Festive fare: Tomato relish and piccalilli

Diana Lampe
Diana Lampe's piccalilli.
Diana Lampe's piccalilli. Photo: Rohan Thomson

For Christmas gifts this year, I am making tomato relish and piccalilli. The relish can be ready to eat at Christmas with leftovers if you make it soon; the piccalilli needs three months to mature and mellow.

They are very tasty and will keep for a year, so will be a welcome Christmas gift.

My friend Elaine Lawson gave me a jar of her Bishop's Court tomato relish a few years ago and, because I liked it so much, she has shared her mother's recipe. She told me her mother, Audrey Reed, made it for the last time when she was 99 years old!

Bishop's Court tomato relish.
Bishop's Court tomato relish. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

It's great with a grilled lamb chop, cold roast lamb, homity pies (see last week's recipe), macaroni cheese and in sandwiches.

Piccalilli is a British mustard pickle of mixed vegetables, chiefly cauliflower. It is coloured with turmeric and clearly has roots in India.

It is popular in Britain and great with ham, cold meats, cheese and ploughman's lunch.

The piccalilli recipe is based mainly on recipes from Mrs Beaton's Cookery and Household Management, and The Coronation Cookery Book, compiled by the Country Women's Association of NSW.

When I was young I remember helping my mother make jars and jars of jams, chutneys and pickles with the fruit and vegetables grown in the vegetable garden on our property at Coonamble, where the pantry was always well stocked.

Diana Lampe is a Canberra writer, dlampe@bigpond.net.au.

Bishop's Court tomato relish

Makes 4 jars

1 kg tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped

250g chopped onions

1 granny smith apple, neatly diced

250g sugar

150ml white vinegar

4-5 cloves

¼ cup sultanas, if desired

2 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

pinch of chilli flakes or powder (optional)

2 tsp white (yellow) mustard seeds (optional)

Put all of the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to the boil and cook briskly for one hour. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon, particularly towards the end, to prevent catching. The relish will be ready when the excess liquid has cooked away. Ladle into sterilised jars and seal while hot. For best results leave the jars in a cool dark place to mature for a month. The relish will keep for a year.

Variations: This is an easy recipe that lends itself to variation. Just add what you like - garlic, fresh or powdered ginger, allspice, cinnamon stick, crushed coriander seeds or paprika (for colour). I like to use apple-cider vinegar and add a knob of grated ginger.


Makes 4-6 jars

You will need about 1.5kg of prepared vegetables. Other vegetables can be used, such as carrots, green cherry tomatoes and nasturtium seeds.

500g (about half) cauliflower, broken into small florets

250g green beans cut into 2.5cm lengths

250g small pickling onions or eschalots, peeled and cut through the root into halves or quarters, or 1 large brown onion, cut neatly into squares

1 telegraph cucumber, peeled, halved and sliced

2 medium zucchini, halved and sliced

3 tbsp sea salt

750ml malt vinegar plus extra ¼ cup

1 small bag of pickling spices

2 tbsp turmeric

2 tbsp mustard powder

1 tbsp ginger powder or 2 tbsp grated fresh ginger

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

½ cup sugar

1 tbsp plain flour or cornflour

Pickling spices

Use whole spices and a generous pinch of each: allspice, 1 crumbled dried bay leaf, 2-4 dried chillies, ½ stick of cinnamon or cassia bark, cloves, fennel seeds, slice of fresh ginger, blade of mace or broken nutmeg, white or black peppercorns. Wrap in a piece of muslin or Chux cloth and tie with string.

Put the prepared vegetables into a large ceramic or glass bowl and sprinkle with salt. Leave for 24 hours, giving an occasional stir. Rinse and drain.

Add the bag of pickling spices, and the turmeric, mustard, ginger, garlic and sugar to the vinegar and bring to the boil. Add the drained vegetables and simmer for eight minutes. Remove the bag of pickling spices. Work quickly now so as not to overcook the vegetables.

Mix the flour to a paste with the extra vinegar. Take a ladleful of the hot vinegar from the pan and mix into the flour paste. Stir back into the pickled vegetables and simmer for three or four minutes to thicken. Tip the hot piccalilli into warmed sterilised jars and cover straight away. Keep in a cool dark place for three months to mature.