Green Tomatoes and that Moustache

I wasn’t planning on writing a blog entry today as my day was initially going to quite ordinary, just cleaning out the log burner, walking the dogs and doing the weekly shop. So this morning I switched on the iPod as usual and the first song of the morning was, The Pretenders, One More Time as I made a coffee and let the dogs outside for their morning ablutions.

So my mundane day began with my cleaning out the log burner and replenishing the wood basket.  After breakfast with the dogs we took a stroll along the lane. My friend Michele is walking the opposite way with his dogs, so as we chat the dogs all sniff at each other and pass the time of day in their own way.

The most mundane of my tasks today is shopping, so I decide to get it done as quickly as possible, although I am aware that it’s Saturday morning and this means the queues at the tills will be very long and very slow: I know I should wait until lunchtime when the shop’s quiet but I need to buy some beef for a casserole I’m planning for dinner.

The supermarket is busy and a woman with a baby is causing problems in the fruit and veg section as people do their best to navigate their way around the enormous pram and mountain of baby things she is carrying with her. I grab some celery and carrots for soffrito; the base for many a good stew or casserole and spot my favourite thing of the moment. Green tomatoes.

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I buy five of these monsters , two will go into the casserole and the remaining three will become. pomodori verdi sott’aceto, a lovely dinner accompaniment that has a nice sharp sourness. I first tried this at my favourite restaurant and Piero, the son of the owner gave me his mother’s recipe for the side dish. I would pass on the recipe but without his mother’s permission I dare not. You’ll find many versions on the internet if you want to have a go at this.

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I’m dropping my produce into my trolley and look up and my breath catches in my throat, as I’m now face to face with an old man who’s sporting an odd moustache. In fact a moustache I’m not sure many people would choose to adorn the lower part of their face. The moustache in question can be explained by one word only. Hitler. I look at the 4 sq cm piece of facial hair once again and then move away, wondering if my flabber has been gasted?

Shopping can be as dull as plastering a wall with porridge so I grab what I need quickly and when I’m finished I make my way to the tills where there’s two long queues. On till number one there’s consternation as the woman with the baby gets her pram wedged between the till and the display of packet risotto and soups.

I’m queueing on till two and an old lady is in front of me, she turns to look what the commotion on the other till is, she watches as a staff member helps free the pram from the display, then the baby is exposed to her as the mother turns around to pay her bill. The old lady sucks in her cheeks and blows kisses to the baby who giggles; or it could have been wind.

The old lady then leans over the till display and waves at the baby and grins as widely as she can, just at this point a catastrophe occurs, her top set of dentures drop out of her mouth and land on the conveyor belt of till number one.

There’s a snigger, but no one laughs. We all want to. We squirm and shift. Faces redden as we hold our composure.

I drive home and Grace Jones sings, Nightclubbing as I put away the dog food, and safe behind closed doors I can have a private chuckle as I think that maybe today was anything but mundane.

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.

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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.

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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).

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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