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.

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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.

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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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