In her book Nigella Christmas, Nigella Lawson writes that "Chutney...is the cornerstone of my Christmas pantry." I wouldn't go quite as far as that (and I don't have a pantry, just a small kitchen with dangerously overflowing cupboards) but I do love to make chutney at Christmas. It is one of the kitchen rituals that are comforting, reassuring and enjoyable. Really, you should make this at least one month before eating so that the flavours can mature but I made it yesterday and ate some today and can report that it was very, very good.
The recipe is originally from Nigella Christmas but I have adapted it quite a bit over the two or three years that I have been making it, and I feel that it is now sufficiently different from the original for me to give you my own version here without getting into copyright trickiness. The original recipe calls for fresh or frozen cranberries which I often find hard to get hold of round these parts and also very expensive. So I use dried cranberries. They swell up beautifully during cooking and absorb more liquid so that you have a richly thick and sticky chutney, rather than a more liquid version.
- 700 g cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped small
- I large onion, peeled and chopped.
- 400 g dried cranberries
- 200 g dates, roughly chopped
- the zest, juice and pulp of two clementines or one orange
- 400 g sugar
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 and 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 500 ml white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- Sterilise your jars. I wash mine thouroughy with hot, soapy water then dry them in a cool oven.
- Put the apples, onion, cranberries dates and clementine/orange into a large pan.
- Add the sugar, spices, vinegar and salt and stir well.
- Bring it to a boil then turn it down and let it bubble gently for an hour of so.
- Decant it into your jars and seal.
This batch will yeild around 6 x 250 ml jars. If you use fresh or frozen cranberries you will get more like 8 or 9 jars due to the higher liquid content of the chutney.
Then have some fun with labels and presentation. I found some vintage-style Christmas ribbon that I bought a few years ago and had just enough to go around three jars - joy! Then, the best bit - eating it. The spices come through so well and while is it very good with any cold meats or cheeses, it really is AMAZING with brie. There is something magical about the combination of cranberry and brie. It makes for a well-received (and thrifty) gift too, so it's win-win!