Nightshade Chutney

Nightshade Chutney

Nightshade Chutney

Capsicum (including chillies, pimentos, paprikas and bell peppers), eggplant and tomatoes are all members of the Solanaceae family .. the Nightshades .. hence the name of this warm, peppery chutney.

I am a firm believer that food should engage all of the senses.  This chutney has a nicely balanced flavour that lends itself to a great many meat dishes.  A peppery-spicy taste that gives a bit of “oomph” to a shepherd’s pie, a cheese-and-chutney sandwich, or sausages.  I like to use a wide range of vegetable varieties to make it as colourful as possible.  This batch included Gold Rush, Romanesco, Courcozelle and Rondo zuccinis, red and green California Bell peppers as well as Gypsy, a variety of banana capsicum.  The eggplants were Bonica, an Italian heritage variety

As subtle as I get

Strawberries in the Snow

Strawberries in the Snow

One of the challenges I have found writing this blog is keeping it PG rated.  A sort of Disney-sanitised version of reality.  I change names, avoid overt political discussions, and shun taboos like sex or death.  This is difficult with a healthy interest in the former, and a career that has me brushing shadows with the latter.  Today is Eros Day .. er .. St Valentine’s Day so the temptation is high to tell slightly more salacious stories than normal.  Here is a compromise I came up with a couple of years ago.

I cooked an Arthurian-themed Feast for 60 people at Beltaine, so we decided to have an “un-subtlety” competition.  For those who may not be familiar with the concept, a “Subtlety” or “Sotelty” is food that appears to be something else.

Strawberry Jam for Grown-Ups

Croisants and Conserve .. bliss

Croisants and Conserve .. bliss

I accidentally discovered this Jam when I was making Strawberry Liqueur yonks ago.  Now it’s the liqueur that is the (welcome) by-product.  It’s expensive and time consuming and the yield is poor by comparison with other jams .. but it’s easily my favourite.

We drink the liqueur icy cold as an after-dinner treat in summer, mixed with ice and a little soda or tonic water as a long drink, added to a nice dry champagne or as an ingredient of Strawberry Daquaris.

If I was in a pedantic mood I’d point out that the jam is actually a thick conserve. Large chunks of fruit tend to float on the top and are bottled first. This means I have two-for-the-price-of-one. The chunky, fruity conserve gets eaten on toast, scones, pancakes, crumpets etc. The last couple of jars are a sloppy jam that gets reserved for use in flans, muffins, pouring over icecream, stirring into yoghurt or smoothies, cheesecakes ..

Enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas

This is a meal that takes very careful preparation.  Don’t panic .. it is simplicity itself to prepare. The difficulty lies in preventing my Beloved from contriving to “accidentally” add more chilli than specified, or “spill” extra hot peri-peri sauce into the pot.

I use ONE cayenne chilli which rates 7 out of 10 on the culinary heat scale (30,000 – 50,000 scoville units) .. hot but not burn right through you.  This is enough to taste that there is chilli in the dish, but will probably be a little insipid for chilli-philes.

Traditionally enchiladas .. indeed any Mexican cuisine .. should be made with tomatillos (Physalis ixocarpa), the Mexican husk tomato.  Mine are not yet ripe, so this version makes use of what is seasonally available.  Oxhearts are a large, meaty, low acid, heritage variety.

Cheesy Pastry Twists

Cheesy Pastry Twists

Cheesy Pastry Twists

This is another bring-a-plate speciality that has served my friends and I very well.  It’s fast, easy and versatile, three of my favourite ingredients 😛 Indeed the real difficulties lie in preventing the pastries from vanishing off the cooling rack (surprising how many “break” and need to be eaten) and choosing what flavours to mix. The recipe lends itself to the addition of finely shredded bacon, chargrilled capsicum, different cheeses, different pesto .. even sweet versions with apple sauce or jam. Wherever your inclination (or what is in the fridge) leads you. Please drop me a line and tell me your favourite 🙂

This specific variation I make for our garlic-loving Brother who uses them to convey generous dollops of Guacamole, Hummus or other dips (preferably garlic-y ones) to his mouth. Sometimes he simply dips them in garlic butter.

I am sure he is safe from Vampires.  I am sure anyone within a hundred meters is safe. Omit the garlic if you do not share his addiction.