Lunch for today was sorted in my head. A busy morning planting onion and garlic sets in the glorious autumn sunshine meant a quick lunch; cheese, bread and chutney. Delicious. Three extremely simple things that become a trilogy of humble deliciousness, an old fashioned ploughman’s lunch. A tangy cheese, a slice of good Suffolk ham or even a chunky pâté will do, but I have to have a really big dollop of chutney.
Long gone are the days when I chose to eat this in a pub at lunchtime having been served far too many plates garnished with volcanic heaps of coleslaw, chewy chunks of ‘French’ stick bread which require the teeth and bite of ‘Jaws’ to penetrate the crust, and various salad garnishes including grated carrot, maybe with a handful of sultanas casually thrown in to give it a gourmet touch, orange segments and taste-free halved tomatoes served straight from the fridge.
Hungry and looking forward to my worker’s lunch, disaster struck. No chutney. Rummagings around the back of the fridge shelves unearthed an out of date jar of mustard, a pot of strawberry jam with something resembling cotton wool growing on it and a shrivelled carrot, but no jars of last year’s onion marmalade or my favourite, nectarine chutney.
Nectarines slipped through the net this summer for some inexplicable reason and I could kick myself, really hard. This chutney is so delicious, it can be eaten straightaway if, like me, you have absolutely no time to wait to plonk a spoonful on top of a piece of pork pie. Cheese on toast rises to giddy heights accompanied by this sweet confection and every year I promise to double the amount I make as it never lasts long enough with my greedy yearnings.
So, nectarines out of the question, and with no urge to get in the car and drive to the shops, I had a good look round to see what I could throw in a pan that would work. This is what I came up with and the result is just as good as the fresh nectarine version. The flavour probably will improve marginally after a couple of weeks in storage but it is edible as soon as the gooey panful has cooled enough to scoop a spoonful into your mouth. The great thing is it is not one of those chutneys that will take months to mature so the next time I grab a piece of cheese I know I’ve got some chutney to go with it.
The result was dark, dense and wickedly sticky, the hints of fennel and cumin managing to pop out and delight my tingly tastebuds. I still haven’t made enough to last until Christmas but at least it will stop me moaning for a couple of weeks.
- 500gm No soak dried apricots, roughly chopped
- 300g sultanas
- 700gm onions, finely sliced
- 1 lemon, halved lengthways, finely sliced (pips removed)
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 250ml cider vinegar
- 100ml water
- 500gm light muscovado sugar
- Preheat fan oven to 180c.
- Keeping the sugar to one side, toss the rest of the ingredients into a large roasting tin and mix together.
- Cook for 1 hour to 1hr 15mins, stirring about every 20minutes.
- Add the sugar and stir in, cook for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- The mixture should not be sloppy, it should be thick and sticky. If it is too dry with no liquid at all add a little water to loosen when the sugar is added.
- Spoon in sterilised jars and cover with vinegar proof lids.