I’ve found it hard to get into the swing of Christmas this year. Even before the incomprehensible horror and sadness of the Newtown school shootings, I just couldn’t seem to get motivated to buy presents, bake biscuits or even pull out our Christmas tree from the top of the cupboard for my son to decorate. I’ve had a number of family and friends in hospital with various health issues over the past couple of weeks, so that could explain the pall that has descended over my festive season preparations.
Yesterday, I decided I really had to get my Christmas shit together – wrap some presents, cook, bake, decorate our tree, clean the house – and, generally, pull it all together. In the end, I only did a fraction of what I intended to – I got up early, baked off some of my refrigerator biscuits, had a convoluted and incredibly unfruitful trip to the local shopping centre and finally, after much time wasting and procrastination, I managed to make three batches of this Parsi tomato chutney to give as gifts to my family.
I first made this tomato chutney last summer: I’d read about it on The Wednesday Chef blog in late October and wanted to make it for Christmas gifts back then but, due to some disaster with the Queensland tomato crop, all the pre-Christmas tomatoes were pallid, pale and horrendously expensive.
I finally made a batch in the late summer towards the absolute end of the tomato season and boy, did I regret only making one batch – because this really is a showstopper of a chutney.
Around about the beginning of last year, I decided I was really going to get into preserving and fill my pantry with homemade chutneys and preserves. I used to make a dynamite tomato kasundi but I really stopped making it when I moved to Sydney (it’s the humidity, stupid!).
My first attempt at making chutney again was a disaster. I’d brought a whole heap of apricots back from a trip to the country and instead of making jam, I decided to make them into chutney. I used a Women’s Weekly recipe, which are generally very reliable but, while it turned out okay, it reminded me a bit too much of the chutney from my childhood and lacked the zing and panache I now require from my chutney. All that blood, sweat and tears and I had a cupboard full of ho-hum chutney.
This Parsi chutney though, really is da bomb. After going back to the original online source of this recipe at The Traveller’s Lunchbox (who adapted it from Niloufer Ichaporia King’s My Bombay Kitchen), I learned this recipe can be used as a base for any number of seasonal fruits – apples, cherries, peaches, apricots and quince!
While I did consider buying some cherries for my Christmas chutney, the thought of pipping them all made my heart sink. But I think a quince chutney using this recipe would be truly spectacular.
The thing about making chutney is you want it to be a lay down misére winner of a recipe. It is truly a total hassle to make chutney, particularly on a hot humid day in Sydney, as it was yesterday.
I mean, it was well past one o’clock by the time I had all my tomatoes, garlic and ginger and bubbling away and stinking the house out. (You can open all your windows but your house is still going to smell of chutney for hours).
Then I had to turn off my two pots of chutney, go pick up my son from school and go over to a friend’s place for afternoon tea and exchange presents (my early morning baked biscuits were handed over then).
By the time I got back home, got the chutney going again, I had to take another break to make and eat dinner. Then, I washed the jars and lids in the dishwasher, sterilised them in the oven, got the chutney boiling again, poured the hot chutney into the hot jars, made sure the lids were screwed on tight and turned them upside down to cool.
It was nearly ten o’clock by the time I had all my chutney decanted into jars. I felt like a limp rung-out rag by this stage and just had the energy to pull the Christmas tree out of the top cupboard, but not to actually assemble it. But, believe me, this chutney is worth it.
When it comes to making home made chutney, you can’t waste time on a ‘just okay’ recipe – it needs to make your heart and mouth sing, which is precisely what this chutney does.
Niloufer Ichaporia King’s Parsi tomato chutney
(Adapted from My Bombay Kitchen and The Traveler’s Lunchbox)
- 1.5 kg (3 pounds) ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped (or pitted and chopped cherries, plums, peaches, apples, pears and quinces!)
- ½ cup finely julienned peeled ginger (about 6 cm long piece)
- ½ cup finely sliced garlic (about one large head)
- 1½ (375 mls) cane, malt or cider vinegar
- 2 cups (400 grams turbinado/raw sugar, or half light brown and half white
- ½ to 1 cup of raisins (optional)
- 1 to 1½ tablespoons cayenne pepper or hot ground chili (or to taste)
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 4 whole cloves
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- Grated peel of one organic orange (optional)
- Place all ingredients, except the orange peel (start with the smaller amount of chilli given), in a heavy non-reactive pot and bring to the boil and stir, so everything is combined.
- Turn down heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally until the chutney reaches the consistency of soft jam. This will take AT LEAST two hours (with stopping and starting, this process can take HOURS). You can speed things up by turning up the heat but you have to be extremely vigilant stirring it. Once it reaches a jam-like consistency, it can burn really, really quickly. (believe me, I scorched the bottom of one batch and had to quickly decant it into another pan to save it).
- Adjust the seasoning while the chutney is still warm and add the orange peel if desired. You want a balance between the hot, sour and sweet. Before bottling bring chutney back to a boil for two minutes and decant into hot jars.
- (I use the method of sterilising the jars and lids in a 120°C oven for 20 minutes). Then screw the lids on as tight as you can and turn the jars upside down to cool.
- Makes around four 325 ml jars.
If you don’t want to go to the trouble of bottling it, this chutney will keep for weeks in the refrigerator.
This chutney can go with pretty much anything, dolloped beside a curry, some fritters, refried beans, cheese or even straight from the jar by the spoonful (don’t worry, you won’t be the first or the last to do this!).
If you use gluten-free vinegars this chutney will be gluten-free