Every time I reach for a jar of my homemade tomato and chilli jam I get Peter and Gordon’s 1964 hit A World Without Love going through my head. It’s got nothing to do with them but there is a mental association. The recipe belongs to New Zealand’s Peter Gordon who invented it while head chef at Notting Hill’s Sugar Club restaurant in 1995.
He mixed the jam with crème fraiche and served it with scallops and watercress, taking a cue from a dish then popular in Australia, deep-fried baby potatoes with chilli sauce and sour cream, the latter tempering the fierceness of the chilli.
Other chefs soon took it up, giving it their own spin. In Sheffield, Cary Brown at Carriages made it a signature dish, keeping the fishy connection but serving it straight with monkfish. And he’s been copied, too.
I’ve been making it for a few years, in various versions, eventually putting my own spin on it. Half the fun of cooking is messing about with recipes. Now, to misquote Peter and Gordon, I can’t imagine a world without tomato and chilli jam.
Peter Gordon, who is Maori and a devotee of ‘fusion food’ which incorporates influences from around the world, uses Thai fish sauce in his recipe and my advice is don’t start without it. Worcestershire sauce is not quite an adequate substitute.
But I have added ginger, which he doesn’t, to up the oriental input as well as lemon juice, and shredded basil if it’s handy. It’s great to make if you have a lot of homegrown tomatoes and chilli so you might want to save this recipe for later. But you can substitute passata for tomatoes or use a combination of both, as I have when I’ve not had enough tomatoes for a big batch. I’ll be making some more soon as my last lot, made in 2014, is fast running out. It keeps for ages.
I eat my chilli jam dolloped straight onto homemade fishcakes (or mixed first with a little yoghurt) and it goes well on grilled goats cheese. And it makes a good marinade.
Here’s my recipe. You can find Peter Gordon’s original which is easily available online. Pick your chillies carefully: go for red and biggish ones which tend to be less hot than the smaller varieties. But as any curry chef will tell you, a spoonful of sugar lessens chilli heat and there’s more than a spoonful in this recipe!
2 kg tomatoes, chopped finely, including peel and seeds
3-4 chillies, de-seeded if liked
3-4 lemons, juiced
1 kg granulated sugar
Generous shake or two of fish sauce
Large knob of ginger, grated and juice squeezed out
120 m red wine vinegar (white or cider will do)
Sea salt and back pepper
Put everything EXCEPT the sugar into a heavy saucepan and cook gently until mushy.
Add sugar and stir to dissolve.
Increase heat as you would for making other jams and cook for 20-30 minutes until setting point. I use the cold saucer method – put three or four in the freezer, taking them out one by one to test. Put a blob on the saucer, stick it in the fridge for three minutes (you’ve taken the jam pan off the heat, haven’t you?) then try the wrinkle test. If no luck, put the pan back on the heat, and cook on for a couple of minutes before trying again. Pour into sterilized jars.
This quantity made me seven 300ml jars.