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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A Clichéd Christmas: Cherry Tomato and Sweet Chilli Jam

I don't want to get all 'Kirstie's Homemade Christmas' on you but every year I make food hampers as gifts. Partly because I'm eternally poor and partly because I really like sharing my recipes with people and making them food which makes them smile. I'm such a cliché. 

As someone who is allergic to trends, I realise this may seem a bit faddy of me. But, in all honesty, I GOT THERE FIRST. I've been doing food hampers for ions, before it all got twee and fashionable and everyone from Nigella to Kirstie Bloody Allsopp was doing them. Every year I include staple items, which year on year everyone loves, and also new recipes and things I just fancy trying out. 

My cherry tomato and sweet chilli jam is one of the staples; it's perfect with crackers and cheese on Boxing Day or as a burger relish on NYE. It's a tingling combination of sweet, sour, and hot. I made my first batch this very morning, proving that it's the perfect thing to make as a last minute gift. 

Because I'm making this recipe at Christmas I've used tinned cherry tomatoes; in the summer please feel free to use an equal quantity of fresh British cherry tomatoes but in the winter you won't get the same flavour so use tinned instead. 

Ingredients to make 3 medium (8oz) jars: 

800g of tinned cherry tomatoes in natural juice (2 cans)
2 tsps of coriander seeds
2 tsps of cumin seeds
3 cloves of garlic
2 white onions
5cm lump of ginger
2 red chillies
300g of soft light brown sugar
250ml of white wine vinegar
2 tsps of dark soy sauce (for GF use a gluten-free soy sauce or you can leave it out completely and use a teaspoon of sea salt instead)
Olive oil

Firstly you need to make sure you sterilise your jars so that they're ready to use straight away when the jam is done. You can do this by putting them in the dishwasher, or a quick way is to put a drop of antibacterial washing liquid in each jar, fill to the brim with boiling water, and then leave the water to cool in the jar. 

Next you need to toast the coriander and cumin seeds so that they develop their full flavour and fragrance. I do this by using a specialist Indian tadka pan over an open flame, but it's just as good to use a small frying pan on the hob. Toast the seeds dry, without oil, on a medium heat for a few minutes until you hear the coriander seeds start to pop. Then remove from the heat and leave to cool before bashing them into a powder using a pestle and mortar. 

The jam uses a paste, sort of like a curry, for the base of it's flavour. To make this you need the onions, garlic, ginger, and chillies. I find it best to peel then chop all the ingredients and then pulse them to a smooth paste using a small food processor. If you don't have one and you possess ninja knife skills you can just dice the onion and chillies really finely, crush the garlic cloves, and grate the ginger. Whatever method you use leave the seeds in one of the chillies, for heat, and discard from the other, for flavour. When you've made the paste fry it off for a couple of minutes in a large saucepan with a tablespoon of olive oil. 

Next add the tomatoes and their juices to the paste in the saucepan and simmer over a medium heat. After a couple of minutes the tomatoes will become soft and you can squash them against the side of the pan with a spoon to release the juices. If you're using fresh cherry tomatoes it's best to halve them before adding them to the pan. 

Next add the spice powder to the pan, which will immediately turn the tomatoes a darker colour. Then add the sugar and vinegar and stir altogether. Bring the pan up to the boil for a couple of minutes then reduce so that the mixture simmers. You need to leave the pan simmering so that the mixture reduces until it's a jam-like consistency; this will take about 30-35 minutes. When the mixture is reduced you can remove it from the heat and stir in the soy sauce (or salt, if using). 

To help preserve the jam and keep it sterilised you need to fill the jars immediately, whilst the jam is still piping hot. But remember to pour the water out of them first! If you're messy like me it's easiest to use a jar funnel to do this so that the jam doesn't get everywhere, but if you have a steady hand you can do it without. Use a ladle to spoon the hot jam into the jars, right to the brim, and immediately seal with the lid. 

Leave the jam to cool inside the jars before you label them or put the jars into additional packaging. 

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