As the house improvement project continues – oh, so steadily – it has been a relief, finally, to access one finished area: the pantry, or garde-manger. It was the easiest part, since it’s basically a petit rectangular cupboard that’s shelved floor to ceiling with Ikea garage storage racks. With each expectant shelf topped with cut-to-size drawer liners, I first stacked up the empty, hungry rows with jams, including last year’s bumper batch of apricot, lavender and vanilla jam.
It has been embarrassing what has turned up as totally undomestic Goddess-like surprises from the discarded, cobweb-hugged boxes: from out-of-date pâtés to the snail and nettle spreads, bought a bit too eagerly from les marchés de producteurs, in the belief that I couldn’t cook without it. Then this forgotten 2011 vintage of apple, mango and apricot chutney suddenly surfaced.
Why was this such a surprise? It was a hidden matured treasure. As my children wolfed this down once too often with their favourite cheesy toasty comfort food, my precious stock dwindled – after mango season! So, being the ‘perfect’ Mum, I hid it from them.
My girls are convinced I was a squirrel at some point on this planet (or perhaps I came from the planet Mars, with this crème brûlée?). Or perhaps it’s more of a mole-style reaction? Time for a mole story.
One fascinating mole reaction came from a sweet, unknown neighbour over the festive season, in the form of a letter. It was addressed to ‘The owner of the cute mole” and “The happy host of a magnificent mole”. La taupe, I was reminded, is feminine. You see, happy mole is in our garden. She sits under the tree and looks at children going back and forward to school. Nothing fascinating. Until this letter arrived, signed Loulou, a local mole admirer.
Devoured by sadness and frustration, Loulou simply asked that we turn the mole around again to watch the street. What? Sure enough, when I took a look at moley, she was facing the tree and had a rather few birdie splodgies on it. Abandoned, like forgotten chutney.
Most bloggers have dogs. I have a garden mole and I’ve christened her ‘Loulou’.
Back to my hole in the pantry, you’ll usually find stocks of dried, non-soak apricots in it since my giant wee bears love to throw them on their porridge in the morning. The apricots were a last-minute throw addition to this chutney recipe, which adapts well to all kinds of seasonal fruits.
It’s delicious served with my favourite comfort food: melted brie or camembert on pain poilâne, or melting any other cheeseboard leftovers from a dinner party, with a few tossed walnuts on top.
When the Mad About Macarons book first came out, I was interviewed by Fred MaCauley on BBC Radio Scotland. Naturally, the radio team wanted to taste some macarons on air and so I brought along one of my Frenchy cooler pastry bags. Being a huge chutney fan as he is, I offered him his first macaron – although it was a curry one. Bit unusual for a first-timer, wouldn’t you say? But he liked it. Ouf!
Spicy Apple, Mango and Apricot Chutney Recipe
1 tbsp whole coriander seeds
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
300g tart apple, chopped
300g under ripe mango, chopped
500g soft light brown sugar (or Demerara)
250g dried (non-soak) apricots
½ litre cider vinegar
2 tsp 4-spice powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1. Heat the coriander seeds in a small pan, then crush them in a mortar and pestle.
2. Throw all the ingredients in a large pan and bring to the boil.
3. Simmer gently for about 45 minutes, uncovered, until reduced by half. Once cool the chutney will thicken.
Transfer to clean, sterilised jars. The chutney can be eaten straight away but it’s best to mature it.
On the other hand, this would be decadent served with a Tikka MacSala mini curry macaron. Holy moly, I can’t help it. That’s what macaronivores do. Have you got the symptoms yet? I see some signs on our Facebook page so, if you haven’t done it already, come and join in the fun.
What’s your favourite warming comfort food when nobody’s looking? Do you hide your food, too?
I’m off to make a 2014 vintage while it’s still mango season. Wonder if by 2017 I’ll be completely Loulou?