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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Handmade foodie presents

Being time-rich and money-poor this Christmas, I decided to make foodie gifts for friends and fam, hoping that old maxim about homemade gifts meaning so much more blah blah etc. held true. The decision was helped out by reading the latest issue of Donna Hay while lazing about by the pool; there was a feature on caramelised onion relishes, which was pretty appealing. But the clincher for me me was the time saving tip about sterilising: it says there's no need to worry about sterilising jars before adding preserves, because the hot preserves will do all the work. Once you've cleaned the jars with hot, soapy water and rinsed and dried them, you just fill them, screw the lid on tight and turn the jars upside down and allow them to cool. The hot relish sterlises the insides of the jars and lids. BONUS!!! Whenever I've made jams and assorted conserves (yes, Little Britain reference) I've spent ages zapping hot water in the microwave until boiling point, making a hell of a mess and nearly killing myself with the safety combo of glass, steam and boiling water.
So, thus convinced, and really hoping I wasn't going to give my loved ones botulism, I was most tempted by the red onion, thyme and lemon relish. If you haven't made jams or relishes before, this is a good start. It's not hard at all to chuck stuff into a big pot and let it cook. You don't have to worry about setting times and pectin levels and all that faffing about that goes with jam making.

I'm actually not a relish or chutney girl at all; I like my savoury food savoury. Chutneys etc. are usually far too sweet for me, but I'm actually kind of won over by this one. Yes, it has that characteristic sweet & sour taste of relishs, from the vinegar and brown sugar, but it also has something I quite like. I intended it to be an accompaniment to the Christmas ham, and it does that job well, but it really shines when paired with a really bitey cheddar cheese. The type that burns the roof of your mouth...mmmm. Before Christmas my favourite lunch was toasted bread with butter (real butter, not that nasty fake stuff!), bitey cheese, onion relish and a carpet of flat leaf parsley. Weird combination, created out of stuff we had in the fridge, but it worked so damn well. (Now I'm just trying to eat up the leftover leg of ham- now 2 weeks old...)
I've only had one report from my present recipients, and she said she loves it, which I'm happy to know!
I won't lie and say I eat it every day, but just maybe this girl is starting to turn toward the world of chutney...?

Read on for the recipe:

Red Onion, Lemon and Thyme Relish
Dec/Jan 07 Donna Hay magazine

1/2 cup (21/2 oz.) olive oil
2kg (4 1/2 lb) red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
3/4 cup thyme leaves (stripped from the branch)
1/2 cup lemon zest
1 cup (200g/7oz) brown sugar
1 cup (8 fl oz) white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste*

Heat a large deep saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and onions. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 40 minutes or until the onion is holden and caramelised. Add the thyme, lemon zest, sugar, vinegar, salt and peppr and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Cook for a further 10-20 minutes or until thick and syrupy. Makes 5 cups (2 pints)

*I found I needed quite a lot of salt to create a good balance between sweet and savoury: almost a 1/4 cup.
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  • Happy new year Niki! This relish looks impressive. One question - how many lemons did you have to use to yield half a cup of zest?!

    By Blogger Kelly, at 1/04/2007 05:30:00 pm  

  • Kelly - Thanks! Ummm, yeah...it took a fair few lemons to get that much zest. We had some really big ones from a backyard tree and I used about 3-4. As I made two batches, we had a veggie draw full of bald lemons for a while!

    By Blogger Niki, at 1/04/2007 06:29:00 pm  

  • I read the very same spread in Donna Hay! I was very tempted, however, I was a bit time-poor at the time ;) I will still definitely try them...I'm sure they would make nice house warming presents too right? :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/05/2007 08:21:00 pm  

  • Oh my god yes, this relish is UNBELIEVABLE! I had it on toasted cheese and bread, to which Jamie had always tried to convert me earlier, with Branston Pickle. I HATED it: the cheese was too sharp, the Branston Picklet too weird. But once I put your relish on it, my whole life changed! ;)

    - H.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/05/2007 10:41:00 pm  

  • Whilst I quite like relishes and this sounds like it'd be quite tasty, the 1/4 cup of salt thing is making me a bit hesitant. How much relish did it make?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/08/2007 07:13:00 am  

  • I usually make spicy mango chutney for my xmas pressies, but I might have to give this one a go next year...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/09/2007 11:40:00 am  

  • What a fab idea - I want to be on YOUR Christmas gift list next year ;-) I have always loved chutneys and relishes, especialyl with cheese but (like you) I've always been petrified of making them myself, what with all the jar-sterilizing palaver. But I am very keen to try this easy-peasy beginner's relish! Thanks for the recipe :)

    By Blogger Jeanne, at 1/16/2007 03:24:00 am  

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