This is a post in two parts. The first is about how great cheese platters are. I don’t think I need to convince you on that point, am I right? The second part is the chilli chutney I made, which is featured in my cheese platter. Yum.
So, cheese platters. Delicious offerings of cheeses and accompaniments that are just so hard to say no to. Best served at a wine and cheese party, or a luxurious feeling lunch, like mine was today! Even though I assembled some of my pickings as mini cheese and salami sandwiches, I felt so much more fancy than if I’d just eaten a regular cheese and lunch meat sanga.
The secret to a successful cheese platter – according to my mum, who has made a fair few in her time! – is to include a variety of flavours, colours and textures.
She says to include both hard and soft cheeses (I’ve got a slice of brie, a honey and pistachio cream cheese, and red leicester); fruits and veggies (cucumber slices, pear slices and cherry tomatoes, here, but apples, peaches, carrots and celery also do very very well); bread and / or crackers (I had a pane di casa bread stick sliced up at Bakers Delight); and everything else is optional. In my case, my extras were kalamata olives, almonds, Hungarian salami, and, of course, my chilli chutney.
“Tell me more about this chilli chutney!” I hear you say. Okay!
I have been on a real chilli kick at the moment. I have no idea where it’s come from, but I’ve been going crazy for all things spicy. I’ve been adding a bit of a kick to everything recently! But sweet chilli sauce doesn’t go with everything, and I can’t cook chilli powder into all the things I’ve been eating, so I’ve been on a hunt for a good-looking chilli preserve of some kind.
This one isn’t the most economic, but it sure is delicious! I adapted Jamie Oliver’s Cheeky Chilli-Pepper Chutney, and I’m pretty chuffed with how it’s turned out. Aside from being delicious on a cheese platter, it’s great whisked into scrambled eggs, on toast, or mixed into pasta sauce. Versatile and tasty, with just the right amount of kick!
6 red capsicums (this is where the not-so-economic comes in)
1 green capsicum
8 small chillies (more or less to taste)
1 sprig of rosemary
2 bay leaves
100grams of brown sugar
150ml of balsamic vinegar
This makes two medium-sized jars of chutney – if you’re looking to properly preserve it, wash the jars and lids thoroughly in hot soapy water, rinse them well, leave the lids to air dry, and heat the jars in the oven while preparing everything. More on this in a bit.
Put the capsicums and chillies under the grill, and turn them every so often until they blacken and blister. I removed my chillies (which, being smaller, heated more quickly than the capsicums) when they began making popping sounds. Remove everything into a large bowl, and tightly cover with cling wrap and leave to cool – you want to make sure the peppers are all steaming in their own heat, so they finish cooking and their skin peels off more easily. Set aside.
Chop the onions into slices and heat a splash of olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onions, rosemary leaves and bay leaves, and cook on a low to medium heat for twenty minutes, letting the onions get brown and sticky and yum.
Peel those peppers, remove their stalks and seeds, and chop finely. I wore food safe disposable gloves while I did this, because I did not want to be dealing with chilli fingers later on. Watch out for the liquid that might have collected inside the capsicums – this might be a messy job here. I discovered that I didn’t cut my capsicums quite finely enough, so either do a thorough job, or give them a quick go in a food processor.
Add all the peppers to the onions, as well as the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. Give everything a good stir, and allow to cook down and the liquid to reduce. Keep an eye on this, and stir every so often. Do not put the lid on.
Remove the bay leaves and spoon carefully into your jars – especially carefully if you’ve just pulled them out of the oven. Use oven mitts and / or tea towels, and do not burn yourself! Put the lids on straight away and leave to cool – once it’s cooled right down, if the lid is sucked in, it’s preserved. If the “button” on the lid still pops, it’s not air tight, and will have to be eaten in the next fortnight or so. (Same if you’ve just put it into a plastic container or bowl.) Preserved chutney should last a while in the pantry – Jamie O says a few months.