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Grow your own chutney
I love pointing to a jar of chutney, knowing I’ve grown all the ingredients used to make it. I don’t make too much chutney every year, because – despite living in a house of carnivores – I’m the only one who eats it. Isn’t cold meat, crusty white bread and chutney one of the great culinary combinations?
One of my favourite pickles of all is Delia Smith’s spiced pickled runner beans recipe. It’s made using runner beans, onions and turmeric.
If you want to get cracking and grow your own chutney, now is the perfect time to start.
It’s too late to sow onion seed now, but you may find that friends still have some sets left over (my allotment neighbour gave me some surplus red onion sets – ‘Red Baron’ I think). I also bought white onions (‘Marco’ F1) from the garden centre, ready to plant.
Plant them 10cm apart (15cm if you want bigger onions) and keep them well watered in dry weather. Onions don’t like growing in recently manured ground, but they do like fairly rich soil, so if you have any home-made compost to prepare the bed with, they’ll thank you for it later. You can also grow onions in a container. The old polystyrene fish boxes I use are 40cm deep and work fine.
You can still sow runner beans if you haven’t already done so. The soil is warm and the danger of frost will have passed in most parts of the country. Some well-rotted manure or compost worked into the bed will give plants a boost, since they are hungry feeders. (In autumn I usually make a bean trench – filling it with kitchen peelings and manure, then covering it again with soil to let it compost on its own.)
There are lots of varieties to try: ‘Moonlight’ is a cross between a French bean and a runner bean, ‘Enorma’ is a variety highly recommended by Alan Titchmarsh as a good all-rounder. ‘Polestar’ also scores highly on taste.
Sow them directly into the ground or start them off in pots or root trainers, then plant them out when they are a few inches high. If you don’t have space in the garden you can now buy patio planters which have very useful built-in cane supports. Runner beans should be watered regularly and picked young or they will become tough and stringy.
Turmeric is a member of the ginger family, and can be found in Indian and Thai shops. Fresh turmeric has a rather more orange colour and is tangier tasting than the dried version. If you have a greenhouse you can grow it in a pot, it will form buds pretty quickly and provide you with a harvest the following year. You can also grow turmeric indoors as a house plant. Plant tubers under cover in early spring if you want to harvest in the same year.
When you’ve harvested your onions and beans, you have the basis of this chutney:
Spiced Pickled Runner Beans, taken from Delia Smith’s ‘Summer’
900g (2lbs) runner beans, trimmed and sliced into small pieces.
700g (1 ½ lbs) chopped onions
850ml (1 ½ pints) malt vinegar
40g (1 ½ oz) cornflour
1 heaped tbsp mustard powder
1 rounded tbsp turmeric (or use fresh)
225g (8oz) soft brown sugar
450g (1lb) demerara sugar
Place the onions in a large pan with 275ml of vinegar. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the onions are soft. Cook the sliced beans in boiling salted water for five minutes, drain well, then add to the onions. Use some of remaining vinegar to mix the turmeric, cornflour and mustard to make a smooth paste, add to the onions along with the rest of the vinegar. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Pour in both sugars, dissolve by stirring then simmer for a further 15 minutes. Place them in sterilised warm jars and keep for a couple of months before eating.
Serve with cold meat, crusty white bread and chutney, or my own preferred method: with slabs of cheese and crackers and a good dollop of television.
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