no surprise that it’s a Nigella recipe, given my devotion to the domestic goddess, and it comes from her excellent Christmas book. It’s a simple mix of cider vinegar, onion, cranberries, apples, seasoning, sugar and spices, and takes just 45 minutes or so to cook.
Once the apples have broken down, it does turn into a lethal spitter – watch out for those volcanically hot sparks flying out as the chutney simmers – but given the rest of its qualities, we can let it off with that!
I love this chutney so much that its page in the recipe book is pretty dirty (always the sign of a favourite) and I have made it three batches so far this autumn.
Practically every jar (we have eaten a few ourselves) has gone to a happy recipient and, once I get my hands on some windfall apples again, I’m sure it’ll be on the boil and bubble again.
Whilst popping out to the local shop last week, I glanced across the road and happened to notice that there were lots of full bags of apples sitting on the grass verge outside one of the houses.
This bounty, obviously from the property’s trees, was being offered up for anyone who wanted it – there were so many that they were obviously surplus to requirements – and I have never been one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Even so, I felt a little nervous when walking over to take one as if it was all a bit illicit! I drove home excitedly, already planning what would be made first.
As the festive season is approaching, the answer was obvious, especially when presented with such a quantity of apples. So I purchased some cider vinegar, and immediately got a batch of Nigella’s spicy apple chutney on the go, followed by some of her very Christmassy cranberry and apple chutney. Chutney is something I was very suspicious of growing up, but my eyes have been opened in recent years. I especially love the Hampshire Chutney Company’s products (their cheeky chutney is to die for) and was keen to try making my own batch.
It surprised me how extremely straightforward it all was and I was chuffed to fill six jars which can be given away to family and friends. The other half and I tucked in with some bread and cheese too and it was an amazing learning process realising what could be produced with just some apples, cider vinegar and storecupboard spices.
And there are still more than a few apples left in the bag, too. Tonight I heated some of them briefly in a pan with a bit of orange juice, butter and cinnamon sugar, and then quickly made a crumble topping with some more sugar, flour and butter. Half an hour later, we had just the pudding for a November day in which we had been out and about in the cold. Joined by a dollop of double cream and a cup of tea, it made for a holy trinity of a post-dinner treat.