Before coming to live in England, one of the few things I had heard about British food (except for the stereotype that everything tastes pretty horrible) was that they serve chutney with everything. I had not come across this preserve before and I must say I don't see it much here either, except in Indian restaurants, maybe I arrived at a time when this food trend had already passed. So I have no history with chutney, neither in a good nor in a bad way, but I have been intrigued by this cross between the savoury and the sweet. Recipes I have seen plenty, my only reason for never making it so far was mainly because I did not know what to eat it with. Then I found they had some at my (almost) local cheesemonger, Teddington Cheese, so I figured it must go well with... cheese. We bought a few to try with cheese platters we've had over the past few months, and quite liked the combination. I wasn't too impressed with the chutneys themselves - although they weren't bad I was sure home-made could taste even better.
As I had some end-of-the-season rhubarb left the other day and had already tried all possible combinations of fruit to make jam with it, I decided I'd give the chutney a try. And since I did not find a recipe that convinced me, I just began to experiment, and the following combination of rhubarb, nectarine, lime, chilli and rosemary was quite pleasant - if I say so myself! There's a bit of a power play of sensations going on - the sweetness of the fruit and the brown sugar, the acidity of the vinegar and lime, but also the spiciness of the chilli... kind of puts your tongue in a twist! I made some cheese bites last night, cutting breadrounds out of pumpernickel as bases, topping them with slices of mahon (a smooth and buttery semi-hard cheese from Menorca, which is rubbed with olive oil and spices while maturing), a dollop of my rhubarb chutney and a slice of spring onion. Really nice party food! Just make sure you spread some philadelphia cheese on the bases for "grip", you don't want end up paying your guests' dry cleaning bills, after all!
Rhubarb, nectarine & chilli chutney
(makes 3 medium-sized jars)
550 g rhubarb (cut in 2 cm pieces)
5 shallots (finely sliced)
1 nectarine (cut in 1 cm pieces)
1 chilli (seeded and finely chopped)
60 ml fresh lime juice
70 ml sherry vinegar
2 tsp salt
pinch white pepper
150 g light muscovado sugar
1 sprig rosemary (roughly chopped)
Combine all the ingredients (except for the salt, pepper & the rosemary) in a pan and cook until thickened. This will require continuous stirring and should take about 30 minutes, until most of the released liquid has evaporated. Season and add the rosemary, cook for another 5 minutes. Fill into sterilised jars while still hot and keep in the fridge.
With the above amount of chilli, the chutney turns out quite mild. Add more to your own liking.
Use as an accompaniment for meat, especially roast turkey, pigeon or duck breast, or grilled pork chops.
Serve with a cheese platter or on individual cheese bites, for example at a cocktail party.