Just when I thought I’d explored the full length and breadth of Nigella’s wonderful Italian-themed tome Nigellissima , I came across this hidden gem tucked away, rather fittingly, in the Christmas section. This fabulous chutney offers up a pleasing degree of figgy sweetness that’s sharply cut by the salty tang of olives, and the heady aromatics of fennel seeds. Unlike your bog-standard jam or marmalade, this chutney is laughably no-fuss, meaning you can have it on the go while tending to other things and not have to worry too much about effing it up. Once spooned into jars left to cool, it’s wonderful paired with a good sharp cheese, spread over toast, as a savoury tart filling, or even as an accompaniment to a Christmas ham.
In a saucepan, combine 325g of halved dried figs, 220g of pitted back olives (Nigella prescribes dry-packed olives, but if you can’t find them just give regular brined ones a squeeze in a tea towel to get rid of the moisture), 100g dark brown sugar, 1 teaspoon each of of fennel seeds and ground cinnamon, a pinch of ground cloves, 60ml of Marsala, 150ml of red wine vinegar, and 100ml of water. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and pop on a lid. Leave for about 15 minutes to simmer, then take off the heat and leave to cool. Pop the lot into a food processor and blend until finely chopped, then spoon the mixture into sterilised glass jars and refrigerate.