Category Archives: Preserving

Chilli Oil

So very spicy, and so very good!

I made this chilli oil when I saw the most beautiful peppers at the wondrous Khans Bargains on Rye Lane in Peckham. They looked like the usual scotch bonnet peppers we have an abundance of in our local markets, those fiery Caribbean beauties that come in fluorescent hues of orange, yellow, red and green, but these ones were smaller, and the skin was thicker. They looked dangerous, so I bought them.

Fiery Chilli Oil

2 handfuls of hot peppers (you can use any type of chilli for this really)
Olive Oil
Dried chilli flakes (if you want to feel the burn)

Find a suitable receptacle and sterilise it well, including the lid. Sterilising tips in this post here. (I used an old ketchup bottle as it had a nice large opening better to stuff the peppers into. A smaller opening is better for pouring though so maybe invest in one of those oil pouring spouts if you have an aversion to great sloshes when you want a drizzle)

Thoroughly wash and dry your peppers, coat in a little olive oil and roast on a high heat in the oven until the peppers are starting to shrink, about 15 minutes.You’ll know when they are ready because the smell coming from the oven will make your eyes water!

Drop the warm peppers into your receptacle:

Sprinkle in a few chilli flakes if you fancy

Top with olive oil, seal. Wait at least a few days so the flavour can fully mingle.

I continue to top my oil up with fresh olive oil as I use it. The heat from the peppers has lasted and intensified so I should really call this never ending chilli oil.

KITCHEN TIP: I have heard stories that the chillies can go mouldy when treated like this. As far as I know, if you use raw chillies you have to be really careful when you wash and then DRY them. Any remaining water will encourage mould. If you roast them as I did I think this problem is averted as you are killing any bacteria on the chillies. It would also be advisable to warm the oil or even slowly heat the oil and chillies together before bottling. I’ll let you know if I have any problems. Until then, I’ll be making many pizzas and spicing them up…



Filed under Kitchen Tips, Preserving, Recipes

Preserving and Pickling Things…

Sometimes there just aren’t enough accompaniments and condiments in the fridge. Actually, when you live with a vinegar addict, there are never enough condiments in the fridge. At times I believe he would prefer a sandwich without the bread, just  many varying condiments and pickled items in between two slices of cheese… So I indulge him from time to time.

I really like pickling and preserving things. There’s something very rewarding about sealing something up in a jar and saving it up for just the right moment. The tomato chutney I wrote about last year in October rested and waited very patiently in the fridge until I  decided our Christmas party was the right time for it’s glorious showcase.  We scooped it up onto on rye crackers with a soft goats cheese. It was a sensational (though I do say so myself) combination, soft, crunchy and strong; and it had just been waiting, very quietly for its perfect pairing and all I had to do was open a jar.

Pickled Onions

These make an excellent gift, I gave jars and jars away at Christmas. There is nothing nicer than left over cold meats, some strong cheese and a pickled onion.

You have to start pickled onions the day before, to give them a good brine. Some recipes don’t call for this but I  like to as it tenderises them before submerging them in the vinegar and then you don’t have to wait so long to open the jar and eat! Maybe 3 weeks instead of 6. The quantity below will make about 3 medium kilner jars but if you’re making gifts double or even triple it. Check how the un-prepared onions fit in your jars before you start so you don’t get left with one lone onion with nowhere to go.

1 lb pickling onions or shallots

1oz salt

Pickling spice about 1/2 a teaspoon per jar : I make up a mix and store it in an old spice jar: use 2tsp mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp dried chilli, 2 tsp peppercorns, 2 tsp all spice, 2 tsp corriander seed.

600ml vinegar (I use a mixture of malt and white)

100g brown sugar

1 dried bay leaf per jar

First, begin the long slow process of peeling your onions. I like to leave the long top on mine so I just slice off the flat root end and then laboriously peel the brown layers away

Now heat about 1l of water mixed with the 1oz salt until the salt has dissolved. Let the water cool down and then submerge your onions and weigh them down. I use a plate and the kilner jars. Now leave this overnight.

The next day, drain your onions and sterilise your jars. I do this by washing them in very hot soapy water and putting them in a hot oven to dry. I put lids or the orange seals into boiling water for a minute.

Now heat the vinegars, sugar and pickling spice over a low heat until it just comes to the boil. Now turn it off.
Divide your onions between the warm dry jars, pop in a bay leaf and pour the vinegar over. You can drain the spices out of the vinegar if you want as they will have released  their flavour into the hot vinegar, but I leave mine in.

Now seal the jars up and store them for a minimum of 2 weeks before you eat them.

Now for the beetroot. Measurements are approximate here as it depends on how much you want to make and how big your beetroots are! I made one jar of these because I had 2 huge beetroots and guessed at the vinegar quantity. If you have vinegar left over, store it in a jar with all the spices and then use it as a ‘starter’ for your next pickling escapade.

Pickled Beetroot

4 medium fresh beetroot

200ml malt vinegar

1 tsp of spice mix mentioned above. (In beetroot you can also use cinnamon sticks and cloves for a lovely rich flavour)

1-2tbsp golden caster sugar

Sterilise a jar as mentioned before

First boil your beetroot whole and unpeeled in water for around 30 minutes or until tender to the point of a knife

When they are ready, run them under cold water or let them cool down before you peel them. The skin will come away easily but I still use a peeler to minimise the purple fingers!

Now slice your beetroots into the shape and size you fancy. I did mine in half and then into 4, you don’t want them to be too chunky. Rounds are also nice because you can see the lovely pattern inside the beetroot…and they fit into a sandwich better.

Tightly pack all your beetroot pieces into your sterilised jar

Warm your vinegar sugar and spices in a pan and then strain it over the beetroots.

Seal the jar and wait at least 2-3 weeks. Or if you’re Tom, open immediately and consume within 3 days.


Filed under Kitchen Tips, Pickle, Preserving, Recipes, vegetables, Vegetarian

A Long Overdue Quince Update

So here is the LONG overdue quince update. The sad news is… they all died! I had heard on the grapevine (and in many online quince tips) that the quince is a hardy creature, capable of being left alone for up to 2 weeks without spoiling. All lies. I kept mine for about a week and a half, bought a big shiny new Kilner jar to make a start on pickling the quinces to serve with ham, and when I had washed, scrubbed, dried and then started peeling, the rotten secret was revealed… Brown specks are OK within a quince, but mine were pretty much all brown inside, and the lovely fragrant smell had all but disappeared. The flesh should be firm and yellow inside with the texture of an apple, a few brown spots are OK but not the mass of brown I discovered. However, I did learn something…. Quinces are easy to peel. Every blog and recipe I looked into warned me off the daunting task, it’s just like peeling a thick skinned apple, takes a little more time, but a regular peeler is fine. Another thing I realised is that they are really dense, they are difficult to slice so make sure your knife is really sharp. All the other discoveries are going to have to wait until next year….

I thought I’d share the misery with you so you can be prepared… and so will I.

So the picture below is the before and after picture when washing. Quinces have a soft fluffy outer down that you have to scrub off, I put all mine in the sink and used a clean sourer to gently wipe the fluff off into the water.

The pictures below here are what you DO and DON”T want. The quince on the left has a few brown specks, all of them looked like this when I first picked them, some more than others and some very pure yellow. I didn’t notice that the majority had suddenly developed a kind of quince acne until I’d washed and started peeling. The one on the right, is an over-ripe dull brown on the inside quince. It was terribly depressing.








As you can see, the brown spot had taken over the majority of my beautiful quinces so I’ll just have to hold out for next year. It’s such a shame as I was looking forward to Membrillo, pickled quince, quince chutney, quince pie, roasted quince with cream and vanilla, quince jam, quince upside-down cake, quince pickle, quinces on quinces on quinces…………… *sigh*


Filed under Fruit, Kitchen Tips, Preserving, Pudding, Recipes

Scrumping for Quinces

It is the hottest October since 1984 and the boughs of a near-by neighbours tree are heavy with enormous ripe quinces.  One successful scrumping expedition later and I have a kitchen full of their fragrant citrus apple perfume.  I have decided to make everything and anything possible with them starting with quince paste or ‘Membrillo’. This soft fruity preserve goes beautifully with cheese (typically Manchego) and is sold by the (very expensive) ounce. It is notoriously tricky to make, but worth a go… I’ll update you once the mission begins…



Filed under Cheese, Fruit, Preserving, Recipes


A glut of tomatoes has been sitting in the kitchen for a few days now while I gather up as many jars as I can find… I am determined to make a beautiful tomato chutney to heap on top of a strong cheddar cheese or to serve alongside cold meat.

I decided on a spicy Indian inspired recipe to get as much depth of flavour into the chutney as possible so combined these two recipes:

One, for spicy Indian chutney found on The Traveler’s Lunchbox and this simpler mustard version on

Both use the lovely flavour combinations of ginger and spice but due to the fact that I only had an inch of ginger and a pot of mustard in the fridge I decided to experiment. All the lights have blown in the kitchen so I am making it in a romantic semi-darkness, getting up occasionally to stir and release the heady smells of vinegar and spice into the kitchen whilst enjoying a beautiful evening in one of the hottest Octobers on record.

Spicy Tomato Chutney

1kg ripe tomatoes roughly chopped

1 inch of ginger, peeled and julienned into very thin strips

4 cloves

250g light brown sugar

375ml malt vinegar

1tsb Cayenne pepper

6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 cinnamon stick

Add all ingredients to your pan, and simmer on a low heat for around 2 hours. You need this to get to a jam-like consistency but it burns easily, keep the heat low, stir every so often and watch it isn’t catching. As mentioned on the The Traveler’s Lunchbox, you can speed things up by increasing the heat, but you’ll have to keep a much closer eye on it.

Once it is ready you can either leave it for a day or overnight for the flavours to develop or preserve it immediately. I pop my jars in the oven for 20 minutes after a hot soapy wash in the sink and boil my jar lids in water for about 5 minutes on the hob. No-one ever seems to mention how to sterilise lids, I find boiling works just fine. And after all that jar hunting, my sticky delicious chutney only filled two 280g jars!

Alternatives : use 2 fresh chillies in place of the cayenne and balsamic instead of the malt vinegar and whiz the whole lot in a mixer before heating: this will make a chilli jam!!


Last week it was plums, and a sweeter more delicate chutney was born. This one was a very simple classic chutney recipe and I made it as a thank you gift for a friend and her parents… Check  out my nifty home-made labels! Just wrapping paper and double sided sticky tape. I love the Obama paper “Yes we Jam!”

Plum Chutney

500 g dark red plums

2 small red onions chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

100 ml white wine vinegar

3 tbsp water

1 cinnamon stick

100 g demerara sugar

Chop plums into small chunks, add to a non-reactive preserving pan (you can buy these on ebay for minimal amounts and you really cannot beat a good old fashioned jam pan with sloping sides, a pouring lip and lovely long handle)

Add all other ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally until chutney has a soft jam-like consistency (about 1hour). Chutney does not set like jam as you are not adding any pectin, so it has to reduce down quite far to get a good spreading consistency. This one was a little too loose (I hurried) but a couple of weeks in storage should sort that out and improve the flavour.


Filed under Fruit, Preserving, Recipes