spiced redcurrant and onion relish


As of today, it’s exactly one week until Christmas. I have no idea how that happened; in the corner of my brain it seems like yesterday was the start of November.

The last few weeks have passed in a flurry of work commitments, family events, end-of-year parties and early Christmas gatherings; all beautifully rich and memorable (except work, of course) but tiring just the same. Last weekend, my friend Miriam and I spent over seven hours cooking an Asian-inspired tapas feast as an early Christmas party for our friends; we rose with the birds, measuring clouds of wheaten flour and kneading potsticker pastry to the soundtrack of summer cicadas.

Thick beef ribs were smothered in a mixture of sticky black vinegar, palm sugar and star anise before being wrapped to slow cook for three hours under foil. We julienned carrots, spring onions, green mango and cucumber, some to be flash fried whilst others were marinated in lime juice, sugar and sesame oil.

mason stalks2

It was an absolutely beautiful day; fat with friendship, food, laughter and celebration. As seems to be my trend these days, I brought the camera but deliberately failed to use it.

Don’t get me wrong, there were endless opportunities for worthy photo capture. However, I’ve come to think that some moments are too beautiful, too immediate and real to be marred by the obstruction of a camera lens.

redcurrantbowl scales2

The purchase of ingredients for last Saturday’s Asian feast necessitated at least three trips to markets around Perth city for meat, vegetables, oriental groceries and bamboo steamers. During one such trip, I spied a punnet of translucent red jewels, fat and delicate against their woody green stalks. I immediately recognized them as redcurrants and being the food nerd that I am, my heart skipped a happy beat.

Needless to say, I squirreled the punnet home in a calico bag with some fresh limes, various leaves, organic peaches and two green mangoes. It took me a few days to work out what to do with them (as I’ve never used fresh or frozen redcurrants before) but after some internet trawling I discovered this relish recipe from BBC Good Food.

currantssilhouette closeup2

As an English ex-pat, I grew up eating various types of condiments with my Christmas meat; cranberry sauce, redcurrant jelly, chunky apple sauce and booze-spiked gravy. As I’ve grown older, our Christmas fare has transitioned slightly from traditional turkey to cold seafood and summer pudding; however, I still love a thick slice of roast ham or turkey with a dollop of piquant fruit relish.

This particular relish is all kinds of beautiful – glossy, dark and sticky, sweetly acidic and crimson-stained. I dolloped it over beef burgers last night with fine cheddar, creamy avocado and spinach leaves (it’s the Australian summer, after all) however it would be equally good as an accompaniment to your turkey or ham on Christmas day.

Wishing you all a wonderful festive season; may the final week before Christmas be beautiful, calm, organized and memorable in the best of ways.


Spiced Redcurrant and Onion Relish

Adapted from this recipe from BBC Good Food

Makes approximately 1 cup (250ml)

  • 100g redcurrants (fresh or frozen), stripped from stalks
  • 1 red Spanish onion, peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 medium red chilli, chopped (remove seeds if you’re not fond of chilli heat)
  • 1/2 red pepper (capsicum), de-seeded and diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 small knob (about 1.5cm) fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 100ml red wine vinegar
  • 70g dark muscovado sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder

Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan over medium heat. Add in the onions and peppers, fry until charred and softened. Remove from pan and set aside.

cook ooked

In the same pan, add half your vinegar, the chilli and garlic. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the aromatics have softened, return the onion and pepper mixture to the pot, adding in the rest of the vinegar, spice, sugar and 1/2 tsp salt.

Simmer until the mixture thickens to a syrupy consistency. Add in the redcurrants and simmer on low-medium for five minutes or until some of the berries burst and the liquid becomes syrupy.

boilingaddcurrants endboil

When sticky and aromatic, pour the mixture into a sterilised jar (process the jar in a boiling water bath if you intend to keep the relish long term). Seal and store for up to 1 month unprocessed (in the refrigerator) or 12-18 months if processed (in a cool, dark place).

Enjoy generously dolloped onto burgers, with cold meats, spiced sausages or slathered over fresh crusty bread with butter and English cheddar. This would also make a delicious condiment on a cheese platter with wholemeal crackers and oozing ripe brie.

spreadaccompaniments dollop burger

34 responses

  1. Gosh, that looks good. No idea where I would get red currants, but I can drool anyway. Is it odd to be in summer when it’s Christmas, or do you not know any different? If I don’t get to comment again before then, have a blessed Christmas. xx

    • This was the first time I’ve ever seen them for sale Julie! They definitely weren’t cheap but I got seriously overexcited. I do think it was entirely worth it, just to have those little red berries in my kitchen for a while. They’re beautiful! As for hot Christmases, I don’t like them at all. I was actually born in England and spent most of my Christmases there until I turned 13, so I still long for wintry cold Christmases full of hot apple cider, fireplaces and knitted jumpers. The food and traditions were all created for cold climate Christmases so it just doesn’t make sense to bake puddings, roast hot turkey and sing about snow when it’s 40 degrees C outside!! These days I’ve given up, we just eat seafood and try and stay as cool as possible. I hope that you, Stephie and the family have a beautiful Christmas too, sending you hugs and much blessing over the festive season! xx

    • Greg! Hey, thanks for the kind words! I had no idea that red currants were just as evasive in other countries, maybe I won’t feel so bad about the lack of ingredients in Australia then. The relish was definitely delicious though, so good! Hope that you manage to try it some time :)

  2. What a wonderful relish, I love red currants but always have a lack of idea’s on what to do with them other than look at their beauty and admire them greatly. I will have to save this recipe for the summer when we have them here. How did Christmas get here so quickly, I was just thinking about it today as I wondered how in the world I can possibly do everything I need to do. Happy Holidays Laura!

    • Hi Suzanne! I feel exactly the same, it’s ridiculous… I always try and prepare for the festive season ahead of time and then one week before it begins, I realise that I’ve been so busy and I’ve achieved nothing! Haha. Oh well, hopefully we can buckle up and get everything done by next Wednesday Suzanne :) As for the redcurrants, I agree completely… they’re so pretty so I feel an urge to buy them, but I have absolutely no idea what to do with them. The relish was delicious though, so definitely give it a go when redcurrants are available near you! Happy Christmas lovely, hope you enjoy next week! xx

  3. I’ve never cooked with red currants before, they look so cute like little marbles :)

    I agree that sometimes it’s great to enjoy the moment and not think that you have to capture it on camera. Love to hear more about what you cooked for your Asian inspired tapas feast when I see you next!

    • They’re beautiful aren’t they? I felt the same… I just wanted to buy them for their loveliness! As for the flavour, they’re rather tart and unappealing, to be honest. They worked well with the rich flavours in the relish though, the piquant flavour really shone. I loved every bite. Definitely need to tell you more about the tapas soon, it was a rather momentous spread!!! Unfortunately I can no longer make it tonight but hopefully we can organise a catch up in the new year very soon. Have a wonderful Christmas Ai-Ling! xx

  4. Beautiful relish Laura. I wish I could get red currents here but alas it is not to be – probably just as well as the price would be too much for my wee heart to handle.
    I hope you and your family have a great Christmas – Karen xx

    • Haha, I know exactly what you mean Karen. Not sure if I should tell you how much these cost, it’s definitely not a heart friendly amount but I bought them anyway! The relish was delicious. Almost worth the price, but not really (good thing the photos were a lovely reminder of how beautiful those berries were)/ Have a blessed Christmas lovely. Looking forward to another year of blogging together! xx

  5. This looks fantastic, Laura. Red currants are nowhere to be found around here this time of year. Come Summer, though, they’ll be in the farmers markets again. I’m pinning this recipe so I’ll know where to find it when the currants return. Thanks!

    • Hi John, thanks for the lovely comment as always! Double thanks for the pin! This was the first time I’ve seen fresh redcurrants for sale. I fell for their shiny red hue instantly, even though the price was rather extravagant. Oh well, at least I’ve got the photos as a lasting reminder. The relish was absolutely delicious also! I hope that you and your family have a blessed Christmas my friend :)

  6. This post clearly shows the advantage of having seasonal summer produce when Christmas comes! :) Your pictures are so bright and the currants so pretty and delicate! I am sure this relish is a delicious addition to almost anything. Happy Holidays, Laura!

    • Thank you so much Darya, I definitely agree! Despite complaining about the hot weather, I’m loving the seasonal berries and tropical fruit :) I hope that you and your family enjoy a beautiful festive season also! xx

  7. Looks absolutely beautiful Laura and sounds so delicious! Love the idea of it on a sand which. I’ve never actually even had red currants, but they look wonderful and so festive. Mixed with the onion, I bet the flavors are incredible! Merry Christmas Laura!

    • Merry Christmas to you too lovely, thanks for the kind words! Aaron and I ate the rest of the relish yesterday on sandwiches… perfect as you said :) Merry Christmas, I hope that you and your family enjoy a beautiful festive season Brandi!! xx

  8. Hi Laura, love the post. I know what you mean about the camera! Sometimes when you have a camera you forget to take photos with your eyes….and all you do is document the moment rather than enjoying it. However I do love these photos and I hope you have a lovely Christmas! SJ

  9. Beautiful recipe Laura! I fully understand about leaving the camera in it’s case, I like to live in the now too. In Melbourne the red currants appear for a couple of weeks spanning Christmas, and have done for years. I like to include them in our Christmas summer pudding. My one and only cold Christmas was a huge disappointment, grey not white and lonely without all the family and friends. Happy Christmas!

    • Thanks so much for the kind words. Yes, you’ve summed up my feeling about cameras perfectly… living in ‘the now’ is definitely of prime importance when with family and good friends. Love the sound of your summer pudding, the piquant nature of redcurrants would be wonderful in it! And re cold Christmases, you’re entirely right… it’s the love of the people you’re with that make it special. Merry Christmas to you and yours! x

  10. What a gorgeous post Laura. I made a mango and apple chutney for Boxing Day yesterday from a BBC recipe. The English know how to do a good condiment! Merry Christmas.

  11. Lovely, lovely photos. I also find myself deliberately not using the camera so there are some moments that are still special and unique to those who were there. I went nuts over the berries available in summer time Scotland (the raspberries!!) and Germany, but I just ate them while walking around. Not so blog worthy but great memories.

    • Yes, definitely agree lovely… it’s a strange world we live in. My friend’s husband despaired the other day because he can ‘no longer tell sories’ as everyone already knows it through his wife’s photos on facebook! It’s wonderful but terrible at the same time. The berry hunting in Europe sounds wonderful, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do one day! The memories are the best part. Merry Christmas to you and your family xx

  12. I adore these little jewel berries. We get them here at this time of the year and they make a pav look stunning. I relish your relish Laura. I also don’t photograph every special moment of my life. Like you said, some moments you just have to live rather than witness through a camera lens. xx

    • I can imagine how good they’d look on a pav, I was thinking of doing the same but then I’ve already made three pavlovas in the past few weeks. Too much of a good thing! I’m so glad that you feel the same about photography, it’s great to know that people understand where I’m coming from. Documentation of life is definitely beautiful but the interaction itself is far richer xx

  13. Ohhh I didn’t know you are an English expat. You see I usually feel foreign wherever I go, I’m curious to see how I feel when I get back to Oz. This sounds so delicious.. and a day making Asian tapas does too! xxx Have a wonderful Christmas Laura

    • Hm, I know what you mean… I feel native to Australia now but as I wasn’t born here and I have parents from Malaysia (my mother – not sure if you knew that?) and England I do feel a little foreign also. I guess that’s what a diasporic family does to you! When are you returning back to Aussie soil? Hope that you had a beautiful Christmas also Sofia, happy new year xx

  14. I know this is about the food (and that relish is gorgeous!!!) but I was thinking most about the party and what you said about some times and some things need to be experienced without the lens… So very true. I find that sometimes I need to leave the camera at home so that I can really enjoy a party, a walk though the farmers market, or even travel. thanks for that reminder as we head into the New Year! Seriously, the relish is amazing and we NEVER see currants for sale here… Maybe someday they will show up! I hope you both had a great Christmas! (As a fun side note, we spent Christmas Eve with an expat Australian from Perth!)

    • Oh, that’s awesome David! Haha, Aussies really get around… there are plenty in the UK in particular. After reading your blog I can tell that both you and Mark had a beautiful Christmas but I hope that the new year started on a wonderful note also! As for the camera… I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand I wish that I had taken more photos over the Christmas and NY season as I made lots of delicious things… but I know that if I spent the time thinking about blog posts I wouldn’t have had as much time to completely engage with those that I love. Ah, the trials of being a food blogger! I loved the relish. I probably won’t see redcurrants for another year but they were worth every penny. Hope that you find some too eventually! x

    • You are so right Dolly! Wish that I had leftover (or any) turkey to eat with it… I might have to do a post-Christmas turkey cook up to use the last of the relish. Hope that you’re having a beautiful first week of 2014 xx

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