Jean Beddington: a culinary, passionate creative! She was chef at five restaurants, owned her own successful restaurant, and still is an inspiration to many. One of her motto’s is ‘seemingly simple’, not with the intention to impress but with the intention to surprise and enhance the sensation when enjoying her food and the way it is presented.
In her book Absolutely Jean Beddington she writes about her background, her youth in England, her eagerness to cook, the holidays with her father when they would stay at budget hotels and eat at Michelin Star restaurants, her travels, her years in Japan and her education (she studied Arts and Chemistry). When she moved to the Netherlands, she decided to become a chef, which is the obvious choice for someone with such a talent. She was one of the first to bring new ingredients to the classic French cuisine. For instance, she began using cilantro and yuzu. She was also inspired by the Japanese way of presenting food: beautifully designed and served on a variety of plates. She began doing this when most guests still expected bread and garlic butter at the beginning of their lunch or dinner.
She published several books. One is dedicated to stock: the basis of soups, sauces and dishes. She explains how to make stock and how to create delicious food, for instance green vegetables in stock with couscous, yogurt and harissa sauce.
Her book Absolutely Jean Beddington is very dear to us. It has three main chapters: the first one is called Glossy with beautifully presented food, the second one is called Real Time with food as you could expect to eat at her restaurant (which is closed, unfortunately) and our favourite chapter is called Daily. Indeed, recipes that are easy to follow and help prepare tasty, wonderful food, every day.
We prepared her fish cakes with a beetroot, ginger, apple and onion chutney. The fish cakes are intriguing and the chutney is the perfect accompaniment. Yummy!
Something you have to have in your cupboard (or refrigerator in our case): chutney. Why? Because once in a while you don’t feel like making a sauce when you eat duck, rib eye or grilled lamb chops. Or because you want to eat something nice, simple and vegetarian, like rice with lentils and, there we are, chutney. If there would be a top three of main ingredients for chutney it would read mango-tomato-apricot. The basic recipe is the same for all three; it’s a matter of adjusting the quantities and choosing the spices. Chutney needs to integrate, much more than jam or marmalade. So cook it for an hour or so and leave it in a jar for at least a week before using it. The fact that it needs to integrate will create a hopefully nice surprise when opening the jar. If not, there is little you can do (eat more quickly, give a jar to a not too close friend et cetera). We use just a bit of sugar so our chutney needs to be stored in the refrigerator. Too much sugar (200 grams on 1 kilo of mango for instance) will only hide the taste of the mango. Chutney is a balance of sweet (fresh fruit, onion, garlic, cinnamon), sour (vinegar), bitter (the skin of the apricot or tomato), spiciness (ginger, red chilli, garlic) and depth (cardamom, nutmeg, cumin). Too much sugar will only disturb the balance. Cooking is about pairing tastes and textures, not about creating a simple, one-dimensional product. Why would we make apricot chutney if it’s our number 3? Simple: we like the touch of bitterness that comes with the apricot. When making mango chutney, try using unripe mangos. The chutney will be much tastier and complex!
What You Need
1 kilo stoned Apricots (meaning 1,25 kilo of Apricots)
Stone and quarter the apricots. Cut the shallots in 4 and slice (not too thin). Slice the fresh garlic. Same with the seeded red chilli. Cut let’s say 5 cm of ginger in small bits. Start by glazing the shallots for 10 minutes in olive oil, making sure they will enhance the sweetness of the chutney. Then add all other ingredients to the pan, mix, add the grated ginger, the spices of your choice, mix and bring slowly to a simmer. We used vinegar and water given the acidity of our apricots. If your apricots are really sweet and ripe use 200 ml of vinegar. Spices wise we prefer using cardamom, cinnamon, and a touch of cumin and nutmeg. Leave to simmer for at least one hour. Stir occasionally but gently. After an hour increase the heat and transfer to very, very clean glass jars. Close the jars, leave them to cool a bit, then put in cold water and later on transfer to the refrigerator.