Chutney. That’s it.

Few weeks back, we went to a friend’s house in the middle of the beautiful English countryside. In his garden, big apple trees were giving away the sure sign that summer was ending, offering big, green cooking apples.

My little one – who gave his first steps in this same garden – found many apples on the ground and spotted many others hanging from the tree. He went on collecting the windfalls and I picked many from the tree. They were all big and juicy. We had so many! Hence, the only thing that felt right to do was to convert them into chutney. I posted some pictures of the chutney on social media and many people asked for the recipe.

The recipe I got comes from a lady whom I used to travel with on the same bus at the same time for many years. She gave it to me once we met and I was with a bag full of apples and I was not sure what to do…and I did not want to waste them!

Without further ado, here it goes. Enjoy!

WP_20170830_002

You will need:

Equipment:

Kitchen scale

Jars

Heavy based pan (the biggest one you can find)

Muslin cloth

With regards of the quantities, you can slash the recipe in half. Times may not have to be shortened…you may need to keep an eye and follow your common sense. The first time I did it I had to do it with only half the quantities mainly because I did not have a big enough pan. The result was great…which lead me to make an investment and buy the pan I have now.

Ingredients:

1 kg cooking apples, peeled and cored *900 grams is the weight of the apples once peeled, cored and chopped.

250 gr onions, peeled and chopped *same as the apples, 250 grams of the onions once peeled and chopped.

250 gr raisins

1 teaspoon salt

900 ml white vinegar (distilled malt)

60 gr mixed pickling spice (I used “Barts”)

3 teaspoons ground ginger

500 gr soft brown sugar

 

 

Time:

About 2 hours. You need patience…and if you can rope someone in to help you with the peeling and coring and chopping, the better!

 

Yield:

With this quantities,  I get about 4 / 5 jars. (Kilner jars follow the link to give you an idea)

 

Method:

 

Turn the oven on at 120/140 (fan). Wash with hot soapy water your jars and give them a good rinse. Stick them in the oven and take them out when you are about to pot the chutney.

For the rubber seals and / or lids, wash them in hot soapy water, rinse them and put them in a pan with enough water to cover them completely. Bring to the boil and boil the rubber seals / lids for 10 minutes. Turn the hob off, cover the pan with a lid and leave the rubber seals in the pan until you are ready to use them.

Now that the sterilising is done, prepare the spices. Weight in a kitchen scale 60 grs and put it in a muslin. I think you can buy the bags but if you do not have any, a clean non-coloured (white) piece of muslin will do. Put the spices and tie up the muslin making a bag.

Put in the pan in a medium to high with the chopped apples, onions, raisins, and the salt. Add the vinegar.  Add the spices bag and give it a good stir. Bring it to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer until tender. Remove the spice bag and add the ground ginger.

Add the sugar and stir until it has dissolved. Continue to simmer until the chutney is thick. Stir occasionally so it does not stick to the bottom of the pan.

Once it is done to your liking, take the jars from the oven, and put them on top of a wooden table or marble and pot the chutney. Take the rubber seals / lids and close the pots. Leave them to cool completely. Add a label with the date.

Now. The chutney must mature, so hide them in a dark, cool place for two or three months.

You may ask how long it lasts. That depends a lot on the hygiene procedures of sterilisation. I will say to use your common sense on this one: if you open it and the smell or texture is not right, discard it.

Other wise….Enjoy!!!WP_20170830_005

Advertisements

Everybody is wearing pyjamas

Few weeks back at the nursery my son goes to it was dress up day and the theme was “Super Heroes”. The children were to go dressed up as their favourite Super Heroes. In our household, “heroes” is a subject taught by father since I cannot recall a hero in the same way he does.

Hence it was my partners job to think on which Super Hero our little one was going to be dress like since I never put too much of a thought on heroes to be honest. Heroes for me were Gandalf; in an awkward sort of way the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland and whilst in my twenties and doing all-nighters for uni with the television as companion I discovered amongst the cartoons two “Superheroes”: “Dangermouse” and “Speedracer”.

Only when I got older – and I got to read more books – I got to know some real women who did amazing things, real heroines (not to be confused with heroin!) like Hypatia, Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, and many others – I could be all day trying to draw a rough list! – and these women gave me the inspiration I needed at the time. They did not chase white rabbits, speak with dragons, climb walls using webs or destroy any villains with powerful glances. On second thought: they did: in the real world, giving hard stares, chasing their dreams and speaking their mind.

Although it does not escape to me the magic of the superheroes represented by cartoons: imposing justice left right and centre, smashing evils and restoring peace and order after all the chaos, with a glimmering smile and a shining outfit. And for the cartoon heroines, those as well, pose a fabulous figure enrobed with a shining outfit and the perfect smile – not to mention no hair out of place (not even one!) after imprisoning a villain and rerouting a convoy of trucks to avoid a family of ducks crossing the road at that exact time.

I am unsure how these superheroes and superheroines may affect the child and the adult it will become in the future and I am unsure if children realise that superheroes are human beings – take Wonder Woman for example – who transform themselves into something extraordinarily powerful to fight injustice. I am sure though there are many studies about this subject all going for it or all against it.

As for my partner, Spiderman and Batman have a special place in his heart and he already gave our little one enough outfits branded with both characters. He cannot tell me why those two are so special to him. But they are. My partner always tells me how singular it was to sit down to watch the cartoon in the afternoons and enjoy every second of it.

As for me, I find Superheroes cartoons very graphic and violent – not to mention that nowadays the resolution on any device is simply amazing – and the path such characters embark upon to bring peace and justice is one of destruction galore which in my humble opinion, is just not good and sets a really bad example for a child and I find it very upsetting that all the good characteristics you want to find in a superhero are just obscured – if not obliterated – by the level of destruction caused to eradicate evil.

And it is my suspicion that obliteration is what remains in the memories of children today thanks to the high definition and fine detail (and extent) on the destruction, fights and damage provoked; the end message of good goes above evil, team work and good moral values are lost amidst ruins, fires, explosions, cars flying and kicks.

I am all up for good old costumes: a skirt that can be a tunic or a long dress; a blanket that can become a cape or a portable tent and a pair of swimming goggles that magically allows to see further away over the hills. Let’s not diminish the power of a stick and a cardboard box; or a belt (oversized) with a hat which transforms a mundane child into the most impervious pirate.

One word: magic. I feel the cartoons raid the magic and slash the imagination and feeds the child from a very early age with ideas – note, I am not saying ideals – situations and results which are far from real. If you think it is not socially acceptable to go around kicking and destroying to get something (although as a society we do. Look at all the wars and fighting going on as I type this) particularly if that behaviour comes from a child.

Yes, you got it. Most likely the child will be labelled. And those labels will damp the ideals we try so hard to imprint on them either from home or school.

How did the story of the costume ended, you may wonder? Well, my partner found a pyjama with “Batman” embodied. So, my little one wore his Batman pj’s over layers of thermals plus a Batman coat with a hoodie that worked as a mask.

No need to say that he never understood how could he possibly be wearing his pj’s to go to school (he tried to have a say on the matter) and when I went to pick him up and asked him how did his day go, he shrunk his shoulders and say “everybody was wearing pyjamas”.

 

Guess what the electronic nanny is doing now….

“I need 5 minutes” thinks carer.

The child is restless, lobbying for the attention of the carer. The child and the carer are both exhausted. The child has many, many toys but they don’t seem to make a difference. The child plays with all of them, the carer plays with the toys to see if the child is interested. Child is interested in seeing the carer play with the toys. And nothing else.

“I need a cup of tea” thinks carer.

“I need 5 minutes to myself” thinks carer.

 And there it is. The tablet.

Carer sits down to select a cartoon that can entertain the child for 5 minutes, whilst putting the kettle on for a cup of tea…perhaps to make that phone call. By now the carer is an expert on multitasking i.e. looking after the child, entertain the child and, whilst the child sleeps, do all the rest.

Finally, a cartoon that is simple, lovely songs and colours, does not seem offensive and the carer likes it. Tap tap tap, there it is.

The child holds the tablet, and the eyes are as round as two teacup saucers.

As the child is absorbed entirely with the screen silence reigns once again – and it is not night time. Ah, that cup of tea. Oh, the phone call. Check for messages or comments on the social networks. Ah, send the email and carry on working on that project. Perhaps gain some time and make a start with meal time. Or tidy up the room, get on with the dishes or get rid of the pile of laundry…

Still silence from the child. By now the child is completely engrossed with the cartoon, a different episode.

Carer comes into the room to check on the child. The child seems happy. Carer is happy to see the child happy; hence the carer carries on with a myriad of tasks which otherwise, would be left for later if not left undone.

“That cartoon is a hit” thinks the carer.

Does any of this sounds familiar?

It is what I simply call “the electronic nanny”. Any electronic device which is capable to entertain the child for endless hours, keeping both child and carer happy to the brim. The carer can get on with day to day life and the child can be entertained. By now the child has a selection of “apps” that can teach numbers, letters, colours, rhymes, songs, stories, shapes and even other language!!! ” This is just genius! How comes no one ever told me about it!” thinks the carer.

Do not take me wrong: the health of the carer is as important as the health of the child. And when I say health, I mean physical and emotional health, not just the healthy food and everything we link with the word “health”.

But compromising the future health of a child for 5 minutes of “peace and quiet” – that you know it will end up becoming an hour if not more; and more still, becomes something regular – is a steep price to pay. There is even an article on the guardian about it: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/dec/25/screen-based-lifestyle-harms-health-of-children

I know it is easy said than done; and I know this because the “electronic nanny” was once a guest in my house. It did take immense strength to remove her from my son’s life: endless hours of crying, tantrums, rage – yes, rage of him throwing everything and making everything and everyone in the house a target – manipulation (those big sulky eyes saying “oh, please, I am about to die here” sort of look) and more tears, screams, kicking and empty gazing – or evil staring.

You name it: I have been there and it is a path where you will be told “not to be cruel to the child” or “what kind of parent does not allow the child to watch TV” “C’mon…put your feet up, give the child some TV, get some time for yourself” or even worse, the silent look.

Then others may say that the child will be “behind his peers” when it comes to technology. Do they mean that the child will not know how to push a button or slide a finger on a screen? Do they mean they will not know how to use Instagram?

It took a lot of patience and a lot of “I’m not going to give in to this”. More than anything: It took me a lot of inner acceptance that my little one could be included on daily chores such as dusting, stretching duvets, putting clothes in the washing machine, putting the dishes away, do some planting, or perhaps help with the shopping. I had to accept that he was not so little anymore and if a plate fell on the floor and broke it was a good excuse to change the service set.

I must accept and adapt to get the electronic nanny out of the house. I had to give more time to the chores and tasks and not rush around if I really wanted to do this. Again, it was not easy to get into this new self-imposed rhythm. But to see the results? Oh boy, that was a real treat.

When my little one discovered that he could put his laundry inside the washing machine – although it took ages, if not eons!  to get done – and then press the button to see the machine working he was as excited as Columbus may have been when he landed in America instead of India. When he discovered the brush and dustpan and the noise it would make on different surfaces; when he realised that shaking the dustpan would undo all the work he has done; when he saw the tulips bulbs he planted starting to sprout. And the list can go on. And the electronic nanny was almost gone.

As horrible as this may sound, I had to stop under estimating my little one’s abilities and strengths. Awful words, are they not “Under estimate”. I was doing so, what I solemnly swore the first time I held him in my arms “I will not do what they did to me: I will not under estimate you”.

I mentioned that the electronic nanny was almost gone. Yes. She is with one foot out. I am still battling to get her completely out. It is hard to leave bad habits and electronic devices on a child’s hand is no different. At least we agreed on only 30 minutes per day – and now we are on 22 minutes a day. And when the bell of the kitchen timer goes off, he, on his own accord, turns the electronic device of his choice off. No moaning no complaining no tears no tantrums. He happily goes to his bedroom to play or gets in the kitchen to see what am I doing.

Now the toys are interesting and he can create his own little world. Or if he sees me reading something he grabs a book and pretends to read. If he sees me around the computer, he asks what am I doing, and soon enough he finds something to do. But he does not crave for a screen or any sort of electronic device.

Yes, it is not easy by any means to go through a “detox” but believe me, it is possible. If someone comes and tells me that “I am damaging him because he is lacking the technology side of life” I can be happy with the fact that he is learning to live without an electronic nanny to “nanny” him when I am doing things such as looking for jobs, house chores or writing. I am sure he will have time to learn technology.

I am certain, however, that the skills he is acquiring now through play and helping around the house will not be learned through technology.

As far as I am aware, there is no software on earth that can mimic the feeling of soil when planting a bulb, or the feeling of warmth inside a house made out of duvets and pillows.