Simple, intense chutney is the apple of my eye
Andre Burgener has been immersed in all things food since she took over the making of the family's lunch box sandwiches aged eight (her mom could make a mean creme brulee and a staggering souffle, but could never butter the bread all the way to the edges.
HOT APPLE AND ONION CHUTNEY
I'M A lazy and impatient cook. I hardly ever make something which doesn't deliver immediate gratification for minimal effort.
I am the least likely person to make French macaroons or to stuff a chicken just under the skin, delicious as these things can be.
I know bottled pantry-fillers don't seem to fall into the immediate gratification category, but believe me when I say this recipe is speedier and easier than you'd imagine. It's a truly addictive, deeply flavourful, intense chutney, and is brilliantly multivalent (as is the way of appley things).
Use it with braaied chicken, on a cheese sandwich, next to pies, scooped up with a samoosa, and obviously, dolloped over ham.
This will keep for anything from weeks to months, depending on how obsessively you cleaned the jars.
For two jars: 500g cooking apples (about four to five apples) / 2 medium onions / 2 red chillies / 250g light brown sugar / 1 heaped tsp mustard seeds / ¾ tsp ground cloves / ½ tsp sea salt / ¼ teaspoon black pepper / 1 heaped tbs chopped or slivered ginger / 1 tspn turmeric / ½ tspn cinnamon / 350ml cider or rice vinegar.
How: Peel and roughly chop apples, and finely chop onion. Seed chillies and chop finely. Chuck everything into thick-bottomed pot and bring to boil. Cook over medium-low heat for 30 to 40minutes, until the mixture thickens.
Spoon into jars while hot, close jars immediately, and when cool, store them in the fridge.
COOKING THE BOOKS
EVERYONE'S favourite US Cook Obsessed with French Food must be Julia Child. But please don't overlook the wonderful Francophile American, Richard Olney.
The late eccentric Olney is not as widely known internationally as Mrs Child, but has actually been more influential, and is greatly esteemed by chefs and gastronomes in his own country. Olney's greatest work, The French Menu Cookbook, was originally published in 1970.
Its focus on menus planned seasonally was a major influence on the legendary Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in California.
Olney started as a painter, but after moving to France at the age of 24, he became sidetracked by French cuisine to the extent he all but abandoned painting to write his groundbreaking recipe books and articles.
Republished in 2010, and with an infectiously adoring introduction by fellow US chef Paul Bertolli, this classic should be part of every cookbook collection.
The great Simon Hopkinson - an inspiration to Nigella, Nigel, Jamie et al - calls this his "most cherished cookery book". That's quite a recommendation. Published by Collins. R210.
CREME BRULEE UNWRAPPED
AFTER yet another infuriatingly mangled creme brulee eaten in a restaurant, I get ever more angry about the wrongs done to this innocent little pot of custard.
I have nothing against changes and tweaks. But there are times when the old saying "if it's not broken, don't fix it" seems particularly apt. What should creme brulee be? A smooth custard made with cream (not milk), the best eggs, sugar and (some say) real vanilla, topped with a sprinkling of sugar that has been burned under a salamander or with a brulee "iron".
Most essentially, the sugar layer is paper thin, crack-crisp, actually burned (brulee) to offset the sweetness of the custard, and the custard is served at room temperature - never hot - so the crust can harden properly.
The container should be shallow, to create a generous ratio of topping to custard. Simple enough. But what do we get?
Vile over-baked custards served at various incorrect temperatures, and topped with a thick tectonic plate of sugar caramel that's been made separately, poured over, and needs a jack-hammer to crack.
All wrong. So sad. I urge you to complain if you're served this sort nonsense, or we may lose proper creme brulee forever.