Tomato Chili Jam + UK Getaway

Disclaimer - long post ahead - scroll directly to the bottom to get to the recipe!

Last month, Ricky and I spent a little over a week in the United Kingdom. It's crazy to think that this trip is already over, considering we had been planning for it almost a year and a half in advance. The catalyst for our travels was actually to attend the wedding of our friends, Viv and Pete, at the Roman Baths in Bath, UK. Because of the location of the wedding, they sent out invites with plenty of advance notice, and thankfully we were able to spin it into a week of vacation time.

Fun fact: Viv is actually the person behind Ricky and I meeting and starting to date (she organized the college party we met at). So, needless to say, we were excited to celebrate her own special love story with her.

Coming from Los Angeles, the most convenient route to reach the UK is to fly nonstop into London. Both Ricky and I had spent time in London before, so we decided to just spend one night there, which allowed us to optimize our time exploring some new places. We arrived at our hotel (Hazlitt's) in London around 2pm on Saturday and spent the afternoon wandering the neighborhood of Soho. Then, we made our way down to Trafalgar Square and Big Ben to play tourist for a bit before strolling through St. James' Park on our way back to the hotel.

As London is known for it's eclectic food scene, we struggled to decide on what we wanted to do for dinner that night. Knowing that the majority of what we ate for the rest of the trip would be more traditional English fare, we landed on Sri Lankan (something neither of us have experienced) food at a place called Hoppers. This meal was in my top 5 favorite meals of the trip; if you find yourself in London I highly recommend checking it out!

The next morning we woke up super early (dang jet lag) and walked around Notting Hill, Hyde Park, and then fueled up at an Australian style cafe called Lantana (also highly recommended!), before catching our train to Edinburgh.

Throughout my life, I've known several people that have traveled to and/or lived in Edinburgh. Each and every time I've heard someone recount their experiences it has been nothing but pure admiration for the city. Now, I completely understand why. The second I stepped out of the train station into the "Old Town" I knew immediately that I would fall in love with this city. It's history is beautifully preserved, providing travelers with tons to do and see while there. Twice we walked up Calton Hill for spectacular views of the city, woke up early to be the first at Edinburgh Castle, hiked up to Arthur's Seat (and subsequently got lost trying a different route on the way down), and even took a quick afternoon trip to Stirling Castle, one of the historically significant castles in all of Scotland. The rest of the time we wandered around Old Town and New Town (Edinburgh is divided into two historical sections), perused the botanical gardens and Holyrood Palace (where the Royal Family stays), and eating so much good food.

I was most interested to try haggis, despite being a little hesitant because...what even is it?! For those of you unfamiliar, haggis is a traditional Scottish meal of sheep organ meat mixed with plenty of spices and binders (like oats), typically served over mashed root veggies. We tried it at a whiskey bar in Old Town called Arcade Bar. Don't let the name fool you, it was recommended as one of the best places in Edinburgh for haggis and it 100% did not disappoint. I loved it. My other favorite meal was our "splurge" meal of the trip, which was a 7 course tasting menu at the Gardener's Cottage. Their menu changes daily, and they use almost exclusively vegetables and fruits from their garden along the perimeter of the restaurant. We rounded out the rest of our stay with classic Indian food, an Indian inspired breakfast at Dishoom (I mean, I could eat the bacon naan roll every day for the rest of my life), and a trip down memory lane at Pret a Manger!

Bacon naan roll from Dishoom

Haggis at Arcade Bar

Now, here comes the adventure. Dani behind the wheel of a British car!! After flying south from Edinburgh, we picked up our Toyota Auris from Heathrow and hit the road. To be honest, driving on the opposite side of the road is extremely less terrifying than one may think. In all honesty, it helped that I didn't overwhelm myself and "prepare" as much as I may have told Ricky I did (oops). In hindsight, I'm happy I didn't over-prepare because being calm was so important. We drove through Oxford where we walked around the town for a bit and grabbed lunch before making our way down to the Cotswolds, which is where we spent the next few days.

In the Cotswolds we splurged (with a little help from Ricky's parents :) ) on by far the most amazing hotel I've ever stayed at - the Slaughters Manor House in the tiny village of Lower Slaughter.. Usually, I'm a bit down about leaving a place - the town or city we are visiting - but this was the first time I've ever been truly sad to leave the accommodations. Seriously, I would give anything to be able to take a bath once more in our bathroom over looking the garden. This leg of our trip was a bit more low-key, so we were really jazzed about a hotel that we wanted to spend ample time in.

The Cotswolds can be likened to London's version of the Hamptons, sans drunken partying and trading the beaches for rolling hills. Known for its quintessential English countryside and endless walking trails, it's a quiet countryside getaway for locals. We walked some of the trails for as long as we could, but due to inclement weather, we were cut short several times. Thankfully, our hotel provided us with wellies so we could experience the pathways without muddying our own shoes. When we weren't walking through fields and meadows, we spent the rest of our time exploring the little towns and shops. My favorite town was Stow-on-the-Wold because it had the most adorable little gift, home, book, and specialty food shops. We found a gourmet cheese shop where we bought two kinds of cheese, one of which was the region's famed Double Gloucester, and crackers that we enjoyed one day at the Hidcote Manor Garden.

During our time in the Cotswolds, we definitely enjoyed more classic English fare. Our first night we split a massive order of fish n' chips and a seasonal special of charred mackerel (which was unique and tasty) plus two ciders because, duh. Our hotel provided the most amazing breakfast, which included made to order egg dishes, plus a cold buffet. This is where we decided to enjoy the classic full English breakfast, which may sound gimmicky, but I absolutely love. Then, as a final farewell we got fancy with a full afternoon tea. Pastries, finger sandwiches, and endless tea - what could be better?

Charred mackerel from The Slaughters Country Inn

Full English from the Slaughters Manor House

Full Afternoon Tea from the Slaughter Manor House

We said goodbye to the Cotswolds and then made our way to our final destination, Bath. We arrived in Bath in the late afternoon and climbed to the top of Alexandria Park for views of the entire city before sitting down for a drink and light dinner outside at a classic pub. Later that evening, we met the wedding party and several friends at a bar in the center of town. The following day we got up early and had coffee near the Roman Baths before grabbing breakfast and meeting our friends Taylor and Manon to explore the city. We climbed another large hill that led to a beautiful park, where we got caught in some significant rainfall and tried to wait it out by taking cover near a small cafe and warmed up with tea (so typically English it sounds almost cliché). Later that evening, we found ourselves at probably the most unique wedding venue I'll ever experience - the Roman Baths. Viv and Pete's wedding was spectacular and such a wonderful way to end our British adventure.

This was the first trip we've taken since Japan that was a true culinary destination. I had so many ideas and inspirations from the food we ate that it was hard to settle on what I wanted to recreate upon arriving home. We don't typically eat as heavy as English fare can be, so initially I was thinking of recreating healthier versions of classics. A Whole30 take on fish n' chips? Sounds daunting...but maybe one day. There are thousands of paleo versions of shepherd's pie, fish n' chips, and to be frank, I wasn't craving those anymore. I was, however, craving one thing: tomato jam. Tomato jam? Yes you heard me! Tomato jam is everywhere in the UK. We had it smothered on the bacon naan roll from Dishoom, as a spread on the cheddar sandwich I got in Oxford, and found it sold in shops as an accompaniment to cheese and meat plates. Done. I knew I needed to not only share the recipe, but make it so I could eat it all of the time. If you are a tomato fan, you will love spreading this on everything - from veggie sandwiches, to avocado toast, crackers and hummus, or even mixed with Greek yogurt as a savory dip.

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs tomatoes (splurge on these - the better the tomatoes the better the taste), quartered*

1-2 large mild/medium spice peppers (I used Fresno), finely diced

4 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole

1.5 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp salt + more for taste

1/4 cup coconut sugar*

Instructions:

1. In a large Dutch oven or stock pot add all of the ingredients and turn heat to medium high. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.

2. Let the tomato mixture simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally, and using a wooden spoon to gently break up the tomatoes and tomato skins.

3. The jam is done with the mixture is thicken and "sticky." Use the wooden spoon to drag a line through the mixture, and if it leaves a path it's done! Taste and add more salt if desired.

4. Remove the garlic cloves and store in an air-tight mason jar or canning jar.

Notes:

1. You can peel/core the tomatoes, which will help produce a smoother jam. I like mine chunky, so I left the skin on.

2. If you prefer a smoother consistency, half way through cooking you can blend with an immersion or regular blender, then return to the Dutch oven to continue to thicken.

3. You can use regular sugar, but adjust to taste. Coconut sugar is less sweet, so I'd advise starting with half the amount and adding more to taste. Sugar is important to add, as it helps make the jam-like consistency.

4. This recipe makes about 10-12oz depending on how long you cook the mixture down.

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