Tag Archives: Figs

Hedgerow Chutney

As followers on Twitter and FB probably well know I’ve been up to more than a spot of preserving of late. It’s my latest addiction, as if I need any more of those. My Dad’s the King of Jams, Chutneys and Pickles and I have a feeling he’s passed his enthusiastic genes for it on to me!. Which is great, but time consuming. Many an evening has been spent peeling, dicing, de-stoning, chopping, stirring, testing, sterilising and jarring. And then obviously the tasting. And all the crackers, bread and cheese to go with it!. I rarely get to bed much before midnight on my chutneying nights. And to be honest my cupboards are now fit to bursting with so many goodies, but at least I have christmas presents totally nailed this year.

My Dad’s been making Hedgerow Chutney for years, and it happens to be everyone’s favourite of all his chutney recipes (and he makes quite a number!). Each autumn he takes a long walk around the field at the back of his house in Herefordshire picking all the freebie hedgerow goodies he can find and transforms them into this marvellously fruitful chutney. There’s always plenty of damsons, bullaces, sloes, blackberries and a few elderberries. Plus pears or apples for smoothing and bulking out. We don’t have quite the same fruit in our hedgerows in France but I thought I’d make my own French version picking the fruit from our garden and nearby tracks and lanes, managing to find plenty of figs, greengages, plums, pears, blackberries and sloes just before the season finished a couple of weeks ago. We’ve elderberries here too but they were way past their best by the time I got into full chutney mode.

The lovely sloes

My little sloe picker!

There’s no escaping how time consuming and labourious chutney making can be, especially when using so much fruit that needs hefty preparatory work. I realise now why it’s a hobby generally taken up by retired folk. But the results are so worth it, if you can spare it set aside a whole evening in the kitchen and wile away the hours getting lost in music or the radio or even catching up on a few programmes on You Tube.

Every year my Dad’s Hedgerow Chutney is slightly different depending on which fruits have been particularly fruitful that year so feel free to use in whatever quantities you happen to find, but go easy on too many woody elderberries (which are particularly fiddly anyway).

Particularly fabulous with goats cheese, but to be honest it’s pretty good with any cheese or cold cut really. Bread or crackers, or to liven up a sandwich. Or just as a spread on it’s own.

Hedgerow Chutney

Makes 8 to 12 jars (depending obviously on the size of your jars!)

3 kilos of prepared hedgerow fruit, washed and de-stoned

a kilo of apples or pears, peeled, cored and finely chopped

a kilo of onions, finely diced

150g of fresh ginger, grated

1300g of demerera sugar

800ml of malt or cider vinegar (I use cider as I can’t source malt vinegar in France)

a teaspoon of salt

Special Equipment: A very large pan, 8 to 12 sterilised jars and lids

Start with prepping all your fruit. If using elderberries and/or sloes boil them in a pan with a little water for 10 minutes to soften a little before passing through a sieve to remove the skin and pips. Remove the stones from all other stoned fruit (bullaces, damsons,  plums or greengages) and cut to an equal size. Smaller fruit can be just chopped in two, but larger plums should be diced some more.

Peel the apples and pears, core and finely dice. Dice any other fruit you’re using. Blackberries may be left whole. Finally dice the onions (I actually cheated with the onions and briefly pulsed them in my food processor to save on a little time).

Place all the fruit and onion in a large pan, preferably a jam pan or maslin. I actually use a very large stock pot for all my jams and chutneys. Pour in the vinegar and sugar together with the grated ginger and salt.

Place on the hob on a high heat and bring everything to a simmer. Cook fairly furiously for at least an hour, stirring very regularly so nothing catches on the bottom. The chutney should be considerably thickened and the surplus liquid evaporated. You should be able to cross a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan and see the bottom.

Ladle into sterilised jars and screw the lids on immediately. Leave to mature for at least 2 months (if you can resist!).

You might also like:

Cinnamon & Greengage or Plum Jam

Homemade Tomato Ketchup

One of our old pear trees

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Fig, Goats Cheese & Red Onion Tarts

We’re in the midst of fig season here in France and I’m loving it. Without a doubt they’re one of my favourite fruits and as we’re relative newbies here only in our second fig season they still feel rather decedent and exotic. Sadly we’re the only people I know of without a single fig tree in the garden so I have to rely on friends and a couple of our holiday home neighbours’ trees to feed my indulgence. I really must get around to planting our own trees next spring.

Last Saturday we were happily invited to my friend Debbie’s house for a spot of fig picking and horsey riding for Francesca. Five kilos later we came home (not counting the umpteen in our tummies). I’m afraid to say I put most of them in the freezer to make into jam when I’ve a little more time on my hands than this week. The rest were made into several batches of these gorgeous wee Fig, Goats Cheese & Red Onion Tartlets and a fabulous Fig & Pear Crumble (which I shall be blogging shortly too).

Master J adores his figs too, though they’re not the choicest of foods for a lad going through potty training. Last Autumn I took my daily walk with Jacques-on-my-back past one particular fig tree which he’d scream at as we got closer, screaming for me to pick him some. Funny at first, but the screaming carried on for the subsequent four months until well into January and there was snow on the ground, and each time with me painstakingly trying to explain the figs were all gone and he’d have to wait until next September. Anyway at least September’s come around again and he’s one very happy wee (and exceptionally regular) chappie. And a happy chappie with a few more words than last year, namely ‘Mummy pick fig NOW!’.

Anyway enough fig talk, on with the tarts, or tartlettes if I want to be really posh. I made several batches of these last year too, and always a success. The sweetness of the figs and balsamic caramalised red onions is cut through with a little sharpness from the goats cheese and the savory notes of thyme and addition of black pepper to the pastry. Perfect for parties and buffets, or as a nibble served with pre-dinner drinks or a starter with a few dressed leaves on the side. Admittedly they’re a tad on the fiddly side but can be made in large batches and handily frozen. And so well worth the effort.

I’m going for my first ever trio of bloggie competitions with this recipe, so keep on in there while I detail them all. Firstly, I was very pleased to see September’s One Ingredient Challenge is the Fig, a wonderful competition held jointly by Laura at How to Cook Good Food and Nazima at Working London Mummy (this month is Laura’s turn).

As thyme is such a crucial ingredient to my tarts I’m also entering Karen at Lavender and Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday Challenge (again I know, but it’s such a lovely competition!)

And last but most certainly not least my tarts are also entering Ren Behan’s Fabulicious Food Simple and in Season Competition, this month hosted by Katie at Feeding Boys and a Firefighter.

Phew, that’s a whole lot of competitions, now on with the recipe!

Fig, Goats Cheese & Red Onion Tarts

Makes 24 mini tartlets:

For the Pastry:

200g of plain flour, plus a little extra for rolling

100g of butter, cut into small blocks, straight from the fridge

100g of hard vegetable fat, cut into small blocks, straight from the fridge

a teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper

a generous pinch of salt

an egg yolk

For the Tarts:

3 tablespoons of olive oil

3 red onions, very finely sliced

2 dessertspoons of balsamic vinegar

salt & pepper

12 to 15 very ripe figs (about 320g)

150g of goats cheese (preferably in a log shape)

a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed

a little more extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Special Equipment: 

2 small x12 tart or fairy cake tins

Start with making your pastry. I use a food processor for speed but you can make it by hand too. If you’re using a processor place all the ingredients (bar the egg yolk) in the bowl and whiz until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and continue to whiz. When it starts to come together in a ball it’s ready, add a few drops of very cold water until this happens. Remove from the processor and shape together. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using.

If you’re making the pastry by hand place all the ingredients (bar the egg yolk) together in a mixing bowl. Rub the fat into the flour with your hands until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk splash and mix into the flour and fat with your hands, trying to bring it all together. When it comes together in a ball it’s ready. You may also need to add a few drops of water for this to happen. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 190ºC (gas mark 5, 375ºF).

Whilst the pastry’s resting make your filling. Heat the oil in a saucepan on a gentle heat. Add the finely sliced onions and cook slowly for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until very soft. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and a pinch each of salt and ground black pepper. Allow to bubble for a minute or two before setting aside to cool.

Meanwhile cut each of the figs into 6 segments, and cut the goats cheese into 24 thin rounds.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface as thinly as you can, to a one to two millimeter thickness. Cut into rounds with a 8cm diameter pastry cutter (or like me an upturned thin wine glass – every time I make tarts I curse myself for not having a correct sized cutter!). Re-work the leftover pastry until you have 24 pastry rounds.

Lay the rounds in the two tart or cake tins and press down lightly. Place a small teaspoon of the red onions at the bottom of each, followed by a slice of the goats cheese, a scattering of thyme leaves. Finally place three fig segments on the top of each, plus a fine grinding of black pepper and the merest drizzle of olive oil.

Place in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the pastry’s golden brown and crisp.

How about trying my other tart recipes? A couple of Tomato Tarts or Leek & Goats Cheese Tart.


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