Sunday, 28 August 2011

A Figgy Chutney with Lavender

I have not had the best week.  I 've been told that I will need surgery to refashion my stoma, just as I thought Crohn's related operations were behind me.  I doubt it will be as major a surgery as my resection, or colostomy formation, but I'm not exactly looking forward to it either. This is the kind of thing that reminds me how far from my family I am.  Fortunately, stoicism is as much of a genetic trait as autoimmune disease, and I will cope. My Husband will be his usual, supportive, self, my Parents with come down from Glasgow, my Brother will call more often, my friends will bitch about how rubbish Crohn's Disease really is.  People will ask, "is there anything I can do?"  And mean it.  I will survive.

Gino D'Acampo, in his book, Fantastico!, says that people should cook alone.  "Cooking should be a selfish and relaxing experience; selfish because it is probably the only time that you should think about what YOU like and how to satisfy yourself."

While I think that Gino is a fabulous chef and his recipes are great, I don't subscribe to this concept.  I believe that cooking with others can be an enjoyable and bonding experience.  As for satisfying yourself?  Some of my best dishes have been created with other people in mind, to share with family or friends.  Until dishes pass the Husband-taste-test, they are not complete!  I agree that cooking alone can be incredibly peaceful and therapeutic, however, I enjoy the sociable side of cooking with others.


As a child I'd to watch my Mum and Auntie cook with their mother.  Grandma would say, "get the thingumyjig out of the whatsit, will you?" Then, I would stare open-mouthed as one of her daughters fetched her the exact item she required!! That kind of synchronicity inspired me and I longed to have the same one day.  Now that  I'm grown up, I have that relationship with my Mum.  Cooking with her is one of the most relaxing activities I know, I learned from her so we work well together in the kitchen.  I only wish I lived closer to her so we could do it more often.  Back in April, during a visit to Glasgow, Mum and I cooked risotto and trifle (using my cardamon banana bread in place of the sponge base.)  She had recently been to a class at The Cook School and the risotto was one dish she made. As we chopped and sauteed and stirred, I was completely at ease, this was mother-daughter quality time at it's best.  Then the family - Mum, Dad, Brother, Sister-in-Law, Niece, Husband, and Me - sat around the dining table and shared a meal.  Perfect.  Family, food, laughter and sharing.  That is what cooking is for me.

(I'm hoping to go to The Cook School with Mum sometime, along with my Godmother -the one who sends me a gluten free hamper for Christmas, and the inspiration for my auction item for the #fundforjennie- and one of her daughters.  I saw a demonstration at the World Pipe Band Championships at Glasgow Green a fortnight ago and I am looking forward immensely to the experience.)

Just writing about sharing a meal with my family is making me feel quite homesick.  Don't get me wrong, I love Kent, (it is the Garden of England after all) but it's not Glasgow.  I will go wherever my Husband goes, he is home for me, and right now his job is in Kent  The weather is better here, granted, and I do love the great produce you can get in the area.  Last week, I found myself at Brogdale Farm in Faversham and I was delighted by the abundance of fruit and vegetables that grew in this fine county.  I left, arms full, with damsons, new season Bramley apples, pears and plums.


When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, or so the saying goes.  I didn't have any lemons, so I made this instead.


Pear and Apple Chutney with Dried Figs and Lavender

600g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and chopped
400g pears, peeled cored and chopped
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp ginger root, grated
2 fat garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp lavender 
500ml cider vinegar
150g light muscovado sugar
250g granulated sugar
250g dried figs, each cut into quarters

  • In a heavy based saucepan, toast the coriander seeds for a couple of minutes, then tip them into a mortar and grind.  Add the lavender and just bruise it with the pestle.
  • Heat the oil in the pan, and gently saute the onion, ginger and garlic, soften it, but don't brown it.
  • Add the chopped apples, pears, and figs and mix together.  Add the vinegar and sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Stir in the coriander seeds and lavender.  Bring to a simmer and leave for around 2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom.   
  • When the mixture has reduced by half, and the fruit is soft it is ready to be poured into sterilised jars.  (You should have enough to fill around 5 1lb jars.)

Pear and Apple Chutney with Figs on Punk Domestics

This chutney is especially great with pork, try it instead of the usual apple sauce.

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