I feel as though us Melbournians have been spoilt with the season that’s just passed. We had a beautiful, warm summer. I spent a lot of my time swimming, and bathing like a lizard in the sun. Add a good book into the mix and it’s one of my favourite ways to relax. I also had a nice visit from my parents, who live in Sydney and went on a dreamy 10 day trip to Seoul in South Korea. It was very cold in Seoul, dropping down to -7 degrees Celsius while we were there. So you can imagine my COMPLETE satisfaction when we arrived back in Melbourne to blue skies, scorching sunshine and open-toed shoes (hurrah!). Spoilt indeed. Other highlights include seeing the extraordinary Gillian Welch in concert at the Palais Theatre and enjoying some downtime with my partner Rob, after a challenging 6 months following a car accident he was involved in last year. The experience of caring for someone very close to me was grounding, and filled me with an overwhelming sense of love for him, both urgent and definite. I’ve further learnt about the transient nature of life while watching Rob gracefully traverse the tricky path of physical and mental rehabilitation. It’s a constant reminder of how powerful self-compassion, perseverance and patience can be.
Three words not entirely welcome, but necessary during my summertime months were Fundamentals of Chemistry. Three months, twelve modules, and one girl. I won’t write about how my feelings spanned several emotions over those twelve modules, instead, I’ll sum it up in one sentence. Learning chemistry completely online with very minimal knowledge of basic chemistry is REALLY HARD, but totally worth it. Mainly because now I know stuff. About intermolecular forces, atmospheric pressure and why the apple I’m munching on is red (a result of natural plant compounds called anthocyanins). It’s all part of the fun that is studying human nutrition.
Another great thing about the warmer months in Australia is the fresh produce. Stone fruit, berries and loads of tomatoes (zucchini too right – they are so impolite!). Friends of mine recently gifted me a bunch of cherry tomatoes, and some yellow Roma tomatoes. I was quick to turn them into relish, so I can be reminded of sweet summer days during the cold ones to come.
Cherry Tomato Relish
If you’ve never preserved anything before – have no fear! It’s fairly straightforward and rewarding. Jars of things you’ve made yourself make for an affordable, unique gift for someone. Just remember that oven mitts are your friend when it comes to handling hot jars…
7 cups of mixed tomatoes (I used 5 cups of cherry tomatoes, and 2 cups of Roma tomatoes)
2 large red onions, sliced if you want a chunky relish, and diced if you don’t
125 mL of extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
5 tablespoons of coconut sugar (brown sugar can be substituted)
4 tablespoons of brown sugar
55 mL of apple cider vinegar
3.5 teaspoons of mustard seeds
1 tablespoon of chilli flakes
Salt to taste (I ended up using roughly 3 – 4 teaspoons)
1. If you’re using any tomatoes other than cherry tomatoes, roughly chop them.
2. Add the extra virgin oilive oil to a heavy-based pot over medium heat, and sauté the onions.
3. Once translucent, add the garlic, chilli flakes and mustard seeds to the pan, frying gently for a minute or two.
4. Stir in the tomatoes, sugar, vinegar and a big pinch of salt.
5. Once the tomatoes start to cook down, lower the heat and simmer away until it’s reduced to your liking. This part took me an hour, and I seasoned to taste towards the end. I was after a jam-like consistency, and I got this result by repeatedly testing a small spoonful on a cold saucer. When it kept it’s shape, I took it off the heat.
6. It’s really important to properly sterilise the jars you’re planning to use, so after your efforts it doesn’t spoil. The video below is really helpful, and I found this part didn’t take any longer than 15 minutes or so. I did it while the relish was reducing, keeping in mind the jars must be hot from the oven when you pour the hot relish in.
7. As elegantly as possible pour the relish into the hot, sterilised jars, leaving a gap of about 2 cm at the top. Screw the lids on tight and if you’re anything like me you’ll have to wipe the jars clean of any spillage.
8. Once cooled, leave either in the fridge or a cool, dark place for up to 12 months. Once opened I find it lasts for a few weeks in the fridge.
This yielded me 3 jars of varying sizes, and a Tupperware container to use right away. In hindsight, preparing 4 jars would have been ideal.