Monday, December 21, 2009

Cranberry delight

Most mediterranean countries rarely use fruit in traditional savory dishes and that is certainly true for Greece. I suppose it's the fact that there is such a plethora of vegetables that one can pair meat or fish with, that there's no actual need to substitute with fruit. So fruit is used mostly for desserts or just enjoyed on their own in all their freshness and deliciousness.

I have used fruit in dishes oftentimes, usually in latin- or asian-inspired recipes, but ever since my boyfriend and I moved to Holland, we've expanded our culinary horizons. I started experimenting even more with fruit, incorporating them in numerous main or side dishes and hors d'oeuvres. Well, I know that the Dutch are not known for their excellence in gastronomy, but rather for their lack of, but I'm a firm believer in giving anybody a chance. So the journey began with apples and a try at hachee, then I moved on to pears, and suddenly here comes Christmas, and with it the sight of cranberries all over the greengrocer's stalls and super markets. I had to do something with them. I was mesmerised by their glorious red color and their juicy roundness.

I didn't want to pair them with game meat though, like in some dutch recipes I discovered, I needed something simpler for my cranberry debut. And what is more straightforward than chutney?

This strikingly red concoction has a pungent aroma. Its sweet and tart flavor along with the fiery heat from the chili can excite even the most demanding of palates. Only in the aftertaste you get a slight hint of the garlic and ginger that give an earthy tone to the chutney. It is perfect as an accompaniment to a piece of Stilton or Fourme d'Ambert cheese on top of crostini* and served as an appetiser.

The vinegary and syrupy taste of the chutney becomes more splendid when paired with a big chunk of Parmesan cheese and cold cuts of cured ham or roast beef on a cheese platter, for a night with friends, not forgetting a bottle of your favorite red or white wine.

*Crostini is the italian word for croutons, but it usually implies toasted slices of bread, most commonly baguettes or the Italian bread, ciabatta.

Cranberry Chutney

Adapted from Gourmet

If you wish to make this chutney another time of the year when you cannot find fresh cranberries, you can most certainly use frozen ones. Use them directly from the freezer.
The chutney tastes much better the day after you've cooked it and even better a week after that.

Yield: 2 cups

3 medium-sized shallots, chopped coarsely
1 Tbsp olive oil
320 g fresh cranberries
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
150 g (2/3 cup) caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 large garlic clove, minced
20 g (1 ½ tsp) fresh ginger, peeled and minced
A pinch of dried chili flakes or chili powder

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until they become soft but not browned, about 3-5 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally and making sure that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan, until the cranberries just start to pop, 12-15 minutes. At this point you may want to cover the pan, but not fully, so that the berries don't pop all over your stove but still letting some steam come out of the pan. When most of them have popped remove pan from heat.
If you want to serve it the same day, let it cool, place it in a small bowl and serve.

If you want to preserve it, take the hot sterilized jar, making sure you are not touching the inside of the jar, and fill it with the still hot chutney. Close the lid tightly and put it in a cool, dry place for storage.
You may keep an unopened sterilized jar of chutney in a dark and cool place for up to a year.

Once you open a jar of chutney you have to immediately refrigerate it. It will keep for about 3-4 months as long as you don't contaminate it with dirty spoons or hands.
(Read this)

How to sterilize glass jars
Sterilizing jars is extremely important if you wish to preserve chutneys. It is unhealthy and risky for you to store chutneys in unsterilized jars.
Preheat your oven to 100 degrees Celsius. Wash the jars and lids with soap in hot water. Put them, while still damp and without touching the inside of the jars or lids, on a baking tray and into the oven for 35 minutes. Take them out of the oven, fill jars with the hot cooked product and seal the lids immediately.


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