There’s nothing like a good pickle to accompany your favourite cheese or charcuterie. It’s that all important zing that makes all the difference. Perhaps you like to put pickled onions on your salad? Or just eat them from the jar? Meet Auntie Caroline
If you’ve not come across Auntie Caroline’s Pickles yet, you are in for a treat. She has a regular stand at Cirencester Friday Market and Farmers’ Markets. The name is a very clever bit of marketing. It speaks of nostalgia and tradition. Of tastes that remind you of your childhood; an adored Grandmother who made pickles at her kitchen table. But this Auntie Caroline definitely does not fit the profile the name probably conjures up.
She making pickled onions purely because she loved them. Even as a child they were her favourite snack. When friends tried the onions, they were bowled over by the taste and suggested she start selling them. So a business was born. Now Caroline works out of a compact space in Cirencester where I went to visit her.
She’d explained that she’d have to continue working when I arrived and I soon saw why! There were eggs in shells; eggs being boiled; eggs that had been cooked and eggs she was peeling. Making pickled eggs is a weekly task using eggs delivered by a local farmer. It took a lot of trial and error discovering the best way to cook the eggs (in smaller pans rather than large) and the optimum cooking time. This is particularly important as you need to shell the egg easily whilst ensuring the yolk is cooked to perfection.
On one wall is a white board covered in information: stock levels of ingredients; numbers of jars sold; a schedule of when things are needed, cooking times and above, strips of labels. Caroline now makes more than 30 different pickle varieties. Where possible she focuses on ingredients that can be sourced year round so she can maintain the supply to more than 70 outlets. Sourcing pickling onions year round is a particular challenge!
Whilst Caroline includes many traditional recipes in her range, she loves to experiment. The wonderfully named (by her customers) Banging Brussels (sprouts) is a case in point. They fly off the shelves. Caroline has great fun naming her pickles which include Shocking Good Shallots; Luscious Lemons; Cheek Burning Chilli Chutney which she gave me to try. .
I am thoroughly enjoying working my way through them. The flavours are full on. The onions deliciously crunchy. Those following a gluten free diet will be particularly happy that she produces some pickled onions that are gluten free. Most are made with malt vinegar. Caroline uses other types of vinegar made to her own particular recipe. There are plenty of other gluten free pickles to try too.
Luscious Lemon Chicken Recipe
Pickles are not just for adding to cold plates, you can cook with them too. I used Caroline’s preserved lemons in this recipe loosely based on a Moroccan tagine recipe. It’s an easy one pot dish. Use Caroline’s preserved lemons straight from the jar to add a lovely burst of flavour to the dish.
Auntie Caroline's preserved lemons go particularly well in this dish - there's no sharpness just oodles of flavour. You'll find that the longer and more slowly you cook the chicken the better. It will be beautifully soft to eat.
- 4 Chicken thighs
- 2 Onions chopped
- 300 gr Luscious Lemon or preserved lemons
- 350 gr Courgette or squash cubed
- 2 cm Fresh Ginger
- 10 gr Coriander seeds
- 2 cloves Garlic
- 50 gr Olives black or green
- 1 pinch Saffron
- 300 ml Water
- 50 ml Olive oil approximately
- 5 ml Black peppercorns
- 50 gr Coriander chopped
Heat the oil and fry the onions until softened in a heavy based casserole or similar.
Grate the fresh ginger. Add it to the onions with the cumin and garlic and cook until softened. Set mixture aside
Add the chicken thighs to the pot and cook until lightly browned
Put the onion mixture back in the pot add the courgette or squash. Add the chopped lemons and saffron. Mix well.
Add the water and cook on a low heat for at least an hour until the chicken is very soft. Check half way through and add more water if the mixture is getting dry.
Add the olives and heat through for 5 to 10 minutes. Check seasoning and add salt if necessary. Sprinkle with chopped coriander.
Serve with rice or new potatoes.
A heavy casserole dish is ideal for this dish.
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