To the majority of us Christmas presents a stressful conundrum. Come September I find myself forced to think that I must go forth and spend money in order to validate myself as a human being. Some of these influences I am less susceptible to (Christmas time coercion in supermarkets), others, I find, have more sway over me. On the other hand, I am acutely aware that there is hardly anything that my nearest and dearest don’t have, so I am always at a loss. Jewellery is always a safe bet, but can also backfire as proven by the infamous 2011 Christmas crafts market fiasco where I did purchase a meagre amount of gifts only to spent £100 on jewellery for me. And so, knowing how much I love cooking and knowing how much my dear friends appreciate food, it really is clear after all.
I was very pleased when I came across this lovely recipe in one of the Riverford booklets because in November I had quite a backlog of beetroot from my veg boxes. The only ingredient I did not have on standby were the apples – the rest can always be found in my store cupboard, even the port I unashamedly admit. We are all big cheese lovers in my flat and we destroyed one jar of the stuff straightaway, not even allowing it to mellow the required four weeks. And to think it would only improve with time!
One jar of the relish was reserved for my grandma. Smuggling it out of the country along with a jar of Cropwell Bishop Stilton was all too adventurous for me, however in the end neither got confiscated by airport security staff. In the end I knew I’d hit the nail on the head with food gifts when I received spiced apple chutney and lemon curd in return, yum!
Keep an eye out for the second installment of edible gifts, raspberry vodka!
Beetroot relish (I made 8 smallish jars)
1kg raw beetroot, peeled and grated
750g red onions finely sliced
750g apples, peeled, cored and grated
500ml red wine vinegar
500g soft light brown sugar
2 tbsp ginger, peeled and grated
2 crushed cloves garlic
2 sticks cinnamon
1 heaped tsp turmeric
2 tsp paprika or cayenne
1 level tsp ground cloves
zest and juice of 2 oranges
a glass of port
This is very very simple. Put all the ingredients into a large pot, bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 1 hour 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the ingredients have combined to a smooth viscous consistency and the liquid has reduced you’re there.
In the meantime sterilise your jars (see rhubarb chutney to find out how). I used a selection of Kilner jars and those cute hexagonal jars with dotty lids that have seen a lot of reusing this year. Fish out the cinnamon sticks, fill the jars with the hot relish to the brim, close tightly, upend and leave to cool. Allow around a month before opening for the flavours to develop fully.