Monday, December 3, 2007

On The Third Day of Christmas: Green Raisin Chutney

I think Camilla Plum is my hero. Camilla Plum is everything I am not. For one, she's quite a bit older than I am - somewhere in her 50's, I think. Two, she lives on an all-organic farm with lots and lots of animals and kids and a husband that runs his own breweri. To boot, she's an awesome cook. I'm pretty sure she used to be a chef-chef - you know, one of the one's in white aprons with a chef's paper hat with years and years of experience in a kitchen and the cuts on her underarms to prove it - but to me, she's a cook. A darn fine one, too. You see, she cooks real food - the kind you do at home. Wait a minute, make that the kind I want to make at home, and could make at home, was I organized enough.

She uses bunches and cases of fresh herbs - in all her meals. She braises stuff. She simmers beans. She cuts up whole cows and pigs and lambs and trots into her kitchen garden to get the cabbage she needs for her dinner. She makes down home comfort layer cakes and good, old-fashioned Danish food, with a twist, but also reaches out towards Italian, Middle Eastern, Indian and French cuisine. She bakes bread, made with flour milled from the grain from her fields, for her rosy-cheeked children. She is the woman that made me really fall in love with baking bread.

She writes the most awesome cookbooks. Her cookbooks are the kind you read in bed - which is a good thing, too, 'cause no matter how much I love them, there's no doubt that if I tried to learn cooking, or baking by them, I would grow frustrated early on. For some reason, especially in her baking book, baking times and oven degrees are left out. Mostly, it's a matter of "cook/bake untill done" which is, naturally, how it should always be done - but, still. A guideline's always nice to have.

This is a woman with an opinion, and a strong one at that. If it isn't organic, it isn't good enough, but if she wants foie gras, she wants it, and there's no stopping her. She's the kind of person you either love or hate, and I - am in love. Martin and I visited her farm a couple of times this summer - it's open to the public - and we heard her speak about her approach to farming, growing organic produce and cooking. She grows flowers in between rows of cabbage. She grows currants of the kind that are the most difficult to grow, and that yields the least - but they're the ones with the best taste, so that's just the way it's got to be. Basically, she's all about good food, and how to get it like you want it. She somehow manages to bestow some confidence in me, 'cause even though I've sometimes felt like pulling out my hair at some of her recipes, they very, very seldom fail me. And I have cooked my share of them. Unfortunately for you in the non-Danish-speaking part of the world, all her books are in Danish. Maybe she needs an English translater?

One of the latest of her's I've cooked was this Green Raisin Chutney. I had a large jar of green raisins that I had no idea what to do with and that was rapidly growing past their prime date. Add to that a whole lotta spices, a bunch of cilantro, a couple chilis, a couple scolded jars - and you have the perfect partner for falaffel (and if you haven't tried Nic's oven baked version, here's your chance) I'm sure it's also great with Indian foods but, ahem, let's not talk about that combo, seeing I'm still sorely lacking any experience in that department... The raisins are a little sour/sweet, there's heat from chilis and harissa and a lot of palate-pleasing flavour from all of the spices. Give it a go - or give it away as Christmas presents!

Green Raisin Chutney - from Camilla Plum's Grønt II

2 tablespoons cumin
Seeds of 10 cardamom pods
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1-3 red chilis
small bunch fresh cilantro
small bunch Moroccan mint
250 g. big, green raisins
zest of 1-2 lemons
juice of 2-3 lemons
3 tablespoons harissa
3 tablespoons cider vinegar (or other clear vinegar)
200 ml. olive oil (not necessarily your most expensive one)

Toast the spices in a heavy pan until you get a nice fragrance lifting from the pan. Toast each of the spices seperately, or you'll end up with some of them all black and some not toasted yet. Grind them to a fine powder in a large mortar or spice mill.

Remove the seeds from the chilis and chop them up finely. Chop the cilantro and mint coarsely - you can include the stems and roots from the cilantro if you like.

Mix all of the ingredients. Depending on how spicy you like it, you can up or down the harissa amount (or the chilis) Add salt if you think it needs it. Pulse half, or more if you like, of the mixture in a food processor. Transfer to cleaned jars, and leave for at least a couple of hours before you dig in. Keeps for several weeks in the fridge.


santos. said...

hallo! i don't think i can get green raisins here. is the american golden raisin similar/the same/suitable equivalent?

Andreea said...

welcome back
i like this countdown to christmas :)

Zarah Maria said...

Hey Santos! The recipe actually calls for green OR golden raisins, but seeing I called it GREEN raisin chutney, I felt it seemed weird if I wrote golden. The short of the long of it is: yes. Same same!

Andreaa - thank you! Glad you like it - I do too!:)

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, Camilla. She is also my culinary heroine. I was mesmerised by her tv show this summer. I'm thinking of paying her oodles and oodles of cash to do something special for my 30th birthday next year...

Jesper said...

Yeahh! Great to meet a fellow Camilla Plum admirer in the blogosphere! If you haven't yet seen her new book on Christmas, you should! It's a thorough Camilla-take on the season brimming with traditional Danish Xmas fare and ideas for those days when pickled herring just isn't what you want for dinner.

Zarah Maria said...

Jennie - if you do that, you HAVE to, HAVE to, HAVE to invite me! We could also go on a course at her place together - huh? huh? huh? I'm so full of great ideas...;)

Jesper - yay, more of us! I got "Jul" already, and am loving it! Now, I just need to try something from it. Thank you for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Hello! What a nice blog. I am an American living in Sweden and just recently started watching Camilla Plums tv program. I have trouble with the danish but the subtitles help out with the greater meaning. Camilla just seems to have everything! Very inspirational. How does one get to know so much about gardening, food and country living? I think I'll have to get her cookbook and a Danish dictionary. ;-) Jessica