The Importance of Labels

Salmon and Rhubarb JamWe ran out of tartare sauce today.

I don’t know what you are supposed to do in that situation. If I run out of lager I’ll substitute a bottle of Merlot but I don’t have a ready made substitute for tartare sauce.

With salmon on the plate, I had to think on my feet and I went down the chutney route.

I raided the fridge where all the unlabelled, half-eaten jars reside.

I polished off the last remnants of the best beetroot relish ever! And then experimented with the unknown – the small gifted jars that either came from my family or the in-laws. The distinction is important. Lynn’s family do jams. Mine do sour chutneys and marmalade.

Neither family do labels though.

In the end I “enjoyed” salmon with rhubarb jam.

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Roasted Sweet Beetroot Relish

The plot and the hedgerows are so productive at the moment. It seems about two months too early but the sloes are already plump and juicy. I’ve just had to polish of the last remaining drop of slow gin from last year so that I can re-use the bottles for this year’s vintage. Extraordinarily tasty and potent stuff!

This year we remembered to take carrier bags for a trip around Mitcham Common and have collected enough apples and blackberries for about 30 pies. The trees were almost breaking under the burden of fruit, it’s a shame more people don’t take advantage of the free crops.

Back on the plot we’ve found ourselves overrun with beetroot and I’m in the unusual position of trying to find creative ways to cook and store it.

The Preserves book from the River Cottage Series has a fabulous recipe for sweet beetroot relish. I made slight adjustments, replacing creamed horseradish for the requested home-grown pickled variety and I also cheated with the tomato puree which I couldn’t be bothered to make from scratch. Here is my cheats version:

Sweet Beetroot Relish

  • Servings: loads
  • Time: 1hr
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


1kg Beetroot – roasted at 180’C
250g Sugar
150ml cider vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
large onion finely chopped
2 tbsp creamed horseradish
4 garlic cloves crushed
1 tbsp tomato puree


Put all the ingredients except for the beetroot into a preserving pan and boil for 5 mins.

Peel and coarsely grate the roasted beetroot. Add this to the mix and cook for another 10 mins.

The juice should be syrupy when ready to transfer to the sterilised jars.

It should last up to a year.

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Aroma of Vinegar

9th August Harvest

I think I wasted my time this morning lighting a new stick of patchouli and lemon incense. The mornings trip to the lotty resulted in a monstrous glut that could only mean an afternoon spent preparing chutney and a house oozing the homely charm of hot spicy vinegar.

There are a couple of cauliflowers in that shot but I’ve deliberately avoided a close up of them. I think cauliflowers are designed to be picked the moment you spot them, flush with their juvenile tight white heads. I was a little greedy and hoped for huge curds to rival my dads. I chopped a stray outer leaf off to protect from the sun and left for another couple of weeks to swell. Inevitably the severed leaf rotted and formed an ideal pied-a-terre for numerous detritivores which did their best to make me weep.


I’m not wasting them though, deep cleaning with a tooth brush and a heavy handed shave, left the heads in good enough nick to form the basis of a piccalilli chutney.

I’ve doctored the recipe from Greenforks who made a far more appealing looking sauce than me but then Waitrose had run out of turmeric powder – there has obviously been a run on piccalilli making.

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