Apparently, Gill has a glut of aubergine. What better way to deal with them than to make Brinjal chutney? To be honest I try not to make it. I try very hard. Because whenever it is in the house I have to eat it. Same with Fig Rolls. But that’s another story. I particularly like it on toast on top of peanut butter. Or on crispbread and sprinkled with very salty feta. Or a good dollop in a deep, dark beef casserole. And on the the side of a plate of curry of course!
To make six jars (as illustrated – the brinjal chutney is bottom right) take two large aubergine and cut into chunks about 1cm square (but remember the dimension-police are unlikely to come knocking if its bigger or smaller). Do the same with one large courgette. Throw into a colander and sprinkle over a tablespoon of salt and mix it round – essentially this is to a) draw out some of the water in the vegetables and b) season it. Personally, I often miss this stage out completely.
In a dry pan, gently toast 3 teaspoons of cumin seed and 3 teaspoons of coriander seed along with 4 teaspoons black mustard seed. When they start popping and change colour, pour onto a plate to let them cool and then grind in a pestle and mortar . Grate a 3cm long knob of fresh ginger.
Gently fry two large onions in 100ml oil ( I use Yare Valley Rapeseed Oil) in a large pan (preferably a preserving pan – I’m not purist about these things but form generally follows function etc etc) until soft, then grate four cloves of garlic into the onion and stir round for a couple of minutes. Then add two teaspoons of chilli flakes (less if you are wimpish), the grated ginger and the ground spices. Cook for a couple of minutes more then take off the heat. It is important to cook the spices – the flavour will develop and it means that the spices will be blended into the overall flavour of the dish, instead of making a raw, bold pronouncement of their presence.
Rinse the aubergine and courgette then throw into the pan with the onions etc. Add 150g raisins (sometimes instead of raisins I will use a couple of chopped apples), 125g muscovado sugar, then 300ml cider vinegar, 100ml water and 50ml tamarind paste (they sell it in Asda in little bottles just this size – perfect!). Mix everything together then set back on the heat and bring to the boil fairly slowly, stirring regularly to ensure that the sugar melts and doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. If you peer into the pan you will think there is too much liquid. This is where the alchemy comes in. Just be patient, turn the heat down a little till it is just boiling but isn’t going crazy. The idea is that all the ingredients meld together, and cook, and combine, some of the liquid evaporates and it all melts into a lovely sticky brown, fragrant and unctious consistency like a thick sauce. This will probably take a good 30 minutes, but you have to watch it and judge it for yourself. The idea is to have enough liquid to allow it to ease into a jar but not so devoid of liquid that you would need to push it out of the pan.
Cooking good food is not about precisely following a recipe – it is about using your instinct. So with this recipe, remember that courgette and aubergine contain a lot of water. I prefer to add a little more liquid later than end up with a chutney that is insubstantial and where the spoon won’t stand up unaided in the pan. That’s my measure of ‘done’! Scientific innit! You’ll remember that I said sometimes if I am in a hurry I dont ‘salt’ the aubergine at the beginning – in which case I need to remember to taste the chutney to ensure there is a good balance between sweet, salt and spicy. No recipe can do that for you – you have to rely on what your senses are telling you.
Your jars – and the lids – must be scrupulously clean. Generally if I am going to batch up some chutney I put the jars through the dishwasher the night before. Just before I pour the chutney into the jars I add 100ml cheap vodka into one jar, swirl it round and pour into the next. And so on. That way the jars have had a double dose of sterilising. And there’s vodka waiting for a tonic at the end.
Here are some tips for bottling the chutney.
- don’t pour boiling hot chutney into cold jars, warm the jars a little or wait for the chutney to cool down for 30 minutes
- use wide mouthed jars like Bonne Mamain
- use a jam funnel which has capacity in its bowl and then funnels it out the bottom into the jar
- use vinegar-proof lids so that the acid does not corrode the lid.
- If you dont have vinegar proof lids then cover with jam covers and elastic bands
- make sure you put some greaseproof rings on top before you lid the jars – it reduces oxidation and the likelihood of mould growth
- dont use sticky labels unless you love removing them; instead make card labels, use a hole punch and tie round the jar with string
- store in a cool dark cupboard for up to two years and in fridge once opened for no more than four weeks. It won’t last that long!
Enjoy your brinjal.