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Tony Tobin on cheese and chutney

PUBLISHED: 21:11 14 May 2012 | UPDATED: 15:31 20 February 2013

Tony shows off salt beef terrine with a good dollop of home made piccalilli

Tony shows off salt beef terrine with a good dollop of home made piccalilli

Kitchen Diaries - Our resident celeb chef Tony Tobin explains why cheese and chutney go together like Posh and Becks!

Don't get in a pickle... or you might not get out again until Christmas! Ho ho... a schoolboy pun but one that makes a very pertinent point about pickles - if I may be permitted to be alliterative in my first paragraph - because there's something irresistibly festive about pickles and chutneys. This is probably because every Christmas hamper on the planet includes at least one jar of each.

But by this stage, you're probably wondering why I've suddenly come over all pickley in September when (fingers crossed at time of writing) it's still warm and occasionally summery. Well, it's simple really... This is the month that great pickles and chutneys are born. It's the time when ripe fruits and veg are sentenced to three months in a dark cupboard, squashed together inside a glass jar of acid, so that they can develop real strength of character and emerge all tangy on Boxing Day alongside slices of cold turkey.

If you're a regular reader of this column, you'll know I can't resist delving into the past to undercover the hidden truth about many foods and this month is no exception. So permit me for a minute to give you a potted history (sorry, the puns are flowing thick and fast now!).

Pickling entered the world because freezers were hard to come by. It's as simple as that. There are newspaper articles in the 1700s that talk of the importance of pickling meats and shellfish to preserve them for the winter. In the Imperial War Museum, you can see posters with an ardent housewife standing in front of shelves full of glass jars while she closes the lid on yet another chutney. Alongside her, an adoring and sharp-eyed child remarks rhetorically: "We'll have plenty to eat this winter, won't we, mother?"

Match made in heaven

As a chef, my personal interest centres more on chutneys and piccalilli than pure preserves and pickles (sorry, the alliteration is becoming addictive now). I do have an early memory of my mum pickling silverskins and also of eating them when they'd gone just a little too far for even pickling to prevent them developing little white spots but today, it's 'chutney marriages' that interest me.

A chutney marriage is best when you put together one foodstuff (like chicken) with an off-the-wall chutney (like banana) and make a beautiful marriage. Okay, so it's not a marriage that will be selling its photos to Hello magazine but it can be just as exciting. Often even more so!

So, here are some suggestions for some chutney marriages before I set you making your own. The best partnerships tend to be based on cold meats or cheese. How about chicken with banana chutney or gammon and peach chutney or even pear chutney with light game, like quail or pigeon? For cheeses - where the creaminess and acidity set each other off like Posh and Becks - there are few taste sensations that can match fig chutney with a mature cheese or lime and chilli chutney with blue cheese.

Yum. Excuse me while I move from my PC to the fridge for ten minutes. Writing can be a hungry business and I'm pretty sure there's cheddar, crackers and fig chutney in the kitchen. There, that's better... although the keyboard is now covered in crumbs. Anyway, you get the idea. Pickles and chutneys are the gastronomic accompaniments of the gods.

A tongue-tingling taste

And so we move on to my personal favourites starting with tomato kasundi. I have been serving this with dishes at The Dining Room in Reigate and Tony Tobin @ POST in Banstead for some time having cooked it on Ready Steady Cook to go with a griddled turkey some time back. It's stunning - a true tongue-tingling tomato taste (sorry again!). I've put my recipe in the break-out box for you to whisk together later and I'll move on to the final act: piccalilli.

A good piccalilli is like a classic Branston pickle but it is usually coloured with turmeric, which give it a chunky yellow look and a tangy, less sweet flavour. And whereas a pickle sits happily in a sandwich with cheese or meat, piccalilli's place is on the plate, holding its own next to a meat or even a terrine. My tip is salt beef terrine with a good dollop of piccalilli to keep it company. The cauliflowery, mustardy acidity cuts through the cool saltiness of the beef.... wow. Where's my menu planning sheet? This, folks, is as good as it gets on a plate.

Happy pickling!

Originally published in Surrey Life September 08

Kitchen Diaries - Our resident celeb chef Tony Tobin explains why cheese and chutney go together like Posh and Becks!

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