Sweet and spicy mango chutney (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free and vegan)

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Homemade mango chutney. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s the time of year when you might be thinking about making something edible for giving as a Christmas present so my post this week may be an idea for you. Last week I found large fresh mangoes for sale in the supermarket at a very reasonable price and decided to make mango chutney. This is a favourite preserve in our house; we get through lots of it, but I hardly ever get round to making it.

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Fresh mango fruit. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Choose slightly under-ripe mangoes for chutney so that you end up with some texture in your preserve. Very ripe mango will go very soft and will also increase the sweetness of the final chutney.

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Spice and seasoning tray. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You can go one of two ways when you make mango chutney: the spicy route, whilst or the smooth, sweet and jam-like. If you prefer the latter, you don’t need to add the spice bag or the chillis and onion seeds from the recipe below, but I do recommend keeping the ginger, bay and garlic as well as salt and pepper . Blend or mash the mango finely before you start, and for a more vibrant colour, add some paprika.

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Toasting and grinding spices ready for a spice bag. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

For a spicy version, I prefer to keep the chutney as clear as possible so I avoid ground spices as these can give a murky result. Instead I opt for making a spice bag. It’s a bit of a faff but worth it to achieve a more “professional” appearance. Toast the cumin, coriander and black mustard seeds first in a dry frying pan for a couple of minutes. Cool and then grind them with the cardamom pods. Pile on to a small square of clean muslin and add the ground pepper. Tie up with a strip of muslin or clean cook’s string and you’re ready to go.

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Ready for gifting. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you can bear to part with your preserve, it does make a lovely and impressive gift for any curry or Indian food lover. Make it now and it will be just about ready to eat at Christmas, but perfect for keeping into the new year. ¬†I haven’t decided what to do with my 3 jars yet – keep or gift? Probably the former ūüôā

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Homemade mango chutney ready for storage until Christmas. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: approx. 525g

Ingredients

  • ¬Ĺ tsp each cumin, coriander and black mustard seeds
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • ¬Ĺ tsp coarse ground black pepper
  • 2-3 large slightly under-ripe mangoes – see below
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 20g piece root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 150ml cider vinegar
  • 225g granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp black onion seeds
  • ¬Ĺ tsp salt
  1. First make up the spice bag as described above and put to one side. Next prepare the mango. Slice down either side of the large smooth, flat central stone. Peel off the skin and chop the flesh, then slice off the remaining flesh from around the edge of the stone. You will need 600g prepared fruit for this recipe.

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    Fresh mango preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Put the mango flesh in a large saucepan and add the spice bag, garlic, ginger, bay leaves and chilli. Pour over the vinegar, bring to the boil, cover and gently simmer for about 10 minutes until softened.
  3. Stir in the sugar until dissolved, then add the lemon juice. Bring to the boil and cook for about 15 minutes until thick and jam-like, stirring occasionally as it may start to stick on the bottom of the saucepan. Turn off the heat, stir in the onion seeds and salt, cover and stand for 10 minutes, then discard the bay leaves and spice bag.

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    The 4 stages of chutney. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Stir the mixture  before spooning into hot, sterilised jars and sealing immediately. Leave to cool, then label and store in a cool, dry cupboard for at least a month to mature before serving.

That’s all for this month. I wish you a good few days. I’ll see you again in December on the run up to Christmas ūüôā

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A spoonful of sweet and spicy homemade mango chutney. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Sugar and spice fruit cake for Christmas (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Getting ready for Christmas, gluten-free and vegan, this year’s Christmas fruit cake ready for wrapping and storing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

In my kitchen, November marks the month that I bake a fruit cake for Christmas. I love the fragrant spicy and citrus aromas wafting from the oven as the cake bakes. Utterly delicious.

Making a rich fruit cake about 6 weeks before Christmas allows the spices chance to settle down, mellow and improve before serving up over the festive season.

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Christmas cake fruit and flavourings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

When it comes to fruit, I usually go with a mixture of dried vine fruits, chopped apricots and glac√© cherries. Orange and lemon rind and juice add some zest and zing. I always use dark brown sugar and treacle for richness and colour. I usually vary the spices, one year I did mostly ginger and mixed spice for a classic “gingerbread” flavour, but this time around I’ve used cinnamon and¬†allspice together with a classic mixed spice blend. I had white rum to use up this year, but most often I use¬†the dark version.

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Tin protection for prolonged baking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Fruit cakes do take a long time to cook, so you need to make sure the outside edges of the cake don’t over-cook. Double-line the sides of the tin¬†inside with baking parchment¬†and then wrap the outside of the tin with a double layer of brown paper and secure with string. I also put a circle of brown paper in the bottom of the tin before adding a couple of circles of baking parchment on top.

It is worth checking the oven temperature manually before you start baking any cake but especially before one that needs long, slow cooking РI always pop an oven thermometer in the oven before preheating to check the temperature is correct. My cooking time of 3 hours will produce a very moist and dense cake, but if you prefer something drier and more crumbly, extend the cooking time by 30 minutes up to 1 hour.

On with the recipe. If you’ve never made a Christmas cake before I¬†understand that¬†the list of ingredients¬†will be¬†completely daunting, but this is a very straightforward recipe, so I hope I can tempt you to have a go.

Serves: 16

Ingredients

  • 900g mixed dried and glac√©¬†fruit such as raisins, sultanas, currants, chopped dried apricots, and cherries
  • Finely grated rind and juice 1 small lemon
  • Finely grated rind and juice 1 small orange
  • 100ml white or dark rum + 2 – 4 tbsp. extra for feeding
  • 225g coconut oil
  • 150g dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp black treacle
  • 40g chia seeds
  • 175g gluten-free plain flour blend
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1 ¬Ĺ tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. ground mixed spice
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp natural almond extract
  • 1 tbsp. natural vanilla extract
  1. Prepare a deep, 18cm round cake tin by double lining with baking parchment and brown paper – see above. Place on a baking tray.
  2. Put the fruit in a large saucepan with the citrus rind and juice, rum, coconut oil, sugar and treacle. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until melted, then bring to the boil and simmer gently for 2-3 minutes. Leave to cool for 30 minutes.

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    Preparing the fruit mixture. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Preheat the oven to 150¬įC, 130¬įC fan oven, gas 2. Put the chia seeds in a bowl and add 125ml cold water. Stir and leave for 5 minutes to form a thick, gel-like mixture.

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    Making chia “egg”. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Transfer the fruit mixture to a large bowl and mix in the chia “egg”. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well to make sure that there are no pockets of flour. Transfer to the tin, smooth the top and bake for 3 hours – see notes above for longer cooking.
  5. Remove from the oven and skewer the top deeply all over. Spoon over 2 tbsp. rum, then leave the cake to cool completely in the tin.

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    Rum-soaked cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  6. When the cake is completely cold, remove from the tin and discard all the wrappings. Wrap well in fresh baking parchment or greaseproof paper and then either wrap tightly in foil or store in an air-tight container.
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    Wrapping and storing fruit cake for Christmas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    Keep the cake in a cool, dark, dry place for best results. If you want to give the cake a bit more of a kick you can feed it with more rum every 2 weeks. I find one more dose is fine for me. Avoid adding rum in the final few days before serving as it will not have time to mellow out and may spoil the overall flavour of the cake.

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    Feeding the cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    To feed, simply unwrap the cake and spoon over another tablespoon of rum. Let it soak in completely before wrapping up again and ontinue storing until you are ready to ice the cake for Christmas. I’ll follow up this post next month with the unveiling of the finished cake.