A simple salad served with cold meat and cheese can be transformed with a good dollop of dark homemade fruity chutney. I love the stuff, I also love the fact that it is so easy to make at home.
The recipe I use is loosely based on a Delia Smith chutney recipe from her Christmas book, which she called Christmas chutney because it used dried fruits she associates with Christmas.
But I think this time of year is a better time to make it. By now any dried fruit in open packets from Christmas baking sessions can start to get a little too dry, so it a great recipe for using them up.
This chutney reminds me of a well-known British brand of pickle (as chutney is sometimes called) but even better!
It goes well with cold meats, cheese, pork pies and of course Ploughman's lunches which are beginning to appeal now that the warmer weather is here.
Don't worry if you don't have the exact amounts of each fruit as long as overall you end up with 900g (2lb) of fruit.
I've made it many times and varied slightly according to what I have. In this batch, I've used prunes, dates, figs and apricots, but you could also use raisins or sultanas.
The chutney needs to be left about 1 month for the flavours to mature but the chutney will last for years. At least so Delia advises I've never had it long enough to test that theory.
The Ploughman's lunch
When I was thinking about how I would photograph the chutney for the blog my first idea was as a ploughman's lunch. And that got us talking about them at home.
Did ploughmen really eat bread, cheese and chutney along with a pint for lunch? A bit of research and we discovered that while cheese and bread might have been basis of rural lunch for centuries, it was a tradition that was broken by the introduction of rationing during the war.
In the 1950s the Cheese Bureau promoted it as an easy meal that could be produced in pubs and would get people eating more cheese again after rationing had ended.
Further promoting by the Milk Marketing Board in the 1960s meant that the humble ploughman's lunch became very much a part of the British menu and has remained popular ever since/
How to make this easy homemade chutney step by step
- Food processor (optional)
- Large saucepan
- jam jars
- 250 g no-soak stoned prunes
- 250 g no-soak dried apricots
- 250 g pitted dates
- 150 g dried figs
- 2 large onions
- 500 ml cider vinegar
- 50 g salt
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 450 g light muscovado sugar
- Chop the dried fruit and onions into very small pieces. The easiest way to do this is to chop them in a food processor(which will greatly reduce the prep time), but you can chop them by hand if you prefer
- Pour the vinegar into a large saucepan and add the salt, spices and sugar. Heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
- Add the fruit and onions and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered for about 1½ hours until the chutney has reduced and thickened. You will be able to draw a spoon through the mixture and it will leave a trail that does not immediately fill up with vinegar.
- Spoon into warm sterilized jars and seal. Once cold, label and store in a cool dark place for at least 1 month before using.