I used to pride myself on hosting, that was until I met Davey Hunter-Jones (The Calico Clubs - Events & Membership Assistant). He is without doubt the most accomplished host I have ever met.
Want a cocktail that will knock you off your feet? Speak to Davey,
Want an exquisitely made cake that also tastes sublime? Speak to Davey,
Want ideas to help Christmas be the best it can be this year? I spoke to Davey!
The first bit of Christmas cheer he sent our way was this excellent Piccalilli Circus recipe and I for one can't wait to give it a go.
Let’s face it, Boxing Day without Piccalilli is like Astaire without Rogers, a boat without a sail, Charlie without Tat - not worth thinking about! An important staple in any cupboard of any home that appreciates the pure joy of leftovers. And your leftovers deserve good piccalilli, arguably the most distinguished of preserves.
Piccalilli has been around since the 18th century, and it’s definitely not going anywhere, especially in my family. I was convinced as a child that it was made in ‘Piccalilli Circus’ - I don’t think anyone ever had the heart to correct me. The Indian-inspired pickle, marries vegetables (traditionally cauliflower/onion/gherkin) with spices, in a perfect blend of spicy vinegary sweet and sourness, with the perfect mustardy heat that makes you want to sneeze (with delight). It’s unmistakable luminous colour is the most perfect shade of yellow, and I’m sure interior folks would agree it would make a perfect paint. I’m almost certain that it’s the perfect Georgian yellow that adorns many a country house. Although I wouldn’t go slapping this on your walls.
This recipe is from a version that my Grandmother passed to me, with some additions and a few omissions. In many recipes for Piccalilli it requires the vegetables to have a 24-hour salt bath. However this version doesn’t, and makes it far less work, and really doesn’t miss out - the vegetables also retain far more of their crunchiness. This recipe is also very forgiving, so feel free to add any vegetables you happen to have, I added some cubed squash.
(Makes around 6 small jars)
350ml white wine vinegar
350ml malt vinegar
2 tbsp Lightly crushed coriander seeds
500g Cauliflower - I’ve used and mixture of romanesco and white cauliflower because it looks great
150g Small shallots, peeled, topped and tailed
3 tbsp English mustard powder
3 tbsp Plain white flour
1 tbsp Turmeric
2 tsp Ground ginger
20g Maldon salt
150ml Cider vinegar
1 tsp Whole grain mustard
1 Clove of garlic, crushed
75g French beans, trimmed and cut into 2cm pieces
50g Runner beans, trimmed, and cut on an angle in 1cm pieces
1/4 Cucumber, sliced thinly by hand or with a mandolin
1 carrot sliced in thin batons by hand or with a mandolin
3 okra fingers sliced in 1cm pieces
100g Granulated sugar
Place the vinegar and lightly crushed coriander seeds in a large preserving pan (non-reactive) and bring to a steady boil. Add the cauliflower and onions and simmer for around 5 minutes until slightly softened but still crunchy. Put the mustard, flour, salt, turmeric, ginger and garlic in a small bowl and gradually whisk in the cider vinegar to form a smooth paste. Add the remaining vegetables and sugar into the pan and stir over the heat for 2–3 minutes until the sugar has dissolved. (you can no longer see grains of sugar in the mixture) Drain the vegetables into a colander over a large bowl to collect the vinegar.
Put the mustard mixture into the empty pan and bring to the boil, whisking so it doesn’t catch. Gradually add the drained vinegar and continue to whisk, let it simmer for around 15 minutes, until thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Add the drained vegetables and take off the heat. Spoon into sterilised jars. (To easily sterilise jars, place around an inch of water in a jar and microwave on high until the water boils/ alternatively place in an oven and wait for the same.) Let the jars cool slightly - otherwise they may crack) Place a wax disc on the top of the mixture before sealing with a lid whilst still hot.
It’ll be hard not to eat straight away but it needs a good few weeks for all the magic to happen so I’d make ahead if you’re planning on having this on Boxing Day. The piccalilli will last for at least a year in a cool dry place, and once opened it’s best to store in the fridge.