Homemade tomato relish – and my cheese obsession

My love affair with cheese goes back to my childhood. As early as I can remember it was my favourite thing to eat. In fact, my mother knew that when it came to her daughter’s school lunches a sandwich was not a sandwich unless there was a cheese component.

But my mother understood completely. After all, it was from her I inherited my obsession with cheese. And it is as strong today as it was when I was a child. But I find this is an obsession I can live with quite easily.

And although any time of the day is a good time to treat yourself to cheese and crackers, there is a particular point in the day when they seem to really hit the spot. You know those evenings when perhaps you’ve had an early dinner and then around eight o’clock you start feeling peckish? Well, perhaps peckish is stretching it, but you just feel like eating isn’t quite done for the day. My go to when these cravings arrive – cheese on crackers. They never fail to be delicious and satisfying.

There are many things to recommend cheese on crackers as the perfect snack. For one, they go down rather deliciously if you happen to have a glass of wine in the other hand. Secondly, you can take it in so many directions depending on the crackers you choose, the cheese you prefer and what you add to complement the cheese.

Some people adore blue cheese, others the soft creaminess of brie. Obviously if you’re constructing a cheese board there’s no need to limit yourself. But when it comes to a solitary snack you need to make your choice.

Discussing the merits of cheese and crackers with my friend Mandy this morning she told me that her favourite thing to go with is quince paste. A delicious pairing.

My favourite accompaniment is tomato relish. Homemade tomato relish please. If two things were ever made to go together – I won’t say any more. If you try it you’ll see and if you’ve already tried it then you’ll know.

There are many cheeses that would be a fabulous choice here but for all the fancy cheeses available nowadays – with just as fancy names to go with them – I find it difficult to go past a sharp crumbly cheddar.

Before I get to the recipe I feel it’s important to point out that this relish is incredibly versatile and delicious paired with so many things. Try it with a grilled cheese sandwich or serve a generous spoonful alongside a slice of quiche. Fabulous.

One quick note – many tomato relish recipes call for curry powder but I prefer to create my own spice mix. This is where cooking is so much fun – you might decide to play with the spice mix I’ve used and create your own.

Tomato Relish

Makes enough to fill 4 x 250ml preserving jars

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Ingredients

  • 1.5 kg tomatoes
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1½ tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 250 ml apple cider vinegar
  • 175 g brown sugar

Method

  1. The first job is to skin the tomatoes, which I realise is a bit of bore but it does have to be done. So, with the sharp tip of a knife remove the core of the tomato and then make a small cross at the base of the tomato.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and plunge the tomatoes into the water for about 10 seconds. As soon as you see a long tear in the skin appear they’re ready to come out. With a slotted spoon, remove the tomatoes and transfer to a bowl of cold water. You will need to do this in batches with so many tomatoes, but it doesn’t take long with the tomatoes only needing to be in the water for 10 seconds.
  3. Once they have cooled a little carefully peel off the skin of each tomato. It will come away easily. I actually quite enjoy this process. Repetition is often considered tedious – and it can be – but it can also be comforting.
  4. Once the tomatoes have been peeled chop them roughly and transfer to a large non-corrosive bowl (glass or plastic is good here).
  5. Peel and finely dice the onion and add to the tomatoes, stirring to combine the two. Sprinkle the salt over the top, cover with a tea towel or some cling film and leave overnight. This salting process helps not only to season the tomatoes but to draw out the excess liquid. Let me tell you that once you get to this stage the relish is a cinch from hereon in.
  6. The first thing you need to do the next day is to drain away the liquid that the salting process has produced. Depending on the size of your sieve you might need to do this in batches. I use a large spoon to carefully transfer the tomatoes and onions into the sieve, give it a good shake and then press down to make sure I’m getting rid of as much liquid as possible. You can discard the liquid.
  7. Once drained, transfer the tomatoes and onions to a large preserving pan (or any large pan with a good heavy base).
  8. Give the mustard seeds a light toasting in a hot dry frying pan. Put half of them into a pestle and mortar and grind to a powder. Leave the other half whole. This actually isn’t necessary. You could just leave them all whole if you wanted. Put the mustard seeds into the pot with the tomatoes.
  9. Combine the coriander, turmeric, cumin and cardamom and then transfer to the hot pan you used to toast the mustard seeds. Give the spices a light toasting and then add to the pot of tomatoes.
  10. Finally, add the chilli flakes and cloves to the pot and stir the spices into the tomatoes and onions. Pour in the cider vinegar and give it another good stir.
  11. Bring the mixture to the boil and leave it on a good simmer for about 10-15 minutes before adding the sugar. Stir well to ensure the sugar is well combined – it will dissolve easily in the hot spicy tomatoes.
  12. Now leave the mixture to simmer gently for around an hour to an hour and a half. What you are looking for is the mixture to have thickened well and be almost clinging to the bottom of the pan – but not sticking to the bottom of the pan! You need to stir regularly to ensure this doesn’t happen. There shouldn’t be liquid swilling on the top of the mixture when it’s reached the correct texture. The simmering bubbles should be a bit like a mud pool.
  13. I prefer to fish out the cloves at this point.
  14. Once ready, take the relish off the heat and immediately transfer to prepared preserving jars. This mixture is enough to fill 4 x 250ml jars.

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I would definitely keep one jar aside to eat immediately. Smear on a crisp cracker with some sharp cheese and take a moment to simply enjoy.

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28 Comments

  1. annika says:

    This sounds so delicious. We have so much in common, Tracey! The first and most obvious is cheese! Secondly, like you, I never use curry powder, it is so much more fun when you can control the amount of each spice. Presently, all we have are jet-lagged tomatoes. I’ll be saving this for when we have garden fresh tomatoes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Annika! We indeed have a great deal in common. It’s such a cool thing that we can connect through food even though we live on opposite sides of the world. I hear you about the tomatoes – one of the downsides of winter. This relish is perfect to make when tomatoes are in season and then you’ve got a treat year round!

      Liked by 1 person

      • annika says:

        That’t great to hear…. by the end of July, we end up with more tomatoes than we can think to use up… this would be lovely to try. Right now, we are surviving on preserved sauces and whole frozen tomatoes… I only buy the fresh ones if I absolutely need to but they are always so disappointing.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds an awful like what we call a Chili sauce here in the states!! And why add curry, because the spices are what goes in a curry!! This looks wonderful and next year when we have tomatoes, I’m going to have to try your version!

    Mollie

    Liked by 1 person

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