Here in Winchmore Hill, we are very lucky to be a stone’s throw from the Forty Hall Estate which boasts a Jacobian Manor House in beautiful gardens with a farm and farm shop. Even luckier is that the farm shop has a veg bag scheme – Enfield Veg Co – which delivers bags of veg from its farm to drop-off points in and around Enfield. Looking for such a scheme when we moved to N21 last December, I was thrilled to discover that one of the drop-off points is at the Kings Head pub right opposite our Vicarage; handy for picking up the veg on my way home from work and a good excuse for the Vicar to pop in for a pint under the pretence of picking up our greens!
Each week we pick up a bag of around 6/7 items of veg. There are usually a few onions, some potatoes and a couple of carrots, and then the rest is a complete surprise. Most of the time the extra items are veg I would usually buy and cook with but from time to time there are a few bits and pieces I’m not so familiar with.
This week’s anomaly was a bag of green tomatoes. Ok, so I know about tomatoes but these green tomatoes felt very firm and didn’t smell very ripe. Leaving them out of the fridge I expected them to soften and ripen and assumed that I might then eat them in a salad or make a pasta sauce, but even after days they stayed as hard as the day I picked them up. So I took to google for the answer. Most of the results suggested frying sliced green tomatoes which felt like a bit of a waste. After a bit more searching I hit upon a Nigel Slater article in the Guardian all about the green tomato.
I am a relative beginner when it comes to jams and chutneys. The traditional cranberry relish for Christmas is about the extent of my experience so I thought I’d give Nigel’s mixed tomato chutney a go. I had most of the other ingredients in the pantry anyway, including some extremely fiery red chillis which have rather over powered some of my mid-week suppers recently.
And in making this recipe, I’ve discovered that chutneys really are quite easy to make and produce something really lovely. Essentially it’s just chucking all the ingredients in a pan and waiting for it to boil down into a chutney consistency.
Although it did take a little longer than I expected, and about half-way through it still looked like a watery stew of unripe tomatoes, just at the last moment it became a rich, dark and sticky pan of deliciousness. By the end, the whole house smelled fragrant and all that was missing was some cheese on toast.
There was a lot more of the end product than I was expecting. I’d sterilised two old Bonne Maman jam jars and I certainly needed both of them, as well as a mini le creuset pot. They were left out on the kitchen work surface to cool overnight then put in the fridge.
This recipe has converted me to chutney-making. The result was spicy, tangy and rich, and was made from really fresh ingredients. It could have been too easy just to leave the green tomatoes in the fruit bowl and look at them daily wondering what to do with them until they ended up in the compost. In the end they created a chutney, much nicer than something from the supermarket and excellent in a cheese sandwich.
Do you have any favourite chutney recipes? Let me know. This could be the start of a new obsession.