Green Tomato Finalist #2: Sacha's Green Tomato Chutney

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[Sacha is the second of our six Green Tomato Contest finalists, and she certainly wins the prize for most international entry, all the way from Moscow! Voting on all six finalists will start Friday.]

I am Russian, living in Moscow. And – sorry – I could not find the photo of final product, if you definitely need one – I will urgently arrange a photo-session in my pantry :). My best green tomato recipe – Green Tomato Chutney.

The original recipe came from British Country Living magazine (September 2001). It was an article by its food editor Shona Crawford-Poole: "Turn Up the HEAT" about chilies, and one of the following recipes was apple chutney.

Since that time I used to cook the chutney a lot of times, using very different basic ingredients besides apples – from plums and pineapples to whole oranges and lemons. But one of the most beloved by me and my family is Green Tomato Chutney, which is an unbeatable condiment to meat and fish as well as the delightful alternative to the jam on your toast.

It is strictly seasonal – the green tomatoes, which are the last final leftovers of the autumn harvest, can be found at our local market at the last warm days at the end of September, before the forcing-tomatoes (or it is glass-house tomatoes in English?) change the field ones.

The last autumn tomatoes are usually 'lady's fingers' – the small oblong Russian analog of the of pasta-type tomato, which has a higher proportion of flesh to juice.

Here comes the original recipe with my comments:

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Chilli Apple Tomato Chutney
Sacha McGregor

2 kg tart apples peeled, cored and cut in 1 cm cubes – change to green tomatoes
I also added a finely chopped zest and flesh of one lemon
4 Tbsp salt
2 whole heads of garlic, peeled
5 cm ginger, peeled
6 fresh green chillies, chopped with stems and seeds removed - the author wrote that 'For heat I use one habanero or scotch bonnet, three bird and two jalapeno chilies and the result is nice and warm, not blisteringly hot.' But as the kinds of chillies we have here are very different from the classic ones, it is a waste field for experiments… Generally I prefer green chillies to red ones.

Last time I used preserved green chillies of unknown brand we bought at the market in Fes, Morocco , so keeping it in mind together with lemon, I reduced the amount of acid accordingly.

250 ml sunflower oil
4 Tbsp mustard seeds
2 Tbsp black peppercorns
1 Tbsp fenugreek seeds
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground turmeric – usually I omit turmeric, as it gave the final product the strange greenish shade which I personally do not like

I also added 5 ground cardamom pods
450 g dark muscovado sugar
500 ml cider or wine vinegar – I used just 100 ml, but it is up to your taste.

Combine the chopped apples/tomatoes with the salt and set aside for an hour or more.

In a food processor or blender combine the garlic ginger and chillies and whiz to a paste with up to 100 ml of oil.

As my family hate the whole peppercorns in their food, I usually grind all the spices.

Heat the remaining oil in a large heavy-based pan and, on a medium heat fry the mustard seeds, peppercorns, fenugreek, cumin and turmeric until the mustard seeds start to pop, but without burning the ground spices.

Add the garlic, chilli and ginger paste and fry, stirring, for 5 to 10 minutes without allowing it to catch.

Add the salted apple tomatoes, sugar and vinegar. Bring slowly to the boil, making sure that the sugar has dissolved completely before simmering the mixture for 2 to 3 hours until it has thickened slightly.

Transfer to jars or bottles, making sure that each one has its share of the spicy oil.

-Sacha