For some reason I don’t quite know how to start this post. Should I apologise for my silence and explain my absence? Should I launch straight into Christmas cheer and festive spirit? I’m just not sure. To be completely honest, I’ve been a bit blindsided by the arrival of Christmas. I keep wondering what I’m doing this weekend and then realise, oh yeah, it’s Christmas. Which, in part, goes some way to explaining why this post is so delayed and bordering on out of date at this stage.
I had fantastic plans to make some of my presents this year mainly in the form of jars of relish or chutney. So I bought lots of suitable ingredients and then let them sit there for a week or two while I lounged about, probably eating mince pies and chocolate, and listening to Christmas FM. What finally kicked me into gear was a request from my mother to make the starter for Christmas dinner, which has to appeal to a man who doesn’t eat fish of any kind, a pregnant woman, and a man who is very conscientiously watching his cholesterol. Soup and salad seem like the only viable options here, but just not indulgent enough for Christmas, in my opinion.
So I’ve decided to go with grilled halloumi (pasteurised only, obvs) with melon (watermelon, if I can find it), rocket, and red cabbage relish. The only thing I could prepare in advance here was the relish so I finally decided to put those ingredients to good use and get cracking.
Inspired by my recent purchase of blackcurrant balsamic vinegar, I wanted to bring a similar quality to the relish so that it would have a deep fruity tone to it, giving the impression of sweetness without actually being too sweet. In my mind’s eye I could see frozen blackcurrants in every supermarket freezer, but when it came to it, I couldn’t find any of the little sods. So I had to make do with blackcurrant syrup (sirop de cassis) which I found in Fallon & Byrne. I still wanted to have little bursting berries of flavour though so I decided to go festive and use cranberries. Another advantage of using cranberries is their high level of pectin, which is a naturally occurring setting agent found in some fruits. Apples are also a good source of pectin so if you can’t find cranberries a couple of apples would work just as well, which also means you can make this at any time of the year.
I actually pickled the cabbage first and then made a cranberry sauce separately, and mixed the two together. This helped me get the right balance of flavours – I wanted it to be sharp but not so vinegary that it sends shivers down the spine, and sweet but not jammy. The cranberry sauce element also helped add to the glossiness of the relish too, and gave it that rich jewel colour.
I recently shared a really useful article I found about sterilising jars easily using your oven or microwave. Sterilising will help your relish last longer by eliminating any nasty bacteria lurking in your old jam jars. Then the relish should keep in the fridge up to about a month, but I don’t think you’ll have any left for that long! Enjoy it with cheese and crackers and a glass of port, cold meats, turkey burgers, veggie burgers, and whatever festive treats come your way. It also makes a nice present for anyone you plan to visit over the holidays.
So that’s it! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas with plenty of yummy food and good times with family and friends. I can’t wait to get stuck into a new year full of unbEATable eats.
Happy Christmas! x
For the pickled cabbage:
1 head red cabbage, peeled and destalked
1 small onion, peeled
2 large raw beetroots, peeled
200ml vinegar (red wine vinegar is best here. I used some balsamic and I think it muddied the colour a bit)
400ml cold water
1 heaped teaspoon Allspice
1 heaped tbsp brown sugar
200ml blackcurrant syrup
For the cranberry sauce:
160ml boiling water
30ml red wine
1 tbsp maple syrup
Grate cabbage, onion and beetroot finely (I used my food processor for this)
Place all the vegetables in a large heavy saucepan over a medium heat.
Add the vinegar and cold water, the Allspice, sugar and 100ml of the blackcurrant syrup.
Mix everything thoroughly and put the lid on the pot.
Allow the mixture to come to a gentle boil, then remove the lid and turn the heat down. Leave it to simmer until almost all the liquid has reduced. Allow to cool
Next place the cranberries in a pot with the boiling water, red wine and maple syrup and place over a medium heat.
Allow to bubble until all the cranberries have burst (put the lid on to avoid spattering accidents!), and then take off the heat and allow to cool.
Mix the red cabbage mixture with the cranberry sauce and add the remaining blackcurrant syrup. Do this bit by bit and taste as you go so that you achieve the exact flavour you like.
Transfer to sterilised jars and seal tightly. Keep in the fridge between uses.