Sunday, 22 March 2020

Tomato and apricot chutney, a covid19 strategy!

It started with some apricots that a friend gave me from her tree.  Then I bought tomatoes at the farmers market.  By the time the CoVid19 started to get serious in Australia, there were so many more reasons to make chutney than just to use up produce. 

I might even thank CoVid19 for the motivation to finally make the chutney that had been on my to do list for a while.  The tomatoes sat there for a couple of weeks and the apricots were in the freezer for months.  But chutney seemed a good way to preserve the tomatoes for when Armageddon arrived!  Suddenly everything seems precious and odd and uncertain. 

Last weekend instead of going to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child we postponed the show.  I had more time to make chutney.  It is quite a bit of work to peel the tomatoes.  Juice goes everywhere and my hands get soggy and wrinkly.  But it makes a difference not to find bits of tomato skin in the chutney.

I have made chutney enough times to be know I need a bit of time but it will work out ok.  Then I looked at the ingredients in a rhubarb chutney I had bought and it had cornflour.  This was a new idea for me but made sense as often chutney will split into water and vegies.  I tried it and liked the results.  I had simmered the chutney long enough and it was getting late so the cornflour added nicely to the right thickness (or clinging to the wooden spoon).  My biggest issue was whether I got the seasoning in the chutney right.  I worried that the apricot flavour disappeared altogether and I may as well have just had all tomatoes but I am sure they made an impact.

Doesn't it seems crazy to talk about apricots making an impact on a chutney when it is really CoVid19 that is making a huge impact on our lives!  So much has changed over the last few weeks.  I worked from home last week and heard of two diagnoses in my organisation.  My work group is trying to maintain cohesion and morale by video hook ups such as doing the daily quiz from the local newspaper each lunchtime.  At school I have heard about kids playing Corona Virus Zombies and asking is Santa Claus is alright.

All around us life is closing in: borders closing, businesses struggling, stage shows becoming an unnecessary luxury, sport being played without an audience, people staying home.  In other countries schools and shops are told to close but Australia is just sticking to restricting social gatherings.  For now.  So much is changing that more restrictions seem likely.

At work we started being aware of covid19 when some Chinese colleagues got stuck over on a trip home to China.  In Australia the panic started with a rush on toilet paper buying which spread to many other supermarket goods.  It got so bad that our prime minister told us last week that he was very disappointed in us.  But he really should have said: "what were you thinking?"

People's panic buying is so odd.  A few days ago I was in the supermarket and took a photo of shelves bare of toilet paper but the health food shelves with lots of food available (See above two photos).  So this is how we fight a pandemic!  We saw shelves denuded of hand wash when there was still loads of body wash, with no white flour but some wholemeal flour left, and all pasta gone except the gluten free pasta.  I went to a Middle Eastern store and was able to buy a 12.5kg bag of flour when there was none in the supermarket.  Small local stores still had enough because Australia still has enough.  Yesterday I finally saw some toilet paper in the supermarket again but then I gave some flour to a friend for a birthday cake for a friend today.

In Australia we are familiar with having an emergency bushfire kit but we do not know how to prepare for a pandemic that we are told is inevitable.  Fortunately we are told most of us will come out the other end.  There will be great fodder for academics and comedians and we will learn much for the next pandemic.  More change is inevitable. 

This pandemic seems worsened by our modern lifestyles of international travel and expectation of abundance in all seasons.  However our modern lifestyle also seems to make it more bearable with social media, facetime, netflix and cashless purchases.  I have already had lots of discussions about the environmental impact (such as so much less flights) and the changes to how we work and communicate that will inform life after the corona virus.

Yesterday we went to the farmers market.  It was incredibly busy.  I heard someone say people need to get out of the house and want to go shopping in fresh air.  It seems everyone wants to support the farmers too.  In Australia the CoVid19 has come hot on the heels of the bushfire crisis so we have anxiety upon anxiety.  I think of those people who lost their houses in the fires and are still waiting to go home, while we are being told to spend more time in our homes.  

The anxiety upon anxiety has also given us a feeling of fragility of life.  We have lost so much self-sufficiency.  We are dependent on supermarkets and shops and public transport and wide networks of people beyond our local area.  I look back to my grandparents time of chickens and vegies in the backyard, and cooking from scratch in the kitchen.  CoVid19 bring us to reflect in a different way about why they preserved fruits and vegetables and prized tinned goods.

And so I felt I was channeling my foremothers in many ways as I made the chutney.  I have tried resist panic buying.  In the supermarket I feel like I need everything but I have to remind myself there is plenty to go round.  But I catch myself thinking through how I can survive if I can't get to the shops.  I have comforted myself if it gets really bad I can exist on rice, legumes, frozen peas and a spoonful of chutney stirred through.  For the moment thought we have plenty of food.  And I still have to learn more about chutney making and seasoning but I am grateful I can preserve fruit and vegetables this way, that I have my sourdough starter and can make do.

I know this has been a long post.  I have wanted to reflect on covid19 and how it make our world a stranger to us.  I have also been reading about it and want to share a few of the best that I have read: our worlds

It has taken me so long to write this post that the situation keeps changing.  The latest today is that the government is meeting later today to discuss closing down schools, restaurants and more.  Possibly by the time you read this, the situation will have changed again.

I hope you are coping ok with the Corona Virus outbreak: minimising risk, keeping up social connections, and feeling healthy. 

More chutney recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Apricot chutney (gf, v)
Paradise chutney (gf, v)
Plum chutney (gf, v)
Pumpkin chutney (gf, v)
Tomato kitchen sink chutney (gf, v)

Tomato and apricot chutney
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe
Makes about 6-8 jars

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp brown mustard seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
4 cloves (or a cinnamon stick)
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
12 cloves of garlic finely chopped
2 kg tomatoes, peeled and chopped
900g apricots, chopped
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup raw sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tsp chilli paste
1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp cornflour

Heat olive oil over low heat in a large saucepan.  Add fennel and mustard seeds and heat until they pop.  Stir in the cloves.  Now add the onion, celery, and garlic (I added them gradually as I chopped them) and fry for about 10 to 15 minutes until softening.  Remove cloves (not easy as they look like all the mustard seeds)!

Add remaining ingredients and check seasoning.  (I left mine in the saucepan for a few hours at this point before simmering.)  Bring to the boil and simmer for between 1-2 hours.  I found I simmered at a higher temperature at the start and then reduced the heat as it got thicker and more bubbly.  It is ready when chunky chutney consistency and not much liquid left.  At the end the liquid and fruit was till separating so I added some cornflour and brought it to the boil.

While chutney is simmering, sterilise your jars and lids.  I baked mine for 30 minutes in the oven at 150 C and boiled the lids on the stovetop for 10 minutes, then dried them on a rack.  I find it easy to put all the jars in a roasting dish so I am not having to handle them individually.

Once chutney is ready and still hot, ladle into a jar and screw on the lid (using rubber gloves or oven mitts if hot to handle).  As the chutney cools the metal lids should depress, which is a sign of them being sealed.  Store in a cool place.  This made about 4 medium jars (375ml) and 3 smaller jars (250ml).

NOTES: Highly recommend eating chutney in a sandwich with cheese, walnuts, spinach and sliced plums.

On the Stereo:
Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent: Lewis Capaldi


  1. I love your plate overflowing with colorful veggies. Truly this is such a weird time in our lives. I hope Australia can put in measures to avoid what's happening here in the US where the epidemic is worsening daily.

  2. It really is diabolical times and people panicking and not taking individual responsibility is adding to the madness and chaos. Your post captures a lot of what is happening in the UK too. People have been told to self-isolate and some idiots are thinking this means go out in the countryside or go camping in Wales. I like the sound of your fresh apricot chutney, we will be tucking into those I made a few years back. And like you, I am comforted if it gets really bad we can exist on rice, legumes and frozen sweetcorn.Take care of yourself my friend.

  3. Your post is very interesting -- it underscores how global reactions are all so completely consistent and simultaneous. Also shows how irrational fears and rational attempts to cope are interacting.

    Sadly, our farmers' market was one of the first businesses to be ordered shut. I've heard (no first-hand knowledge as I'm isolating myself) that prepared vegetarian and vegan foods are among the least in demand, while more ordinary foods are going out of stock. On, I saw an offer of 6 normal-sized cans of pineapple for $100. However, I think eventually supply and demand of most products other than surgical masks will even out.

    Be Well!... mae at

  4. The panic buying begets more panic buying. We have enough toilet paper to last for a small while because there are just two of us but I haven't seen it in the supermarket for a long time so next time I see it I will try to resist buying too much.

  5. The panic buying seemed to build slowly and then everything was gone over here! It didn't take long until the shelves were bare and people were fighting in the aisles. I've never felt more grateful to know how to make my own bread and put a meal together - all the readymade food went the way of the toiler rolls! Strange times indeed. I hope you're well and enjoying your chutney with everything.


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