That is, until I cottoned on to the idea of cooking their presents. At first, this seemed doomed to failure, as biscuits or cookies or chocolates, all your typical gift fare, need to be nicely packaged and that might mean I'd have to try and make boxes or something. But chutney - now, chutney is a different thing. Buying a kilner jar is easy enough, and fairly cheap, and even I can just about manage a gift label.
I've experimented with different ones for the past few years. Piccalilli is a firm favourite, not least because it goes so beautifully with the Christmas cheeses and meats. And this year, in addition to a jar of that, my nearest and dearest will be receiving a jar of Nigella's Christmas Chutney.
Say what you like about Nigella - but I love her for the way she utterly embraces Christmas. When I saw the recipe in Delicious magazine a month or so ago I knew it had to be done. The chutney has currently been quietly maturing away in the cupboard for a week or so now, and already, the flavour is wonderful. When I gave some to D just a minute ago he said "It tastes like Christmas" - and that is exactly right. It is a lovely blend of sweet and sour and spice and all the flavours are completely redolent of an English Christmas.
750g cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped small
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
500g fresh cranberries
250g soft pitted dates
Grated zest, pulp and juice of 2 satsumas or clementines
400g caster sugar
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
500ml white wine vinegar
2 tsp Maldon sea salt flakes or 1 tsp table salt
Makes roughly 2 ltrs worth - negligible pro points per person
First sterilise your jars - and I tend to do this just by putting them through a hot dishwasher.
Put the apples, onion, cranberries and dates into a large pan.
Add the satsuma or clementine zest, then squeeze in the juice and add the pulp.
Add the sugar and spices then pour the vinegar over and sprinkle the salt.
Give it a good stir then turn on the heat and bring to the boil. Once there, turn the heat right down and let it sit for an hour or so, uncovered, to bubble away until it is all reduced to a deep red pulp.
Spoon into the sterilised jars and seal.
|In the pan, to become an hour later...|
|...Christmas in a jar!|