Recycled Indian Relish

I hate to throw anything away and last week when I had half an onion and half a cucumber I made that English classic, of cucumber and onion steeped in vinegar. As I’m in Italy I couldn’t use malt vinegar like in the UK so I used a white wine vinegar.

I grew up with this; I remember Sunday teatime having cold beef sandwiches with the cucumber and onion mix adding a sour zingy taste. It’s lovely after a day or so languishing inside the fridge to have on a cheese or ham sandwich, or as an accompaniment to a salad.

Well today I used the last of it up at lunchtime and stood looking at the vinegar, coloured pink from the red onion and rather than throw it away I thought I’d recycle it and make an Indian relish. So as the iPod shuffled and Antony and the Johnsons played Cripple and the Starfish, I started to assemble the ingredients.

Now I’m not good at measurements, as I’ve said before I tend to be a chuck in the ingredients and have faith in the cooking gods. But I’ll try my best to give you an idea of the quantities I used to make this spicy, hot relish. 100_8879


7 garlic cloves. 1 medium sized onion. 1 medium courgette. 1 aubergine. 6 small dried cayenne chillies (you can use whatever you like according to how hot you want the relish to be). 1 tablespoon of turmeric. 2 tablespoons of a curry powder mix. 1 tablespoon tomato puree. 100 ml white wine vinegar. Olive oil for frying.

First chop the onion, courgette, aubergine and garlic. Add a little oil to a deep pan and fry the onions until they start to soften but not brown. Add a little more oil to the pan and then add the aubergine and courgette and after a further 3 minutes add the garlic. Stir in the chillies and turmeric and stir the mixture giving the vegetables a coating of the yellow powder. Then add the curry powder, distribute evenly in the pan and add the vinegar.


Bring to the boil and cook on a rapid heat for about five minutes, then turn to a rolling simmer and add the tomato puree and stir through. Continue the cooking for a further 15 minutes until it reaches a thicker consistency. The aubergine and onion should be soft but the courgette should still have a little bite to it.

Wash and sterilise 3 x 300g jars by drying in a hot oven, (be careful when taking hot jars from an oven) Make sure the jars have a coated inner lid for the storing of vinegar, plain metal lids will tarnish. and fill them while the relish and jars are still hot, screw on the lids and let them cool down before storing in the fridge. (They should pop and seal as they cool) The relish will keep for around 6 weeks in the fridge, (2 weeks once opened) and is delicious with warm flatbread like chapatti.

Another Green Theme

With autumn dressing the trees in various shades of brown and gold, I removed the tired tomato plants from the side of the house that has been our makeshift orto. From the four plants, we have had a a good crop and had to purchase no tomatoes until a week or so ago. There was still a glut of green un-ripened fruits hanging from the trusses, so I picked them and left them in a bowl on the kitchen counter until I decided what to do with them. A few evenings ago we were given a bag of fruit from our friends up at the Olive House, as they have an abundance of apples in their orchard. So yesterday I decided to make some green tomato chutney.


I’ve never made chutney before. I do make homemade sweet chilli sauce and I did once make jam in school. So chutney being mid-way between chilli sauce and jam, shouldn’t be too hard a task. I started by peeling the strongest onions this side of the fires in Hell, and like a teen who’s favourite boy-band had just announced their slit, I chopped them as tears poured from my eyes. I measured out the apple vinegar and weighed the tomatoes and apples. I grabbed a few spices and an opened bag of sultanas from the kitchen cupboard, chopped a couple of chillies and I was ready to make chutney.

As the iPod played the Tobi Legend, Northern Soul classic, Time Will Pass You By, I rubbed my eyes and forgetting that I’d chopped chillies, I instantly went blind. Idiot. With cold water splashed onto my face my vision began to restore itself as the music shuffled and the Pointer Sisters sang, Slow Hand. I chopped the two and a half kilo’s of green tomatoes and the kilo of tiny Italian apples and decided on the spot that if I had to change careers, I’d never choose commis chef. Once all the ingredients were assembled it was a case of fill the largest saucepan I owned and put a light under it. As soon as it came to the boil I turned down and just let it bubble away for a couple of hours.


Towards the end of the cooking process, three-hours in I turned up the heat to allow it to thicken and reduce the remaining liquid. I set about washing jars in boiling water and popped them into the oven to dry. As soon as the jars had been sterilised in the oven we filled them which was no mean feat, hot jars and hot chutney pose their own handling problems. But with two large jars and a standard sized one filled, I had a self-satisfied smile as the iPod shuffled and my jars of chutney were serenaded by Sinead O’Connor singing Troy (Live in London).


I barbecued some thick steaks tonight and had them with the chutney, it tasted amazing. Maybe I’ll look into this making chutney malarkey in more detail