Why I’m spluttering over this chutney

IMG_0485MY pan is spluttering and so am I. In fact, I’m cursing telly chef James Martin, that wannabe Keith Floyd, and fervently wishing that the next time he gets into his fancy sports car he drives over a cliff.

 My tomato harvest, chiefly in hanging baskets and grow bags by the kitchen door, has been a lovely one this year. I swear by that little cherry Tumbling Tom. But some have failed to ripen and I don’t want to waste them. You can smuggle some of them into a curry, as a sort of Pound Shop tomatillo, or you can make green tomato chutney.

 I made a few jars last year but was heavy on the spices and it is only just coming up to decent eating. It goes fine in a curry, though. What I needed was a chutney so on trend and clever it would knock spots off all other green tomato chutneys. Let’s face it, this is always a chutney with a whiff of waste not, want not desperation. Then I hit upon James Martin’s.

Yes, I know.

 The man is hardly trendy but he is ubiquitous. Name me a food fair, he’s there. He’ll turn up for the opening of a fridge.

IMG_0475 But what got me was that he caramelises the fruit. No one else did. Nifty, I thought, but there was a little niggle at the back of my mind as I followed the instructions.

 First you melt brown sugar in a frying pan until it caramelises than add some white wine vinegar and the other ingredients. Wait a minute, won’t that mean . . .


 It did. I swore. My wife ducked out of the kitchen. Luckily I had only added the vinegar, not the rest, and it took 20 or so minutes simmering before the toffee melted again. Then I added the tomatoes etc and proceeded as normal.

 James Martin’s method, on the BBC food website, is less than 80 words and he doesn’t explain or allow for any of this. So what’s it like? Strangely, it does not taste of toffee. It’s OK and I’d judge that while it may improve with keeping it’s more or less ready to eat. I’ve got a jar and a bowl to use over the next few weeks with my cheese sandwiches. I’ll let you know.

 175g light brown sugar

150ml white wine vinegar

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

2cm fresh ginger, grated

1 red chilli (I used some green chilli and chilli powder)

125g sultanas

600g green tomatoes, quartered

 Heat sugar in frying pan until melted and caramelised

Add vinegar (see above!!) and other ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for one hour until thickened and try the spoon test (trail through chutney to leave a channel).

Spoon into sterilised jars.

IMG_0478 Trying to melt the toffee! 06-11-2017 13-54-30 06-11-2017 13-54-30


Falling for Tumbling Tom


One of my hanging baskets of Tumbling Tom tomatoes

Usually making green tomato chutney is an admission of failure. Your tomatoes haven’t ripened, even when you’ve wrapped them in newspaper and put them in a drawer with a banana for company.

Not this year. I’ve had ripe tomatoes galore around the kitchen door, in growbags, pots and hanging baskets: big bright red ones and juicy red and yellow cherry tomatoes called Tumbling Toms. They have made me salads and sauces, tomato and olive tarts and been roasted in the oven to concentrate the sweetness.

I have had them fried on toast with a sprinkling of herbs as my favourite breakfast. All this without a greenhouse. It must be global warming!

I’ve always loved the scent of tomatoes but have never had much success growing them until recently. It all started when a neighbour asked me to water his plants while on holiday. I was enchanted by the sight of tomatoes cascading from the hanging baskets and was immediately struck down by tomato envy. The following year I grew my own, some from seed. Now, two years on, it’s Tomato Wars on my street!

But it’s getting colder and there are some which are never going to ripen so it is time for green tomato chutney. I turned to a recipe from Nigel Slater but played around with it, adding more spices than his austere version. Here it is.

900g green tomatoes, chopped
300g onions,chopped
90g raisins
250g light muscovado sugar
1 red chilli, deseeded
1 tsp salt
2 tsp mustard seeds
300ml white wine vinegar.

Add all to the pan and proceed as usual for a chutney (see my post, Chutney for chumps).

I hesitate to ‘improve’ on the Master but I didn’t have any white wine vinegar so used up an old bottle of sherry vinegar and replaced the muscovado with granuated sugar. Slater recommends yellow mustard seeds, I had black. I reckoned the chutney needed some extra spice so added two cloves of garlic, a thumb of grated ginger and a couple of teaspoons of garam masala.

There are a lot of tomato skins in this recipe so I cut the tomatoes finely and didn’t add the sugar until halfway through cooking because it tends to harden ingredients.

I filled four medium-sized jars with some left over, which was quickly eaten. I reckon this one is going to improve. It’s tangy but not over hot. And what doesn’t go with my sandwiches can always enhance a curry.


Tomatoes on toast for breakfast