Monthly Archives: September 2010

A Belligerence of Starlings

The starlings, I have just noticed, have returned. And in numbers too, which I suppose is hardly surprising. Six or seven of them can just now be seen in silhouette on a neighboring gable, picking at something on the tiles.

I hope it’s some kind of nasty moss. I hope they choke on it, the vile creatures.

This habit that starlings have, of descending, suddenly and in numbers, like a biker gang roaring into a quiet seaside village, scaring away all the nice blue tits and chaffinches who were happily coexisting around the feeder, prompts me to wonder whether we have a suitable collective noun for starlings, one that captures their malevolent and obnoxious essence.

We have a murder of crows, of course, and a collective noun that directly evokes a crime seems quite fitting for the peculiar odiousness of corvids.

However, the crime of which starlings can most fairly be accused is the admittedly lesser offence of stealing someone else’s lunch. A larceny of starlings? It’s not bad, but it isn’t quite right.

What is wanted is a collective noun that is charged with some of the presence of starlings, the surly and minatory quality which, along with unappealing spots, they share with schoolyard bullies.

I am going to suggest a belligerence of starlings. Just you see if it doesn’t catch on.

Tomato and Chilli Chutney



This was a rather straightforward chutney, but it benefited from tomatoes grown by B. and onions grown by E. and M. on their country allotment.


1 kg tomatoes

2 onions

180 g sugar

120 ml white wine vinegar

1 thumb-sized chunk of root ginger

1 tsp chilli flakes

1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika (I use La Chinata)

Seasoning to taste


1. Add a glug of olive oil to a heavy-bottomed saucepan.

2. Grate the ginger directly into the olive oil. This works better if the ginger is straight from the freezer, which is where ours tends to be stored.

3. Chop the onions roughly, so that they provide some bite and texture in the finished chutney. Sweat these on a low heat until clear.

4. Add the tomatoes and sugar and bring to the boil, stirring constantly.

5. Reduce the heat. Add the vinegar and chilli flakes.

6. Simmer until the mixture has been reduced to a viscous and glossy sauce. You want a chutney that will stay put when you spoon it onto a cracker. This will take an hour or longer. Wait until 10 or 15 minutes from the end to add the paprika as it’s a more delicate spice.

Serving Suggestions

With cheese on any suitable vehicle (bread, crackers, what-have-you). We put it on burgers on the day we made the batch picture above, which was met with general acclaim.