Category Archives: Autumn

Pickled Tink

As I am sure I have said before, semantics aren’t my four year olds’ strong point.  Life is complicated enough without having to explain the subtleties and nuances of the English language to a child that is already grappling with English, Mandarin and ‘Singlish’.  Trying to comprehend why a single word has many meanings is a task I often find overwhelming and I have been speaking the language for considerably longer than I would care to admit to.  Why, for instance, you would describe someone as being “in a pickle” when he was not in fact doused in vinegar, nor placed in a jar?  A concept a little too complex for my little man. He had only just grasped the idea of a person being described as “pickled”, as meaning infused with alcohol and unable to function properly as a result.  “Why would you want to pickle yourself with alcohol mama? Would it make you taste nice?”  I am beginning to regret the conversation entirely.   “If you get in a pickle… how do you get out again?”  Seriously talk about something else now.  The English have a lot to answer for.

I am trying to pickle beetroot.  My son helps me to fill the jars with a stunning fuscia liquid, the sort of colour only possible when you cook with really lovely fresh beets.  These ones have been given to me by a new friend that imports organic fresh produce from her farm in the Himalayas.  I tell him that I am tickled pink that he loves to do such things with me.  “Tickled pink?…  Don’t you mean Pickled Tink mama”?  I give up.

“And I have been thinking”.  Here we go.   “If I am stuck… so I am sticky… and get all mixed up about something… wouldn’t I be in a chutney?”  Perhaps my precocious child has a point.  Sort of.

Mixed Vegetable Beer Pickles

Fills a 1 litre jar


A lovely saviour of recipe 'orphans'; those odd left-over veggies from precise ingredient lists leaving two of this and one of that.

3/4 cup Japanese sushi seasoning (Mizukan) or other rice wine vinegar

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

6 Bay leaves

10 Allspice berries

2 TBSP peppercorns (pickled green ones are good if you can find them or black will do)

4 large red chillies

10 juniper berries

2 bunches of thyme

1 cup water

6 cloves garlic

3 medium sized carrots

small packet of baby corn

small head of cauliflower

2 japanese or small pickling cucumbers


Not normally a huge fan of fusion food, I appreciate the delicacy and slightly asian twist to this otherwise fairly classic pickled vegetable medley.  Having been inspired to cook in the first place by a dish created by (definitively in my book) God of fusion cuisine Peter Gordon, I secretly harbour a hope that he would approve.

Peel the carrots and cut into batons or discs.  Slice the baby corn lengthwise into halves or quarters if quite large.  Trim cauliflower into small florets.  Cut cucumber into batons or diagonal fat slices.  Pack raw prepared vegetables into a sterilised jar (see sterilising notes at bottom).

Place all liquids and aromatics into a saucepan and bring up to the boil.  Pour over prepared veggies in jar and seal tightly.  Allow to cool then place in the fridge.  Use within one month or within a couple of weeks once opened.  Delicious with some salty roasted nuts and a large cold beer; particularly an Asahi, Sapporo or similar in the sunshine!

Pickled Beetroot

This recipe will make enough to generously fill a 1 litre jar with a little extra for immediate use or can adequately fill 6 x 200ml jars.

It is something about the colour that tickles me


5 large or ten small beetroot

1 cup spring water

2 cups best quality white wine vinegar (Volpaia vinegar or similar specialist herb vinegars are lovely to experiment with)

1 cup white sugar (ideally organic and unbleached)

6 bay leaves

2 star anis

½ tsp peppercorns – you can use pickled green ones if you have them but black dried are fine too

2 large red chillies, whole

¼ tsp sea salt


Rinse off excess mud from beetroot and trim off any leaves (delicious blanched and doused in olive oil as a side dish by the way)!  Place the beets in a large saucepan of cold, salted water and bring to a simmer.  Cook gently for about fifteen to twenty-five minutes depending on the size of your beetroot.  They are ready when you are able to stab them easily with a knife or skewer – ideally tender, but not overcooked.

Drain the beetroot and rub off the skins, tails and rough tops with your hands when cool.  You can dunk them in a little bowl of cold water to get rid of any little bits of skin but don’t be tempted to run them under a tap as they will bleed out colour and flavour.  Set aside.

Sterilise your jars (see notes at bottom).  While your jars are in the oven, make your pickling brine; Place all the ingredients, except the beetroot, in a saucepan and bring to the boil.  Simmer for five minutes to allow the flavours to meld.

Cut up your beetroot if you desire, or leave whole if very small.  I like to cut them in wedges so that you can still see the original shape and size of the beet.

Place hot jars straight from the oven on the counter near your brine saucepan.  Place the cut beetroot in the hot jars, being careful not to touch the inside of the jar with unsterile fingers.  If you need to replace a rubber ring on the jar; now is the time to do it – but always with immaculately clean hands.

When the jar or jars are packed, pour on the piping hot brine. Make sure there are no bubbles and seal the jars as quickly as possible, whilst still piping hot.

Leave on the counter to cool, then store somewhere cool and dark – the fridge is ideal if you are in a hot country.

The pickles just get better with age, and can be stored for a couple of months if left unopened.  Once opened, store in the fridge and use within two weeks.  NB.  if your pickles ever taste fizzy or you see bubbles in the jar you must discard them – it means that air has got into the jar and the produce is now rotting – and can give you rather more than just a bad tummy!

The resulting pickles are delicious with cold meats, and tangy cheeses such as creamy goats cheese, feta, halloumi, or sheeps milk cheeses.  Try making a salad with watercress or rocket, segments of orange, slivers of pickled beetroot and a simple olive or walnut oil dressing.


Spiced Carrot and Sultana Chutney

This recipe will fill a 1.5 litre jar or 6 250ml jars


Delicious with Parmesan, Wendesleydale or goat cheeses and cold meats

50g peeled, finely chopped fresh ginger

500ml white wine vinegar

4 fresh red large chillies (whole)

2 TBSPs crushed coriander seeds

2 cinnamon sticks

4 star anis

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

5 Bay leaves

1 TBSP sea salt

1kg sugar

1kg peeled and finely chopped, organic carrots

200g sultanas

1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and separated


Stir together the first ten ingredients and leave them to meld overnight.  A large bowl covered in cling film in the fridge is fine.

The next day pour boiling water over your sultanas in a bowl and drain off well after five minutes.  Set them aside.

Place the carrots in a preserving pan and cover with 500ml of water.  Bring up to a simmer, cover and cook for about 5 minutes until the carrots start to feel tender.  Drain off all water and pour in all other ingredients plus 200ml fresh water.  Stir all the ingredients and bring up to a simmer. Gently cook, stirring occasionally for about 25 minutes. Watch it closely as it can very quickly turn to jam and then to glue, and you will want to remove it when it takes on a shiny slightly thicker feel. 

While it is cooking sterilise your jars; see notes at the bottom.

Once your chutney takes on a slightly thicker, sticky consistency turn off the heat and get your jars ready (do not be tempted to put a lid on the pot).  Place them on the work surface near your pot and get your jam funnel or sterilized small jug (even a small ladle will do) ready to transfer your chutney from pot to jar.  Seal the jar while the mixture is still piping hot and try not to touch the inside of the jar while you do so.  Leave the sealed jars to cool on the counter.  The chutney, if placed in sterilized jars should last at least three months unopened, and at least two weeks once opened, if kept in the fridge.

Delicious with cold cuts and cheeses, but also with curries and, we recently discovered, delicious with cold, leftover cauliflower cheese! 

Sterilising Notes

Place immaculately clean glass jars upside down on the metal runged shelf (or on their side if you only have trays) in the oven for about ten minutes at 180C, turn oven off without opening the door and leave them until you need them. Boil lids and rubber seals in a saucepan for ten minutes then and leave in water until you need them (if you have a baby in the house you can use this steriliser instead)!  It is a good idea at this stage to boil or sterilise a small plastic jug, jam funnel and/or tongs if you think you will need them.


Filed under Autumn, Everything!, Recipes, Savoury

Rainbows in February

It is life … But not as we know it. The latest addition to our family is making her presence known.  Where once there were pirates … there is now pink.  In all its’ myriad shades.  Cerise frilly pants, candy floss miniature tutus (what self respecting three-day-old would be without?) and Pepto Bismol bedroom bunting.  We are in shock.

Rose and peach have replaced khaki and camouflage, and minute ballerina slippers have slipped seamlessly onto a shelf next to mud caked football trainers, and their ubiquitous smelly sock soul-mates that flop out of the top – ready for the next foray onto the pitch.  We are unprepared for this onslaught of girlish things.  We are not sure how to react to these additional unexpected colours in our rainbow.  But we are also in love.  So vast was the surprise that the newest member of our family is a girl, we are still getting used to saying ‘her’ and ‘she’ but it doesn’t matter.  The big man of the house still has watery eyes when the word ‘daughter’ is mentioned, and the little man of the house just keeps informing us that she is gorgeous … just gorgeous.  And she is.

In her honour, darling little cupcakes are delivered, heavenly chocolate confections from friendly neighbours and hospital picnic lunches arrive on a daily basis. I was even the recipient on Sunday of the lightest, most mouth watering scones I have ever eaten.  Laden with thick cream and blueberry jam, and warm out of the oven from the other side of Singapore … it was delivered in person by a lovely man with a quiet, but enormous talent in the kitchen.  And the best part … apparently I am allowed to eat all of them.  New mothers need to keep their strength up don’t you know.

In honour of the new colours in our lives I purchased an inordinately expensive bunch of Rainbow Chard at the organic supermarket today.  The clashing leaves and stems, the iridescent shades of fuschia and orange with their verdant veined leaves get me every time.  And I haven’ t seen them for a while  – two years to be precise.  Armed with a couple of Chinese New Year Mandarins (present in every home in Singapore at this time of year), a box of Italian Pappardelle and my bunch of chard I set to work.  A simple supper for my newly grown family.

Pappardelle with Rainbow Chard and Mandarin Hollondaise

1 box Pappardelle (enough for four)

1 large bunch of Rainbow Chard

3 egg yolks

100g butter

large pinch of salt

1 lemon

2 large oranges (or mandarins)

Decent bottle of olive oil


Clean and prepare the chard by washing thoroughly under running water.  Remove the leaves by tearing them away from the stems, using one hand to drag the leaf away while holding the stem with the other. Finely slice the stems (removing any very battered or brown bits), and then widely shred the leaves.

Using a bain marie (or simply a small saucepan over larger one half filled with simmering water on low flame), place the egg yolks and butter in the top pan, and place above steaming, just bubbling water.  My favourite tool at the moment is a multicoloured silicone covered whisk – a present from a husband making up for spending weeks away at a time in Seattle (gifts from Williams Sonoma make up for a lot).  It is perfect for this job as my pan is ‘nonstick’ and it doesn’t scratch the coating, as well as being light and fine, so that it is easy to use for long periods of time; such as making hollondaise – where you have to be constantly agitating the mixture.  Almost as soon as the butter starts to melt, add a tablespoon or so of the citrus juice.  Keep stirring as the sauce begins to thicken and add the juice a spoonful at a time until the mixture is a lovely light viscous texture.  If you end up with any lumps just pass the sauce through a sieve.  If you get really unstuck (or more to the point stuck) take the mixture off the heat, introduce the pan to a cold bowl of water to stop the thickening, and blitz the lot with an immersion blender.  Set the sauce to one side, turn off the heat, add the salt if necessary and cover to keep warm.

Bring a small amount of water to the boil in any large (wide but not deep is fine) pan with a pinch of salt and throw in all the chopped chard stalks and shredded leaves.  Put a tightly fitting lid on the pan and allow about five minutes to cook/steam.  Do not let the water burn dry or you will ruin your dish.  Remove the lid, test that the chard is cooked (leaves wilted and stem still has a little bite – but ‘al dente’ not ‘al denture’ as my sis would say)!  Toss out the excess water and pour on a good dose of the best olive oil you can lay your hands on, stirring to coat all the leaves and stems well.  Put the chard to one side, again with lid on to keep warm.

Place a large vat of water on the stove and bring to the boil.  Salt the water and add the pasta.  Cook until done.  Eat some.  It is the only way to know.

Drain the pasta, slug on some more olive oil and add the chard, combining ingredients gently and evenly.  Check for seasoning and plate up.  Pour generous amounts of the orange sauce over the pasta at the table.  Devour.


Filed under Autumn, Everything!, Recipes, Savoury, Winter