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Saturday, 20 April 2013

Harvest chutneys - Eggplants and Feijoas

When I had four young children and was working from home, I found myself spending at least 3-4 months a year making chutneys, pickles and relishes. This became something of an institution in our house, as I realised I could transform anything, from tasty cheddar on biscuits to a sausage (our three boys like vegetarian meals but also enjoy meat) by adding a great chutney, pickle or relish without costing much at all. School lunches were coveted by other kids and I didn't have to spend my life baking to have something to offer visitors - crackers and cheese with a home -made chutney was appreciated so much more. Best of all, even the humblest meal in our house was never boring, despite the financial constraints; there was always a jar of something to add interest, texture and flavour. I enjoyed the creative challenge of pushing boundaries, adding new flavours or testing new products, and I still do.

Eggplants are so versatile, and I make lots of different dishes with them; risotto, fritters, lasagne, moussaka, pies, pasta and dips, to mention just a few. I also make a very authentic Indian pickle that is not as sweet as the brinjal below, just as delicious though completely different.

About ten years ago, after lots of trials, I developed a brinjal (eggplant) chutney, and this became my most universally popular chutney ever. Everyone loves it ; I even have a friend who numbers every jar because her husband and son are so proud they sneak jars to give to their friends behind her back! Certainly it's top of the request list from my friends and family, and although time is running out I bought a big bag of eggplants for $4.00 at our local Farmer's market last Sunday, to make another double batch.





                                             Brinjal                     
     
This eggplant chutney literally took years to perfect, but is universally popular. Sweet but piquant, it complements curries, cheeses, pastries and just about anything.
Makes about 2 ½ litres.
Use processed garlic and ginger to save time.

2 large eggplant, about 500g each
4 tsp salt
¼ cup tamarind concentrate*
1 cup oil
¼ cup mustard seed (I use yellow)
100g crushed garlic
100g minced ginger
2 Tbsp fenugreek seed
2 Tbsp coriander seed
2 Tbsp cumin seed
1 Tbsp chilli powder
3 x 410g tins peeled tomatoes in juice, chopped
1 cup malt vinegar
1 kg sugar

Slice the unpeeled eggplant into small (¼ inch –5mm) dice. Place in a colander, sprinkled evenly or tossed with the salt. Set aside over a sink or bowl to drain for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the remaining ingredients.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy based pot or jam pan, over a medium high heat. Add the mustard seeds and heat until they start to pop. Remove from the heat and stir in the fenugreek, coriander and cumin seeds followed by the garlic, ginger and chilli powder. Return to a lowered heat and cook, stirring, for about 4 minutes. Stir in the salted and drained eggplant without rinsing or patting dry Рjust shake the colander before adding the eggplant, then saut̩ for 3-4 minutes.
Stir in the chopped tomatoes with juice, ¼ cup of tamarind pulp, vinegar and the sugar.
Simmer the mixture, uncovered, for about 1½ hours, stirring occasionally. Oil should rise to the surface after about an hour, and further cooking produces a medium-thick chutney, reduced to almost half the original volume.
Bottle in hot, sterilized jars with hot, sterilized screw on lids. 
*Take 125g from a block of tamarind pulp, available from any Asian food store. Break it up and soak in one cup of hot water for 15 minutes, breaking it up further as it soaks. Push it through a sieve and discard leftover fibre and seeds. Measure out the amount required and freeze the excess for future use.
An acceptable substitute to making your own concentrate is tamarind paste, available from Asian outlets (especially the Pantai norasingh brand).  


And this week, the feijoas started falling



And I do mean by the trailor load! However, another favourite chutney is . .

Smoke & Lime Feijoa Chutney
Both recipes will be in my new cookbook, 'Rowan Bishop- with Relish ' due for release early October.
After the feijoas come figs and persimmons, and in between are limes and lemons to preserve. . .