Popping cranberries

Life is coming more or less back to normal after the winter holidays. I have time to go shopping again, to go to the market on Sunday. To take my time in the kitchen, discovering new recipes and experimenting with new ingredients.

The current weather doesn’t yet spur anyone to go out for too many hours on end, so this weekend I decided to go through my cooking books and try something new. It is amazing how many recipes you rediscover. Or how many beg to be tried. All in due time I guess.

This particularly cold weekend we decided to have duck. Cutting on carbohydrates, we had duck with green peas and baby carrots. But the piece de resistance of this dish was the cranberry and roast shallot relish.

Now I have to admit this is the first time I used fresh cranberries and cooked them from scratch. So quite a discovery, which ended with us laughing in the kitchen at the sound of popping cranberries. And pop they do!

The recipe is from a classic book, ‘The Cookery Book’, which I don’t own. However if anyone is considering investing in a solid, classic cooking book, which recipes to last a lifetime, this is your book. True, some of the recipes will never be tried out in standard kitchens (the Rose Wedding Cake for examples, which could even make professional pastry chefs shiver) but overall the book is full of accessible, delicious recipes. I like leafing the book and finding new recipes in it, although many read as if stuck somewhere in the 1950’s – but then again you can’t beat good, classic home cooking.

Back to the cranberry and roast shallot relish. It accompanies duck perfectly. I truly recommend this recipe; it can also be preserved, so a tasty relish to be enjoyed time and time again. This dish could also work perfectly with strong cheese, as the sweetness of the relish will balance some of the powerful taste of cheese.

Following the recipe, it makes about 900gr relish. Cooking time: 45min (recipe taken from Good Housekeeping ‘Cookery Book’)

450gr shallots
45ml olive oil
225gr soft brown sugar
450gr fresh (or frozen) cranberries
2.5cm pieces fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
15ml mustard seeds
150ml red wine
200ml red wine vinegar

Plunge the shallots into a pan of boiling water for 5min to loosen then skins, then remove. When cool enough to handle, peel, leaving on a little of the root end to hold then intact. Halve the shallots lengthwise.
Place the shallots in a roasting tin with the olive oil and 45ml of the sugar. Roast at 200°C/gas mark 6 for at least 30min, turning twice, until softened and caramelised. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile place the cranberries in a heave based saucepan with the ginger, remaining sugar, mustard seeds, wine and vinegar. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 10-15min until the cranberries burst and the mixture thickens. Take off the heat.
Stir the shallots into the cranberries. Deglaze the roasting tin with the liqueur or a little extra wine. Reduce until syrupy, then pour into the cranberry mixture. Return to the heat and simmer very gently, stirring occasionally, for 10-15min, until thick.
Spoon the relish into sterilised jars, cover. Store in a cool place for up to 6 months.

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