Archives for posts with tag: cheese

With the news of the Black Friday Brawls at WalMart, it looks like the holidays are well and truly upon us.  And we all know what that means – lots of family and friends getting together … and lots and lots of leftovers.

Let’s be honest, while the meal, itself, is good – it’s the sandwiches that you have in the days following that are truly outstanding.  As for me, my favorite thing is toasted (blank) and cheese sandwiches.  Whether it’s turkey, ham or roast beef, add a little sharp cheese and toast it with some soup on the side and you have a feast fit for a king!

Pop this in a plastic container and it’ll keep in the fridge for three weeks or so.

Fancy-Pants Cheese Spread

  • 9 oz sharp cheese, grated (I like a good cheddar, but Gruyere would also be yummy)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp English mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • dash or two of Tobasco (or your favorite hot sauce)
  • milk or cream, if necessary

Pop the lot into a food processor and blend until smooth.  If it forms a ball, dribble in some milk or cream until it smooths out.

Cheese spread 2 Cheese spread 1

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This is the time of year that the mister hates the most.  Nearly every weekend, I’m chopping, grating and simmering and putting up chutney for Christmas presents.  To him, that just means that nearly every weekend the house has a lovely vinegary aroma.

For folks who like to give homemade presents, this is a great one.  Not only is it the perfect beginner’s chutney (only six ingredients!), it’s also great for procrastinators – unlike most chutneys, it doesn’t need a month to season.  And if you have a food processor with a grating blade, prep will take no time at all.  So, you can make it in the afternoon and take it as a hostess gift that evening.  This recipe makes a good 8-10 jars, so make a big batch then stash them in the pantry or a storage closet for when you need a quick gift – particularly if you take some nice crackers and a good buttery brie to go with it.

Beet Chutney

  • 2 lbs beets, peeled and grated
  • 1 lb onions, trimmed, peeled and cut to a small dice
  • 1 1/2 lbs tart apples, peeled and grated
  • 1 lb raisins (I like a mix of raisins and currants)
  • 4 cups malt vinegar
  • 2 lbs sugar
  • 2 heaping tsp ground ginger

Put the lot of it into a large pot, bring to the boil and reduce to a good simmer for 90 minutes – 2 hours.  The final product should be thick, but still a bit juicy.  Put the hot chutney into warm, sterlized jars, then enjoy the pinging sound as the jars cool and seal.

The word from the Met (England’s weather agency) is that summer is officially over.  I know that the autumnal equinox isn’t for another 17 days, but according to the experts, the temperatures are going to be cooler and we’re going to get rained on for the next couple of weeks.

So, now’s the time to start thinking about what to do with the last of the summer veg patch.  If you have tomatoes that have gone red but still don’t feel completely ripe, use them up making a jam or chutney – it’s incredibly easy and will absolutely make your Christmas table!  (if you can wait that long).  It’s great with a nice sharp cheddar or as a condiment for burgers or grilled chicken, nice and tangy with a touch of heat.

Make it now and let it mature for about a month before serving – this recipe will make 2-3 jars.

Tomato and Chili Jam

  • 2 1/2 lbs tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 1/2″ thick piece ginger (about 1″ wide), peeled and microplaned
  • 3 chillies, trimmed, seeded and minced (more if you want extra heat)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and microplaned
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar

Pour everything into a non-reactive pot (stainless steel works well, but I use Calphalon and it does fine).  Bring it to the boil and reduce it slightly so that it’s not a rollicking boil, but is bubbling away, then let it cook and cook and cook – it’ll take about an hour until everything is reduced and … well … jammy.  When it’s getting thick and looks like it should only have about 30 minutes to go, put your jars and jam funnel into a 200 F oven to warm up and do any final sterilization.  When it’s nice and thick, spoon into the warm, sterile jars and put the lid on nice and tight, and let cool.  Let it rest in a cool, dark place for a month (at least) to let it mature.

Happy Saturday! 

Yesterday, I met up with an old Washington, DC friend whose hubby is on a 6-month assignment in London.  Since she’s a fellow foodie – particularly one with a love of Middle Eastern food – I urgently needed to introduce her to my favorite market.  And did I mention they have a Lebanese food stall that sells the best falafel I’ve tasted outside of Layalina restaurant in Arlington?  Not to mention baklava that would make you weep.

The market, itself, has been in operation since the Romans settled the city and has been at or around the south end of London Bridge since the 1200s.  As with all popular things, it’s gone through changes and upgrades and improvements – but, through it all, it’s always featured some of the city’s best baked goods, cheese, fresh produce, fish and charcuterie.  And, if you’re looking for some killer sammiches or meat pies or a great hot lunch, you’re definitely spoiled for choice.  Is it all local?  No – it’s no longer that kind of market and I think it receives some unfair criticism because of that fact.  However, it features some amazing products from France, Spain, Italy and beyond and is well worth the visit.  (click on the pictures to embiggen them)

Okay, so this isn’t really a Christmas chutney, per se … there are no chestnuts or cranberries or anything else that is season-specific.  I just call it that because the first time I had it was over the Christmas holidays.  It’s my mother-in-law’s recipe that she remembers helping her grandparents make when she was a little girl.  And, the fact is, it’s so flippin’ good, it’s a perfect all-year-rounder that you’ll want to have on hand to serve with cheese.  Try it with a cold turkey sandwich and you’ll feel the need to go to confession, even if you’re not Catholic.  My sister thinks it’s laced with crack.  it’s.  just.  that.  addictive.

The thing I love about chutneys is that you can use the ugly fruits that you don’t want to use in their “natural state”, as it were — the tomatoes that have a big, ugly seam or that seem to be slightly underripe, the apples that have a bruise or dent, the peaches that are a bit mealy.  It’s all good!  Throw them in a pot and simmer, simmer, simmer.

Oh, all right.  I’ll acknowledge the one downside about chutney-making — they pretty much all have a vinegar base (that’s the preserving agent), so simmering them for a couple of hours will leave your house smelling like you’ve had a Valdez-sized vinegar spill.  Make sure you undertake this on a day when you can open a couple of windows.

The last thing you need to remember about chutneys are these two words:  Simmer and Sit.  Don’t rush yourself – do this on a day when you can allow things to simmer for at least one hour, sometimes two.  And chutneys need 4-8 weeks, depending on who you ask, to sit and ripen and mellow and meld and for the sharpness to wear off.  So, if you’re planning on giving these away as Christmas presents, don’t put off making it until the weekend before (which is why I’m posting this recipe on the first weekend in November).

My Mother-in-Law’s Christmas Chutney

  • 1/2 lb tomatoes, peeled and seeded
  • 1/2 lb golden raisins (or a mixture of golden raisins and currants)
  • 1/2 lb onions, small dice
  • 1/2 lb light brown sugar (about 1 cup, moderately packed)
  • 1 lb apples, peeled cored and diced – use something slightly tart that will hold its shape when cooked
  • heaping 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Throw the lot of it into a non-reactive pot (stainless steel works, I use Calphalon) and bring to a rapid boil, then reduce the heat and cover half-way, and simmer for at least an hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so to make sure nothing sticks.  Don’t use a metal spoon, only wooden to make sure nothing reacts with the acids in the vinegar.  It’s done when you make a well with your spoon and there’s only a trace of liquid pooled in the bottom.

If you taste it now, you’re going to be terrified of how sharp and hot it is from the ginger and cayenne.  Don’t worry, this is how it’s supposed to taste when it’s still in the pot.

While it’s still hot, pour into sterilized jam jars until just below the lid, tap the jar against the counter as you go to get rid of any air.  Screw the lid on tight and let cool (you’ll hear the satisfying PING as the air contracts and the lids pop sealed).

Now, here’s the tricky part – let it sit for a good 6 weeks so that the flavors will marry and mellow.  I promise you, it’s worth the wait!

Jars of Christmas Chutney, ready to rest in the pantry

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