Apple and Chilli Jelly

It sounds wrong: apple and chilli jelly, but the sweetness of a rotund, juicy, apple jelly spiked with a spine-tingling, hot chilli edge is just, pour moi, the perfect pairing with cheese.

I am currently in the throes of a love affair with Ossau Iraty a French Sheep’s milk cheese that is delicate and nutty and sings high and long when saddled with this particular chilli jelly – which is akin to a sweet chilli jam but far, far more sophisticated.

Where would I be without my trusty jelly-making kit, a pan, a muslin and a wheelbarrow load of local Somerset Apples?

Apple & Chilli Jelly

2kg chopped local organic apples – core, peel and all
1lb of soft brown Demerara sugar
1.2 litres water
6-8 dried red chillies pounded to tiny shreds, include the seeds


Slowly cook the apples in a pan with the water until the fruit is soft and mushy. Arrange your jelly stand and very carefully tip the hot fruit mush into the bag.

Leave to drip, into a container, overnight.

Measure the liquid, for every 500ml use 450g of brown sugar. Pour into pan – add your chilli, more or less to your taste. Bring to the boil, stirring the contents – when the sugar has melted bring to a rolling boil for a good ten minutes.

When the jelly has hit setting point – use the wrinkle test – immediately decant into hot sterilised jars – leave to cool.

Enjoy this beautiful, delicate but piquant jelly with your cheese board – baby.

To mesh or not to mesh?

Getting hitched in the 21st century is not a straightforward affair. Many modern girls who’ve got a ring on their finger have taken the new high-road; kept hold of their surname and attached their new husbands name to it – creating a double-barrelled extravaganza. Actor Aaron Johnson, for example, changed his name to Aaron Taylor Johnson after he married Sam Taylor Wood – who is herself now Sam Taylor Johnson.

However, others, more forward-thinking than this, mix theirs up and mesh the two surnames to create an entirely new one. TV presenter Dawn Porter and her actor husband Chris O’Dowd have together become O’Porter, and they are not the only ones, plenty more youngsters are meshing it up.

Myself; I went old school, took on the new name, as did our children, but only, I thought, in a minimal way, I would not relinquish my soul entirely and continued in my family name with work and with friends. However, as time has crept along – five years of marriage no less – in most paperwork and official detail I am a not of my own origin but of my husbands – and it does grate I am shamed to say as I do not feel like that person at all. 
In BathLife, last month, I was named: Hannah Newton in public, by jimminy – is that moi? I literally do not associate myself with that name – yet that is actually my name in many parts of my life. But, and I apologise to my out-laws at this point, I do not feel I am she. My heart and soul and very being is very much a Sturgeon and always will be, won’t it? Or will it be that as the years roll on, and they appear to super quick, I will eventually morph into that person and become her proper? 
But what about those double-barrel folks and their off-spring; exactly what happens when their son or a daughter get married? Will they add another name onto the barrel or will they whip one off? And who’s will be the one to go?

In Spain, traditionally a child will take on their fathers family name and their mothers family name – yet when they marry often the mothers family name is the one that is eventually lost.

So should you take on your husbands name and conform to a possibly outmoded and traditional form of identity or perhaps mesh your names to make a new one like Newgeon or Sturton, or double-barrell it up for some fun linguistic flippery?

50 Shades of Dullsville

Is it just me or is Fifty Shades of Grey the most appalling pile of dross yet to make it to such sensational publishing heights?

Having been brainwashed by a girlfriend, I could only assume that this trilogy; which she could not put down – and, btw, she still bangs on about ‘Christian’ months and months later – would be unputdownable.

Sadly not, I keep reading the first book in the hope that the sex scenes might be worth the time and energy I am putting into reading this snogswhiffle, but no, no, NO! she screamed – in utter frustration – it is unprovocative and salaciously, stark – void of any kind of drama and literary edowment.

The characters are lifeless and one dimensional, the plot is shockingly flimsy and the pace banal… I am left hollow each and every time I pick it up. Although, I feel I should pursue it to the end just for the sake of my girlfriend – my hearts just not in it.

My heroine Caitlin Moran, claimed that despite its petty drivel 50 Shades has allowed, and continues to in droves, women to enjoy female porn in a more acceptable way.  Yet its not decent is it? Its toss and not even literally.

Does she have a point though – do women want more feminine porn? Well, yes, maybe they do. Or maybe they don’t do. Do you ladies??

One thing is for sure though, the current copiousness of superfluous pornography in the 21st century is quite literally a tidal wave.

And horrendously accessible for children.

They see women with enormous round knockers, pouting lips and ridiculous tranny heels as an ideal, as normal. They watch the way they are treated physically and think: ‘this is ok’ – and lets face it: that is not ok. 

So does 50 Shades have a function or does it just, as in my mind, add to the heap of sordid drivel already over-whelming us?

Slutty Chutney

I am a slut for chutney.

That mouth-watering, dense, dark brooding heap of glistening fruit and vegetables, sweetness, spice, and vinegar is a heavenly and addictive mash up – that is a cinch to create and will perform with just about anything you can throw at it.

My batch this year was meant to be a Damson and Apple affair brewed with dark brown muscavado, malt vinegar and lashings of onion seeds – an addictive little darling of a seed that seduces and inspires your taste-buds.

But damsons, where in hell were the damsons? Lost to that rain slashed summer we inherited this year. 

Call outs to friends and family revealed a real shortage of Autumnal bounty – which for us chutney sluts is a serious kick in the teeth.

Fortunately, for me, I am great friends with a superior grocer and whilst perusing his wares; picked up a bag of dark Spanish plums, some English cookers and Russet Pears, a couple of French quinces, a bag of juicy fat sultanas and a pile of piquant shallots. At home I pulled out two bags of dark, dark brown sugar, two bottles of English malt vinegar, an entire pot of onion seeds, a large slab of spine-tingling tamarind, a handful of dates, mustard seeds, freshly grated garlic, allspice, cumin seeds, cinnamon, ginger – I pretty much pulled out a host of fine spices and threw them all into my jam pan, alongside the fruit and onions.

The easiest and most sensible way to deal with your fruit and shallots is to de-core the fruit – peel the shallots then give them to your whizzing machine, also known as a food processor, to destroy into an evenly, whizzed fine pile.

Put everything in the pan and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer gently for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Your entire kitchen and household will smell of vinegar and spice – but trust me its worth it.

After a good few hours simmering gently run your wooden spoon through the middle of the chutney – if it leaves a trail that does not immediatly fill with vinegar – but sits gently for a second or two – your chutney is ready to be decanted into warm sterilised jars.

The simplest way to sterilse jam jars is to wash them well in hot soapy water – then let them dry out slowly in a low oven – leaving them in there until you need to use each one.

Whack the lid on as fast as you can after filling.

The best chutney is well matured, mellow and ready for action. At least three months in a cool dark place is preferable.

However, less than one day later we have demolished an entire jar – this stuff is so good. I have been eating it by the spoonful whilst writing this up, is that wrong?

Or perhaps, it just proves my high accolade as the Slutney Chutney Chick.

Apple, Plum, Pear, Quince & Tamarind Chutney

4lb’s of fruit – whizzed up in a processor – skin left on but cores removed.
6-8 Shallots of 3-4 large onions peeled and whizzed up.
1.2 litres of malt vinegar
2lb’s of dark brown sugar, muscavado or similar
200g slab of seedless tamarind
1lb of raisins and dates (chop up the dates or whizz-up with shallots)
3/4 cloves of grated fresh garlic
Ground ginger 2 tspn
Ground cinnamon 2 tspn
Ground allspice 2 tspn
A good handful of mustard seeds
A good sprinkling of cumin seeds
An entire pot of onion seeds

Place everything into the jam pan and bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer gently for 2-3 hours, stirring from time-to-time until the chutney is dark, thickened and chutney-ish and the vinegar has all but disappeared.

While warm fill your warmed jars and seal immediatly with a vinegar-proof lid.

Leave to mellow and mature for at least three months, ahem.