Thursday, 1 January 2015

7. Pineapple and Apple Chutney

    In the heady euphoria of last minute food shopping on Christmas Eve at Barrow Boys, my local greengrocers in Ryde, I bought a fresh pineapple. Pineapples do not normally feature on my list of 'must have' groceries -  the Costa Rican growers typically use large quantities of pesticides that have carcinogen properties and consequently cancer potential.   And pineapple, whether fresh or tinned by Del Monte, is not one of my  favourite fruits.  However 50p for a fresh ripe pineapple was a bargain I couldn't resist, and I had visions of a juicy wedge garnishing a festive pina colada rum cocktail or two over the holiday!
      I never got around to that pina colada on Christmas Day, and by Boxing Day I was thinking of a different destination for my 50p pineapple!  Browsing through my collection of cookbooks and recipes which extends back to the days of the British Raj, (meet Colonel Kenny-Herbert a.k.a 'Wyvern', whose book 'Culinary Jottings for Madras' published in 1885 provides Anglo-Indian culinary gems of that bygone era), I came across this Pineapple Chutney recipe in My Favourite Recipes, (Ellice Handy, pub. Singapore 1952).  
      The late author was the first Singaporean principal of the state's Methodist Girls School when she wrote this book. It appears to have been the first Malayan cookbook to have been published; the precursor of today's many cookbooks by celebrity TV chefs from Singapore and Hong Kong.   
      While her European dishes seem old fashioned now, her Asian dishes, (which include Malayan, Chinese,  Indonesian and Indian recipes), have stood the test of time.
      Handy's chutney recipe needs adapting to modern cookery terms - she measures quantities in 'dessertspoons' and refers to a 'Batu Geling grinding stone consisting of a granite slab with roller placed on a brick stand' as essential kitchen equipment for grinding spices which we now buy in a packet.  Handy specifies 12 chillies in her recipe to"add taste to dull dishes"; her understated way of saying it will blow the top of your head off!  I have reduced the number of chillies by half in my adaptation of Handy's recipe, but if you like your chutneys really hot, add more chillies to taste.   
      This chutney will add an oriental zing to meat curries, roast chicken, hot gammon, sausages, cold meats, and cheese.  It can be eaten immediately, (I polished off a jar over the 12 Days of Christmas), but, like most chutneys, it will improve if you can keep your hands off it and allow it to mature in the jar for a week or two. 

Ingredients :  Preparation time: 30 minutes.

1 fresh Pineapple, peeled and cored;  2 Bramley cooking apples, peeled and cored;  1 medium white Onion, peeled;  100g Fresh Ginger;  2 cloves Garlic;  6 fresh bird's eye Chillies; 250g Sultanas; 1 stick Cinnamon;  1 tbs Salt;  300g Light Muscovado Sugar;  300ml Cider or White Wine Vinegar. 

Method : Cooking time: 45 - 60 minutes.
Finely dice pineapple, apple, onion, preserved ginger, chillies. Grate fresh ginger. Place vinegar, sugar, salt,  cinnamon stick, chillies in a deep pan and bring to the boil. Add the rest of the ingredients and reduce heat to simmer, stirring often to prevent sticking.  Maintain heat until chutney has reached a thick consistency and the apple is broken up. The pineapple will remain in pieces.  Discard cinnamon stick and place mixture in hot sterilised jars, seal and label.  Makes  3 x 450g jars.  This chutney will keep for months.

King Charles II being presented with the first pineapple grown in England.
1675 Hendrik Danckerts

      The pineapple has been used for centuries to treat digestion problems and inflammation.  It is a vitamin C bomb and an important source of vitamins and minerals including thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, manganese and potassium, and antioxidants and polyphenols, such as beta carotene.

Further Reading
Medical News Today : The Health Benefits of Pineapple
My Favourite Recipes, Ellice Handy  2014 updated edition of Handy's cookbook.

Food for thought:  An empty stomach produces an empty brain; our mind, independent as it may appear to be, respects the laws of digestion, and we may say with as much justice as La Rochefoucauld of the heart, that good thoughts proceed from the stomach.

Honore de Balzac
q. in Pleasures of the Table by G. Ellwanger 1903

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