A delicious spring clean

Full of flavour: Capsicum and apricot chutney mini muffins.
Full of flavour: Capsicum and apricot chutney mini muffins.

Once a year, I force myself to give the pantry a good spring clean and throw away ingredients past their "use by" date.

There are always a few items I keep out to use within a few days. Some are close to their "use by" date, others close to their "best by" date.

Jam is a versatile meal maker: as a filling for jam tarts and tartlets; in louise cake and sponges; as a topping for cookies or scones before baking; as a sweetener in desserts such as apple pie or crumble; in baked apples; in sandwiches with cheese; as a glaze for roasted meats; or combined with a little red wine vinegar as a sauce for venison or beef steaks.

Chutneys are also best appreciated when under a year old. Add them to casseroles; spread them on pizza bases in place of tomato paste; combine with orange juice as a sauce for sausages or steaks; or add to scone or muffin mixtures.

Lentils stored in an airtight container at room temperature will keep for up to a year.

Brown lentils are the most common variety and, as with green lentils, they keep their shape once cooked. However, they can be mashed and mixed with seasonings and butter.

Red lentils cook quickly and disintegrate, and can be used as a side dish and in salads, soups and stews.

Olives in brine have a long shelf life. In winter, they add great flavour to stews. Also, add them to pasta sauces; use them as a topping for pizzas, quiche or bruschetta; make a dip of pureed olives and garlic; chop and add to mayonnaise with lemon juice as a topping for veges; or make a chunky vegetable sauce with onion, garlic, courgettes, broccoli, cauliflower, a can of chopped tomatoes and a handful of olives.


I use a full-of-flavour Barkers chutney. You may need to add a little chilli if using a substitute.

50g butter, melted

1/2 cup each: capsicum and apricot chutney, rice milk

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/4 cups self-raising flour

1/4 tsp each: baking soda, salt

100g feta, dicedPreheat the oven to 200C. Lightly oil two 12-hole mini muffin pans.

Combine the butter, chutney, rice milk and eggs in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and feta. Stir well. Mix into the liquid mixture.

Fill the muffin holes with the batter. Bake for 15 minutes or until cooked. Makes 24.


Use whole chicken legs – thigh and the drum – for best flavour. If preserved lemon is unavailable, use strips of fresh lemon rind.

Spice rub:

1 tsp each: ground cumin, ginger, turmeric

2 tsp each: paprika, plain flour

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Freshly ground black pepper to taste


6 chicken legs

2-3 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, crushed

Rind of 1 preserved lemon, julienned

1/2-1 cup pitted green olives

1-2 Tbsp capers, rinsed

1 cup orange juice

1/2 cup sultanas or raisins


1/4 cup each: chopped parsley, chopped coriander leavesCombine the spice rub ingredients.

Remove the skin from the chicken, preferably. Rub the chicken with the spices. Place in a pan. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a frying pan. Saute the onion until softened. Stir in the garlic. Remove to one side.

Heat the remaining oil. Brown the chicken on both sides. Place in a large, heavy, shallow casserole or pan suitable for the hob. Top with the onion and garlic, preserved lemon, olives, capers, orange juice and raisins.

Cover and simmer on a low heat for 45 minutes or in a 180C oven for 1 hour. Top with the herbs.

Great served with couscous or polenta. Serves 4-6.


175g butter, chopped

3/4 cup icing sugar

1 egg, separated

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 1/2cups plain flour

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts or hazelnuts, or walnut or hazelnut meal

1/2 cup raspberry jam or similarCream the butter and icing sugar until fluffy. Mix in the egg yolk and vanilla essence. Add the flour and mix well.

Chill for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 170C. Line an oven tray with baking paper.

Toast the chopped nuts for about 5 minutes.

Roll the dough into 2.5cm balls. Lightly beat the egg white.

Dip the balls into the egg white, then into the nuts. Place on the baking tray.

Using your thumb, make a deep indent in the centre of the cookies. Fill with about 1/2 a tsp of jam.

Bake for about 20 minutes until the cookies have set. Makes about 28.


1/2 cup each: brown lentils, plain flour

1/2 tsp each: baking powder, salt

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1 shallot, diced

1/2 cup finely chopped spinach

2 Tbsp chopped coriander

2-3 Tbsp rice bran oilCook the lentils in plenty of boiling water until soft (about 20 minutes). Drain well.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk the egg and milk. Combine with the flour mixture.

Add the shallot, spinach, coriander and lentils. Mix well.

Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan. Fry heaped tablespoons of the mixture in batches, about 3-4 minutes each side.

Keep warm in a 160C oven while frying the remainder.

Excellent served with yoghurt combined with chopped mint and diced cucumber. Makes about 18 fritters. Serves 4.

Copyright Jan Bilton

The Marlborough Express