articles, pickles & preserves

Making Gifts with Seasonal Portuguese Produce

The Chutney Making Station

This Christmas will be our fourth since moving to Portugal. Our improved work/life balance means that we have been able to develop traditions since moving here that we never had time for in England.

One of these newly founded traditions is the making of food gifts as Christmas presents for our nearest and dearest. As the big day approaches the wife will disappear into the kitchen in a frenzy of mince pie and gingerbread-producing activity, but at this time of year it’s all about the vegetables.

Our local market provides fruit and vegetables in abundance and – if you know which stalls to go to – at a much lower cost than the supermarkets. Last week our €8.95 trip bought us three large bags bursting with fresh, seasonal produce. Our haul included mangoes, avocadoes, a cauliflower and a whole host of other items. We even managed to get hold of a small cluster of sprouts (to my delight and the wife’s dismay).

With our giant stash of produce, we set about making chutney, turning the dining room table into an industrial-scale chopping station. We made two types: a spicy tomato, and a tamer version with courgette. After hours of bubbling delightfully on the stove, and a few sneaky tastes in the name of quality control, we popped them into sterilised Kilner jars ready for storage until Christmas.

Some completed chutney

Some completed chutney

We also had our first attempt at making piccalilli (recipe below).

Now all we have to do is leave our collection of treats in a dark cupboard, ready to be brought out and decorated with pretty bows and ribbons on Christmas Eve. This is wonderful way to celebrate the flavours of seasonal fruit and vegetables and to make thoughtful gifts that don’t break the bank. The only difficult part is resisting the temptation to open the jars and scoff the lot ourselves before Christmas arrives!

Christmas Piccalilli

We found a recipe on the River Cottage website and adapted it slightly to suit our personal tastes, plus we used Algarve sea salt to make it a little more Portuguese.


  • 2kg vegetables – we chose cauliflower, radishes, courgettes, cucumber, tomatoes, carrots and onion
  • 100g local Algarve sea salt
  • 60g cornflour
  • 3 tsp ground turmeric
  • 3 tsp English mustard powder
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp crushed cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp crushed coriander seeds
  • 1.2 litres cider vinegar
  • 200g white granulated sugar (less than the original recipe suggests)
  • 100g honey


1.     Wash, dry, peel and chop the veg until you have a large bowlful of bite-size chunks. Place in a colander, cover with the salt, stir, then leave sitting under a tea towel for at least 24 hours before rinsing several times with ice-cold water and draining.

2.     Use a little of the vinegar to make a paste with the cornflour, turmeric, mustard powder, ginger, mustard seeds, cumin and coriander.

3.     In a pan, boil the remaining vinegar with the sugar and honey, then add the spice paste and boil for 3-4 minutes, stirring well.

4.     Pour the sauce and vegetables into a large bowl and mix well.

5.     Divide the piccalilli into sterilised jars and leave for six weeks.