spiced redcurrant and onion relish

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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indian lime pickle

limes2Let me start off by saying that this recipe is well-intentioned, but… uh… a little non-authentic. Being of British birth and Australian upbringing, I am much better versed in making orange marmalade than lime pickle, though I have eaten enough of the latter to sink a small dinghy.

A few years ago, I dabbled in the creation of my own mango chutney, which was delicious but a little Westernised. This lime pickle is similar, if not the same; inspired by the cuisine that’s close to my heart but not naturally embedded in my brain.

gingersugarI decided to make lime pickle about three days ago, after being gifted with a bag of fresh limes by my lovely colleague, Joyce. One of the interesting things about being a food blogger is that people everywhere seem to ‘gift’ you with their superfluous produce, whether it be from their own gardens (Great! So far I’ve been given a lot of citrus, herbs, a couple of knobbly red peppers and some beautiful home-grown squash) or from their refrigerators (Not so good. As in, “…oh, I’ve got this half-finished bag of two-week-old slightly-decaying spinach left in my vegetable crisper. I’m not going to use it, would you like it for your blog?”).  As for the limes, well… as per usual, I excitedly carried them back to my office and squirreled them into my desk drawer.

When the end of the day arrived, I took my little bag of glistening green orbs and carried them home. Then I stared at them for about ten minutes before searching in my cupboard for some mustard seeds.

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From the archive of my brain, most lime pickles seem to contain four main ingredients: fresh limes (uh, yep), mustard seeds (brown or black seem to be used interchangeably), garlic and spices. I’ve tasted sickly sweet ones and acidic, hot varieties that burn at the back of your throat. Though all are great with a range of curries, naan bread and buckets of saffron rice, I do prefer the less sweet, more spicy versions with a lingering acidity and softened, tender chunks of lime peel.

jarstringThe version that I made today is based on a recipe by Alison Adams. It’s relatively simple, but requires a bit of time for the lime peel to cure in salt prior to cooking. The recipe itself contains the ingredients I listed above with additional fresh ginger, chilli, brown sugar and pungent, nutty mustard seed oil.

In a diversion from the recipe, I boiled the mixture down for about an hour (see, I told you I’m used to making marmalade) until it was glossy, fragrant and speckled with blackened mustard seeds. The lime peel still has resistance to the bite but melts upon chewing to release a fragrant, complex mouthful of slightly tart, spicy goodness. So good.

bowlmontThis pickle improves upon canning so if you can (no pun intended), leave it in a cool place in your house for a week to develop the flavours.

It tastes delicious with traditional (or non-traditional) Indian curries, rice and breads… or, if you’re a rule-breaker like me, slather it onto a piece of crusty French bread to enjoy with some great hard cheese.

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Indian Lime Pickle

Makes about 2 cups/500mL

  • 8 whole, fresh unwaxed limes
  • 1-2 tbsp salt (start with a little and add extra to ensure that your limes are thoroughly covered during the curing process)
  • 2 tbsp mustard seed oil
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds (I used yellow)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2cm-piece fresh young ginger, scraped
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp chilli powder, to taste
  • 250ml (1 cup) water
  • 125g (3/4 cup, lightly packed) brown sugar
  • 2 tbs white vinegar

Prepare your limes: Cut each lime into 8 wedges. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Mix, cover and set aside in a cool, dry place for 2 days, stirring occasionally.

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To cook: Heat the mustard seed oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook without stirring until the seeds start to pop (be careful here, as they jump). Finely chop or crush your ginger and garlic. Add these to the pot with the cumin, coriander and chilli powder. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until aromatic and lightly browned.

mustardmontAdd the water, sugar, vinegar and your salted lime mixture, including the juices that have collected in the bottom of the bowl (note: if you find the collected juice to be too salty, discard it and rinse your limes in some fresh water before tipping them into the pan. Taste as you go!).

Stir well, and bring to the boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45-60 minutes or until the mixture thickens and the lime peels soften considerably. The flesh will break down slightly and create a beautifully aromatic, glossy liquid. Taste and add more chilli, sugar or salt as required.

picklelsSterilise two 250-300mL jars. Whilst your pickle is still hot, fill the jars and seal them immediately. Invert for 5 minutes to ensure the lids seal properly. Leave the jars for 1 week before eating to develop the flavours.

limespoonNotes:

  • Choose unwaxed, heavy limes that are bright green and fragrant. These have the most juice and will add the most flavour to your pickle.
  • Mustard seed oil is a beautifully pungent, nutty and rich oil that tastes amazing when used to cook Indian food. Though this oil doesn’t rank as highly as coconut, olive or pure walnut oil in terms of nutritional content, it’s low in saturated fat and it does contain some heart healthy Omega 3.
  • Label, date and store this pickle in a cool place for up to 6 months. Once opened, it needs to be refrigerated but will keep fresh for about 2 months under normal conditions. I mean, if you don’t have a curry fiend living in your house. Or if you haven’t discovered how amazing this pickle tastes with cheese. Mm, cheese.
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