Courgettes are in abundance in the garden right now. I pick them one day, and a whole new crop is there 2 days later. It’s much the same with runner beans at the moment, my two fail safe crops. But the trouble is I’m running out of interesting things to do with courgettes and runner beans. I’d be happy to eat Greek beans with tomato, garlic, spinach and lemon juice, or stuffed courgettes with spiced rice and halloumi, or green garden
soup with fresh herbs most days… But my children are flagging, their initial interest in our home planted, tended, watered, and harvested veg is waning and I need to find some way to use these glossy courgettes so that they will be transformed and once again coveted by my brood (and other friends too I hope).
So I embark on the summer chutney, I’m a little bit in love with preserving (I’ve already documented my January Marmalade ritual, and the Elderflower champagne brewing and cordial stewing which usually happens in July was sprung upon me suddenly in June with early blooms in all the hedgerows – I neglected to blog the elderflower frenzy this year, it was a whirl and it passed me by, maybe I’ll do a retrospective in plenty of time for next year’s crop) I am taken in by the almost infinite ways to transform a troublesome and otherwise wasteful oversupply of fruit or veg or flowers into something wonderful and precious… And that will last long enough (often improving with age) to make a convenient and well received gift for any time of the year. My summer courgette glut, solves the problem of Christmas visiting gifts; the late summer blackberries and my friend’s brambly apples, make useful birthday jam, and the fragrant elderflowers in the June (or July) hedges are brewed up just in time to help thank the teachers in my daughters’ class at the end of the summer term. There is so much satisfaction in turning virtually free and abundant ingredients into something special.
Previous years I’ve managed to either grow or acquire a good batch of tomatoes to join my courgettes, but my crop of tomatoes this year is purely small sweet cherry tomatoes. We have 16 plants, enough I’d hoped to produce plenty of cherry toms to bottle or to make sauces or relish… But my children love them, picked straight out of the greenhouse and eaten there cross-legged on the grass… and so it seems foolish to deny them these little red gems in their snacks and salads and pasta garnishes by boiling them up in chutney. I shall use only the things we struggle to eat fresh.
So I’ve needed to search and experiment and amend my classic recipe to take advantage of the humble courgette in all its glory, no frills, and no tomatoes.
This is based on a Pam the Jam (River Cottage) recipe but with a few minor alterations and additions. The Indian spices transform the courgette into something warm and tingly, the perfect accompaniment for salads and cold lunches in summer – but equally a pleasant sweet and sour addition to a curry. Also, great as a ‘relish’ on various barbecued ‘veggie burgers’!
Makes 8-10 jars
2kg courgettes (free – £6)
3 tablespoons salt (4p)
4 medium onions (£1)
1 large bulb of garlic (52p)
2 chillies (I used jalapeño as that’s what was ready in the greenhouse) (free – 80p)
50g root ginger (67p)
100ml rapeseed oil (17p)
4 tablespoons black mustard seed (83p)
2 tablespoon coriander seed (91p)
2 tablespoon cumin seeds (69p)
2 tablespoon turmeric (50p)
200g raisins (£1.04)
600 ml cider vinegar (£2.70)
450g Demerara sugar (£1.61)
Chop the courgettes into a small dice, 3-5mm, this takes a while, but it is worth it. If you prefer to have a chunkier pickle, then thinly slice smaller courgettes. Place them in a colander (I needed 2 for this amount) sprinkling each layer with salt as you add them. Stand the colander over a bowl or pan. I stacked my second pan and colander on top of my first as a little weight helps the draining process. Leave the courgettes like this for at least a couple of hours or even overnight if that helps with your timings.
The salt will draw out the excess water from the courgettes, this serves two purposes, firstly it will stop the courgettes going mushy when you make the chutney, secondly it will also extract any bitterness which courgettes can sometimes have. It’s definitely worth doing.
Meanwhile, peel the onion, garlic cloves, ginger and de-seed the chilli.
You can place these four ingredients in a blender and blitz well to form a paste, or simply chop them finely, or use a pestle and mortar and a bit of elbow grease.
When you are ready to make the chutney, rinse the courgettes well with plenty of cold water (but do not let them soak, or they will regain their original water content) and dry them well on a clean tea towel.
Heat the oil in a large preserving pan. Sprinkle in the mustard and coriander seeds and fry for 3 minutes or so, the mustard seeds should start to pop! Add the ground cumin and turmeric and keep the spices moving by stirring or shaking the pan to prevent them from burning. Add the onion paste you made earlier and fry with the spices for 5 minutes. Add the courgettes, raisins, vinegar and the sugar.
Stir well and bring to simmering point over a medium heat. Reduce the heat and let the mixture cook slowly until the courgettes have softened and the liquid has reduced. This should take roughly an hour.
While the chutney is cooking prepare your jars in the oven or the dishwasher and scald your lids when the chutney is nearly done. Ladle the mixture into the jars (using a jam funnel to make life easier) and screw the lids on tight, turn the jars upside down for a few minutes to fully sterilise the lids too.
This should keep, in a cool dark place for at least a year – I’ve made chutney to a similar recipe and found the odd jar many many months later and it has been fine… better than fine really… the ageing of a chutney really helps the flavours mingle. But really, just give it away, eat it with curry, or in a cheese or smoked tofu sandwich. It really shouldn’t last until next year’s glut.