Onion Marmalade

IMG_9832I know, right? Marmalade. Onion. Sounds weird. Think chutney, though, and all of a sudden it’s hotdogs, sharp cheddar & crisp crackers, alongside chops, grilled cheese toasties….the list is endless. Why is it called marmalade? No idea. Maybe because it’s very sugary, or because the lovely thin strands of sweetly pickled onions look like curls of orange rind in marmalade. Who knows. Whatever; it’s delicious with just about anything. Though maybe not ice cream. Mind you it is quite sweet….IMG_9823

A glut of organic onions having hit the Chopsticks kitchen recently, it was time to wheel out an old recipe of mine for Onion Marmalade (..thinking chutney still?) which, according to my scrawled notes, I once used in 2002. It’s in imperial measures because it’s an old recipe. I have made a concession to modernity in brackets in the ingredients list only, because I am, ultimately, a lazy cow. Deal with it. So here we go.


  • 4 pounds (1.8kg) onions, peeled
  • 1.5 pints (845ml) good cider vinegar
  • 2 pounds (900g) raw organic sugar (it doesn’t have to be raw organic but heck, the onions were good quality, why shouldn’t the sugar be?)
  •  3 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 10 cloves
  • 10 star anise
  • 3 sticks cinnamon
  • 6 cardomom pods
  • 2 dried chillies (go crazy if you like it hot)
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns


1) Chop your onions. This is a bucketload so I recommend using a processor with one of those slicing attachments if you have it; that way if you cut your onion in half like so:

IMG_9825and feed it sideways into your processor chute, you end up with lovely long slices a la marmalade strips. Pretty. It makes not one jot of difference to the taste though so hack ’em up however you see fit.

2) Place sliced onions and all the other ingredients into a large saucepan. The vinegar never looks enough here, and I always end up adding more. In this case, 1.3 pints, which I then have to boil off. I never learn. 1 pint would have done here.IMG_9824 IMG_9826

3) Bring to the boil, stirring steadily to dissolve the sugar.IMG_9827

See? Suddenly there is enough liquid.

4) Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 – 1.5 hours, or until it looks more like this:IMG_9829

5) Ladle carefully into sterilised jars and label when cold. You can pick out the larger spices first if you like.

6) Put the jars somewhere cool and dark for at least a month to pickle. Longer if you can. If you open one and it tastes like pickled onions, leave the rest another month at least. And I guess treat the jar you opened as…pickled onions!



Fresh cucumber ‘kimchee’

IMG_9291I know that kimchee comes in many flavours, and chinese cabbage is not a pre-requisite, but, lovely though this pickle is, I suspect if you presented it to a die hard, Korean, pickle fan they may snicker lightly. It’s a fridge pickle really, doesn’t have time to ferment as a true kimchee should, and it doesn’t use the proper korean dried chilli peppers. But, whatever, it’s a cracker of a fresh, zingy, lightly chillied relish.

Give it a go, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

I have only very slightly adapted this recipe, and the real credit needs to go to Australian House and Garden magazine, of all places.



  • 4 or 5 small lebanese cucumbers
  • 1/4 cup medium grain sea salt
  • 4 stalks of kale (I used a mix of homegrown kale and mustard greens, and I prefer there to be more cucumber than greens)

Pickling mix

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • fresh chillies to your taste – we used about 3 hot and one milder, but hey, chilli is such a subjective thing.
  • 2 tablespoons purreed/grated ginger
  • 4 large cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon korean gochujang chilli paste (or you could use chilli powder if you really can’t find it)

First, peel and cut the cucumbers into quarters and slice thinly – about coin wide works well. Lay them in a colander and work the salt in. Leave for at least 30 minutes.IMG_9286

Strip the stalks from the kale and slice thinly. I like to mix them in with the salting cucumbers for the last 5 minutes.IMG_9289

Bring to the boil all the remaining ingredients, stirring, simmer for a minute or two then allow to cool.IMG_9284

Rinse the veggies well under running water until the saltiness is much reduced. They’ll have reduced in volume as the water has been drawn from them. Drain well.

Pack into a container and pour over the pickling liquid, pressing down to submerge fully.IMG_9290 Leave at least overnight before using. I like to give it a bit of a turn whenever I take some out. Keeps in the fridge for a week or two.

It’s August, it must be…Marmalade Day!


marm1It’s the annual marmalade making weekend in the house of chopsticks; a day of scrubbing, juicing, chopping and boiling, followed by a few hours of boiling sugar, sterilising jars, and hey presto! A year’s worth of yummy preserves!



This year we tried a batch with some cardamom seeds just to see how that would work out. They’re the little black blobs in the jar above.

Tsukemono : the beautiful art of Japanese pickles

I just adore the range of pickled veg I’ve had in Japan. Being a fan of preserving and pickling generally, I really appreciate the care and thought behind even a tiny plate of 2 or 3 varieties presented with a bowl of rice. Pickles are an important part of Japanese cuisine, and particularly of the rice element of a keiseki meal, also. ???????????????????????????????

They range from the simple, lightly vinegared cucumber slices, as above, and the pink ginger familiar from our sushi trays, the wonderfully sour umeboshi, to elaborate, delicately fragrant varieties and even – to my delight – pickled blossom. Read more….

Lemon & Lime Marmalade

IMG_8416A friend from Berry, NSW, has had a huge crop of lemons and limes this year, and I was lucky enough to share in the bounty with a small sackful. The limes had ripened beyond green and were – apart from the size – almost indistinguishable from the lemons. Their unwaxed skins help fill the kitchen with their clean, fresh smell. Citrus is one of my favourite scents. Continue reading

Dried Out

Regular readers will know that one of my abiding themes is the preservation of freshly grown gluts of crops. I love a loaded larder. Loaded Larder. Even the sound of it makes me happy.

This year has been the year of the chilli. I planted loads last year, seeds from my brother’s garden from the year before that. Most of them failed to launch, so I bought a habanero plant (Unknowing fool! I know now that it’s the second hottest chilli in the world, but I didn’t when I was standing in the garden centre, oh no.) This has resulted in harissas, chilli jams and pickles that to my palate are barely edible unless eaten in homeopathic quantities, and a freezer full of napalm globes to be used under extreme caution. Continue reading

Almond and Basil Pesto

The autumn garden. Already the summer is over, autumn has rushed by and in 2 weeks it will be winter. It’s time to clear out the remains of the pumpkin vines, which have spread their sprawling limbs all across the lawn, and reveal the leggy, uncut grass and weeds beneath, to cull the bolted lettuce and pick the ripening chillies. Oh so many chillies! My aubergines have been chugging away steadily, providing us with grilled, pickled, baked and fried dishes, mousaka, baba ganoush and sandwich fillers. I plagued everyone with my aubergine photos and recipes last year, so this year I have only one image, just because I can’t help myself. Continue reading


beans andfruit

Pleasingly purple fruit

Part of the quest to only plant food or medicinal plants in the back garden raised a quandary – what to cover the functional but godawful colourbond fence with. We settled on passionfruit vines – a golden, and a regular. Not having grown one before, I somewhat rashly planted two, close together, and now have a pleasingly tangled mass of plants crawling over both sides of the fence. Much to my neighbours’ delight, as she likes to make passionfruit curd. It’s strangling everything in the beds in front of the fence too, but hey ho, that’s what vigorous use of secateurs is for.fence and fruit

Fence. And fruit. Mostly fence.

As another rainy weekend loomed, I grabbed the fruit I’ve saved up in the fridge and made some curd of my own, using a Stephanie Alexander recipe of eggs, sugar and butter.

The result, a small batch of coma inducingly sweet curd which, as is necessary when cooking jams & preserves, I’ve devoured wholesale from the still warm inside of the pan, swirling my bread through the thick sugary globs and basically eating myself stupid. I’m still buzzing slightly from the aftereffects of of the sugar rush. I’m not sure it will last until it’s cooled enough to refrigerate…


Black Knights

In my little kitchen garden is a shiny black knight, resplendent in one corner of a raised bed.

Not a medieval horse-backed hero however, but a gorgeous variety of chilli pepper, grown from seeds given to me by my brother. The plant is a luscious dark purpley black from it’s stems to it’s leaves, and bears jet black fruit which ripen to deep red. IMG_6814Even the little flowers are a lovely purple-blue.???????????????????????????????

It’s cropping heavily at the moment and has been for weeks now; they’re quite hot, so I can’t use too many at once. Consequently my freezer is full and I’ve given them away to everyone I can think of.???????????????????????????????

Obviously, therefore, my thoughts turn to preserving. We both love Stephanie Alexander’s harissa recipe and have guzzled bottles full in the past. I loved the idea of a black harissa and resolved to give it a go one quiet weekend.

The recipe is disarmingly simple – simply whizz together all the ingredients, lob in a jar, and top with olive oil. Knowing how damn hot these chillies are though I decided to ‘thin it out’ with a green capsicum and remove as many of the seeds as possible, as well as knocking together a pure chilli one for the hardier Mr C.???????????????????????????????

Taking green capsicum, the deseeded chillies, caraway seed, coriander seed and leaves, garlic, sugar and salt, I blitzed them with loads of olive oil. The results were disappointingly green:


I bottled it, straining out some of the excess liquid, and tried again with the pure chilli version. Again, quite green:


I knew that the black form of the chillies is the unripe one and therefore would be green in a normal coloured variety, but I was surprised by how the black pigment was lost when liquidised. Could it be the greenness of the extra virgin olive oil? Surely not the small amount of coriander leaf? Who knows.

So: no black harissa for me. Less drama, but as to flavour, I’ll have to give it a week or so for the flavours to mingle, but I’ll let you know!


Stupidity & Green Tomato Chutney

chutney6I had a glut of green tomatoes, caused entirely by stupidity.

Due to Attack Of The King Parrot, I lobbed a net over all my tomatoes a few weeks back. That kept the blighters off. Trouble is, it kinda kept me off too; I stopped nipping out side shoots and so on because it was a bit of a faff to negotiate the netting.

This weekend, as I surveyed the rampant growth issuing forth from every net hole, I realised I’d have to cut it out of there. And so I did, painstakingly. For about half an hour, until I realised the net cost about 5 bucks, and then I started hacking at it with a craft knife. Obviously.

In the resulting confusion, there were some green tomato casualties; about a kilo worth had grown through the netting, and had to come off.

So it was that I found myself yet again wondering what the hell to do with green tomatoes; and, just like every other year, the inner dialogue went like this:

“well, I could fry them, like in that film. Y’know, the one with the green tomatoes in the title*. But then, what would they go with? Frying seems like a faff. It’s not that healthy either, right? Maybe I should just make more chutney. And give it all away again, because I have shedloads of chutney already. Everyone loves my chutney though. So that’s OK then.”

And at this point, my heart sinks slightly, because, of all the preserving there is in the world, I like making chutney the least. It’s not the results, which are super; it’s the hours of prep and the eye watering boiling vinegar, and since we moved to Australia, the additional heat when it’s already kinda stuffy.

But no more. Now I’ve cracked it, you see. OK so the prep is still a bit boring, but the rest is cured by boiling the chutney outside on the barbecue. Yes folks, another fantastic use for the barbie side burner. So glad we bought that thing.

This recipe is adapted from Delia Smith’s; I’ve been using it successfully for years, it’s brilliant. I find she’s a bit light on spices generally for my tastes, so the below is a beefed up version.


  • 1.2 kg green tomatoes
  • 1.2 kg Granny Smith apples
  • 1 kg onions
  • a bulb of garlic
  • 500g sultanas
  • 500g soft brown sugar
  • 1.5 litres malt vinegar
  • 6 chillies, more if you like heat, less if you don’t
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger

Spice mix

  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon all spice berries
  • 2/3 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 cloves
  • 2/3 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • muslin square

Place all the spice mix ingredients into the centre of the muslin and tie into a little pouch with string. I have some of those silicone chicken trusser ties so I used 2 or 3 of those. You could just put the whole spices straight in, but I find it annoying to accidentally bite down on a whole peppercorn – or worse, coriander seeds.


Peel and rough chop the apples, onions and garlic. Core the apples too. chutney3

Lob the lot in a food processor and blitz until small but not mush. Whizz the sultanas too. Chop the chillies finely.chutney4

Pop the lot in to a large (preferably preserving) pan, and add all the other ingredients. I usually tie the spice bag to the pan, so that it hangs just under the level of the chutney, but you could let it bob about.


Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1.5 – 2 hours, or until you can run your spoon through and leave a channel that doesn’t quickly fill with vinegar. You’ll need to stir it often, and I like to give the bag a good squeeze occasionally to get all the spicey flavours out.

Fish out the spice bag at the end and chuck it out.  Spoon into sterilised jars whilst still hot and cover with sterile lids.chutney1

* upon reading this, Mr C positively recoiled and moaned – no more yucky fried green tomatoes. So I guess chutney was a given then….