Feeling chilli

About two months ago, in a fit of romance, The Fella gave me a chilli plant. Now, I’m pretty dire at all things plant related. Most green and sprouting things like to shrivel up and die if I even so much as look at them, but it seems chillies are a hardy lot. Or else, maybe I’m getting better.

So my plant stayed green and the chillies stayed red and shiny and very pretty. So pretty, I didn’t want to pick any for fear of ruining my bourgeoning green-fingered illusion. That was until last week, when I noticed some of the chillies were starting to look more shrively than shiny. It appeared I’d done it again.

I pruned and managed to save a lot. But then I had to think about what to do with a large quantity of fairly hot chillies at extreamly short notice. As neither I, nor my digestive system, fancied eating curries for a month; I decided it was time to learn the ancient art of preserving. Enter Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking (I heart her!) and hey presto we have lift (your head) off chilli jam. Delicious on sangwiches, cold meats, cheese, or anything that needs a wee bit of a kick!

Tomato and chilli jam


Makes one large jar

510 g (18 oz) ripe tomatoes
2-4 red chillies, although this really depends on your taste
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2½ cm (1 inch) piece of fresh ginger, pealed and finely chopped
2 tbsp fish sauce
285 g (9 oz) superfine sugar
125 ml red wine vinegar

Peal and dice the tomatoes into small cubes. To peal the tomatoes, cut a cross in the top and bottom of the fruit and let them sit in a bowl of hot (just boiled) water. After about 5 minutes, the skins should come away very quickly and easily.

Pop a saucer into the freezer, this will help later when you need to check if the jam is ready or not.

Purée the chillies, garlic, ginger and fish sauce together in a blender. Put this purée, along with the sugar and vinegar into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the tomatoes and bring to the boil slowly, stirring occasionally. Gently cook this mixture for about 40 minutes, stirring every now and again.

While the jam is cooking, sterilise the jars by either boiling them in a pot of water for about 10 minutes (making sure they are totally submerged); or by washing them in hot soapy water and drying them in an oven at 150 °C for 20 minutes.

Remember the saucer? Take it out of the freezer once you think the jam may be at setting point. Dollop a little jam in the centre, if the dollop crinkles, especially when you push on the edges of it, then you’re good to transfer your jam into the jars and leave to cool.

This is jam is delicious, although it has left me a little confused as to what exactly the difference is between a jam and a relish? But after a few dollops of this on a bit of cheese, I really give up caring!


You might also like:

Passionfruit and lemon curd

Walnut and parsley pesto

Tomato, chive and Brie tart

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