Wednesday, 17 October 2012
I have always loved the idea of having a larder stocked with home-made jams, preserves and chutneys but in reality, the demands of a full-time job don't leave me much time for this type of cooking. However, since moving into our new house a few years ago, I have managed to make at least a few jars of chutney each year, spurred on by a reluctance to waste the windfalls from my apple and pear trees if I didn't. The whole operation of chutney-making was so much simpler than I had imagined (apart from my almost OCD obsessiveness about sterilising the jars) that I was encouraged to try my hand at some other preserves.
Although marmellata di peperoncino originally comes from Calabria, famous for its powerful chillies, I first tried this chilli jam in a trattoria in Tuscany. It was one of those rustic places, without pretension, all wooden tables and brown paper mats, serving plain but delicious local food. We had platters of Tuscan meats and cheeses - cinta senese (a rare breed of pig from the Siena area) salami, wafer thin slices of finocchiona, a wonderfully scented salami flavoured with fennel seeds, silky slices of lardo di Colonnata produced from pigs that dine on acorns and chestnuts served on chunks of warm toasted bread, ash-covered wedges of pecorino from Pienza ... The chilli jam accompanied the cheeses and it was perfect, not only, as I had expected, with the more mature ones but also combining wonderfully with the young, fresh pecorino.
My version comes from Nigella's Christmas book. I have tried others but this is my favourite - it's so simple yet yielding fabulous results. I love the clear, vibrant red jelly, with its fragments of chilli floating inside. Don't save it just for the cheese board though - it goes wonderfully with bacon sandwiches, burgers cooked on the barbecue, grilled chicken, cold meats...
You can find Nigella's recipe here (http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/chilli-jam-2692).