It’s most definitely autumn, leaves are falling and crops are coming in. It’s a time of plenty for us but for bees it’s a last dash to gather rapidly dwindling resources Except for my buckfast’s who are being spoon fed vast amounts of syrup in a desperate attempt to shore them up for the winter.
I’m busy too with my own winter provisions, spending plenty of time at the stove.
I love cooking, it’s how I relax ( a revelation that will shock my wife as she hears the language coming out of the kitchen) but despite hours of tv being devoted to the culinary arts, it’s on the decline. I think people are intimidated by the complex recipes and ambitious bakes on today’s shows, we need a better approach.
Here’s my solution – bugger the recipes, they’re for control freaks and wimps. You don’t need it and you’ll do better without one. Make it up as you go along, cobble your food together out of what’s around you ( unless you work at an undertakers), it’s more fun, less wasteful and you get to discover the delights of sticky toffee chicken and beetroot madras.
In an attempt to encourage more creative cooking in these dark and damp months I shall present you with a series of my own recipes that I urge, nay, beg you not to follow.
We seem to have more than a sufficiency of pumpkins to deal with at home. After a fortnight of roasting, souping and burgering them we got through nearly ten kilos, which is impressive but not enough when the big green one there weighs in at thirty, neither of us even particularly likes pumpkins, we’re just quite good at growing them.
As luck would have it we’re crap at growing tomatoes, nature has furnished us with a bumper crop but they’re all hard and green. We need to get creative if we’re going to get through them.
In the great British tradition of using up veg you never wanted in the first place, it’s time to make chutney.
Dr. Nigel Strangepaw’s Chutney Rebel
Pumpkin takes a while to cook and we’re trying to disguise it so it gets chopped shredded, salted to get rid of excess water and drained.
Add to that a few apples left over from the cider and as many onions as I could bear to chop – which wasn’t many, our onions are vicious.
That lot filled a 5l pan, in next went enough vinegar to cover it – a litre and a half. On a whim i also threw in a whole bottle of lemon juice and a jar of last year’s bramble jelly that I didn’t really like.
Shoved on the heat and waiting for it to boil I had a few minutes to look for dispossessed drones in the garden. At this time of year they’ve been thrown out of the hives by the workers and are basically starving to death on the floor.
The smell of boiling vinegar didn’t take long to fill the house, once the veg had cooked down a bit I actually had space in the pan for more stuff – in went a packet and a halfish of brown sugar ( about 750g) and a dollop of black treacle I found whilst trying to find the sugar.
There was a severe danger I might actually be able to taste the pumpkin when it’s done so I needed to add some spice.
It’s simply not possible to use too much paprika – two large handfuls went in the pan along with a hell of a lot of coriander seed as we grew plenty, you can’t go wrong with cumin or black pepper so a handful each of those and for good measure half a jar of garam masala, two dried chillies and eight cloves of garlic. I work in warm cramped dark rooms and this is the best way to ensure I don’t get disturbed.
Whilst searching for cheese I found a chunk of ginger in the fridge so chopped it and dropped it in.
The trouble with chutney is you reach a point where it’s too watery to be ready but is frankly lethal to be anywhere near because of the splattering acrid sugar so here’s a massive cheat.
Chutney pursuits please look away ( if you’ve made it this far, if you have please don’t report me to the pickle police )
The cheat –
I turned off the heat, let it settle and ladled off as much liquid as possible via a sieve into a new pan. Without all the lumps I had something that wouldn’t splatter so I could boil the crap out of it without fear.
In such a manner I reduced the volume by half, returned it to the lumps, gave it a quick stir and it was ready for the jars. It’s thick, gooey, spicy and wonderfully sweet-sour. Quite a lot got sampled on the way to the jar.
All that remains is to leave it to mature until I find it at the back of the cupboard in eight years and throw it away.