Stuck inside on a cold wintry day? This is the perfect chance to fill the jars that have accumulated in your cupboards with tasty chutneys and pickles in preparation for spring and summer. Chutneys require long, slow cooking using spices and herbs, and are made from a selection of fruit or vegetables.
The result is usually soft and pulpy, with a mellow flavour. Pickles on the other hand are fresh vegetables or fruit preserved in a good quality vinegar. The vinegar is usually flavoured with spice and the preserve best left for a month before using to allow the flavours to fully develop.
Anything with beetroot is a favourite of mine. Making it the base of this chutney ensures it goes a long way. The chutney is perfect to place in small jars and give as a gift. We all like to receive something home-made, tasty and practical. It won't last long, though. It is fabulous on a ploughman's platter, alongside a hot stuffed chicken breast or in a sandwich to give it a lift.
Pear chutney is a must at this time of year when pears are cheap and flavoursome. Goat's cheese or ricotta are my favourite foods to accompany with this chutney. Dollop some on top of crostini or a cracker, or add a spoon on the side of a blue cheese and rocket omelette.
Add a little coconut milk to the lime pickle and stir through a curry or serve on the side as an accompaniment. This pickle has a slightly bitter flavour, but don't be tempted to add any more sugar. As it matures the bitterness will subside. Slightly yellow-looking limes are perfect for this and it is a great way to use the excess limes on your tree.
Chutneys and pickles add that little extra flavour to so many meals and snacks. They are often a talking point around the table. We all have our special recipes, often handed down through the generations. Keep up the tradition, and instead of buying ready-made, have a go, get productive. Enjoy the compliments that will flow.
• Beetroot, apple and date chutney