The last time I took a walk in my neighborhood, I saw a big blue sign on my street with the word APRICOTS written in bright yellow. What did I do? I followed the arrow, of course, and walked into a backyard filled with golden apricots freshly-picked from a farm in the SF Bay Area. It certainly felt like I landed on a page in a Roald Dahl book!
You can already tell the happy ending of this story, can't you? Girl walked, no skipped, home with a hug-ful of fruits, eating nine, alright ten, along the way. Ah, summer. Its sunny sweetness so well encapsulated in a compact nugget of juicy flesh. How can anyone resist?
In an attempt to remedy her unusual shopaholic behavior, although I know many of you would not find this turn of events at a fruit stand shocking, she decided to hide her spoils in a pot of chutney. Simmered with vinegar, sugar, and spices (you can picture a cauldron, if you like), chutney preserves the fruit and prolongs its enjoyment. This jar, however, did not last very long. With a touch of ginger, several Thai red chilis, and a generous dash of Chinese five spice powder, its unique deliciousness was simply irresistible.
This is what you should know about Chinese five spice powder: it's a fragrant and powerful blend that typically include star anise, fennel, cloves, cinnamon, and Szechuan pepper commonly used in Chinese cooking. I have no problem baking with it, and find that it makes really great cookies. Think Pumpkin Pie Spice or Gingerbread Spice Mix. You should be able to find it at your local grocery stores.
For Thai chili, your best bet is the Asian grocery store. You will recognise it by its pinky-finger size, a slender body with a pointy tip, and deep red color (although they can also come in green and orange). The heat is not to be taken likely, so I would be very conservative about the amount to use. At just the right balance, it can really make a recipe outstanding. Have a glass of warm water within reach just in case. Don't say I didn't warn you!
Some eat chutney with curry and plain rice, some like it in their sandwich, and some swear by its place on the cheese board. These are all very fine ideas, my dear friends, but I like this chutney heaped on a spoon, delivered straight from the jar and into my mouth. Don't tell anyone. Shhh. And don't say a word about me going down the street again to get more of them apricots!
Five Spice Apricot Chutney
Sweet, sour, spicy, and hot, this chutney is an adventure for the tastebuds. Its fruity richness is excellent with curries and adds an appetizing flavor to sandwiches. I personally like it in salads. Makes 1-pint jar.
1 lbs (450g) apricots, chopped
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1-inch ginger, grated
1 to 2 Thai red chilis, seeds removed
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Place all the ingredients in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the apricots break down, about 30 minutes. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.