bloody brilliant piccalilli

img_20161107_222829-1So named by family friend Eric, who is renowned for his taciturnity. However, he got very animated about this piccalilli, and declared it to be bloody brilliant. High praise indeed, from a man of few words.

  • 1kg mixed vegetables, washed and peeled as necessary. Essentials are cauliflower (white or romanesco), green beans, and shallots or small silverskin onions. The rest can be made up of sweetcorn, fresh peas, red peppers, courgettes, carrots, green tomatoes. The  more colourful the mixture, the better.
  • 50g fine salt
  • 30g cornflour
  • 10g ground turmeric
  • 10g English mustard powder
  • 15g yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander
  • 600ml cider vinegar
  • 200g granulated sugar

The most time consuming part of making piccalilli is cutting up the vegetables. You need to make sure that the pieces are quite small and of an even size. Once you’ve got your kilo of chopped veg, put them in a large bowl and sprinkle over the salt.  Mix it in well and leave the bowl, covered in a cloth, overnight. This will help to ensure that the vegetable pieces stay crunchy.  The next day, rinse the veg in ice-cold water to get rid of the salt, and drain as much of the water off as you can.  The veg need to be quite dry or the resulting sauce will be watery. Put the cornflour, turmeric, and all the other spices in a big jug and mix them to a smooth-ish paste with some of the vinegar.  The rest of the vinegar goes into a large saucepan to be heated up with the sugar, until the sugar has dissolved.  Bring the vinegar and sugar mixture to the boil, then pour some of it over the spice paste and mix it well, then pour the spice paste and vinegar mixture back into the pan and bring to the boil again.  Keep stirring it until it thickens. This should take about five minutes.  Take the pan off the heat, and then you’re ready to mix in the drained vegetables.  Stir all the vegetables around until they are all coated with the spicy sauce, then pack them into sterilised jars, making sure there are no air pockets.  Seal the jars with wax paper discs to cover, and acid-proof screw-on lids.  This piccalilli can be eaten straight away but improves after about 4  weeks maturing in a dark cupboard.  It’s excellent with cheese, cured meats, pork pies, roast beef, sandwiches, anything that benefits from a mustardy, crunchy hit. I have been known to eat it from the jar with a spoon.  It’s also vegan, containing no animal products (but it tasts so good WITH animal products…!).

Fast cauliflower curry

A totally veggie – or even vegan if you don’t serve it with the raita – super-quick recipe using mainly storecupboard ingredients for those days when you need something fast and full of flavour.  Cheerfully ripped off from Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals – but with some changes for convenience (plus I never did like easy-cook rice…)

Serves 4

  • ½ large cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon very lazy ginger (or a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated)
  • 1 teaspoon very lazy garlic (or 2 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed)
  • 1 onion, grated, or chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon very lazy chili
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 x 400 g tin light coconut milk
  • 1 x 400 g tin of chickpeas
  • 1 x 227 g tin of pineapple chunks in juice
  • ½ lemon

For The Rice

  • 1 mug (300g) basmati rice
  • 10 cloves
  • ½ lemon

Remove the outer leaves from the cauliflower, then slice it 1cm thick and put it on a hot griddle pan, turning when lightly charred.

Put 1 mug of rice and 2 mugs of boiling water into a  pan with the cloves, lemon half and a pinch of salt, put the lid on and cook on a low heat.  Heat the oil in a large casserole pan and gently fry the finely chopped onion, ginger, garlic and chili for a few minutes until the onions start to go translucent.  Add the garam masala and stir it round for a minute to heat up the spices before adding any of the wet ingredients.

Add the tin of tomatoes, the coconut milk, the drained chickpeas and the pineapple chunks and their juice.  Add the griddled cauliflower, cover the pan and turn the heat up to high and bring to the boil.  It should be ready when the rice is, but if the sauce is a bit sloppy then take the lid off and give it a couple of minutes at a fierce heat, stirring all the time to prevent it catching on the bottom of the pan. Squeeze the juice of the remaining half lemon into the curry and season to taste  with salt and pepper if it needs it. Check that the rice is cooked through and drain it if there’s too much water in the pan.  Scatter the torn coriander leaves over the curry and serve with the drained rice.

You can serve this with a quick “raita” of fat-free yogurt mixed with fresh chopped mint leaves, and poppadums, chapatis or naan if you want a bit more carb content with your tea.