Spice it up with chutney
According to the Oxford Companion to Food: “Chutney: the ordinary English spelling of the Indian word which used to be spelled chutni and now chatni. In Indian cuisine a chatni is a spicy relish eaten as a side dish to add interest to less piquant food such as rice and dal (dhal). It is freshly prepared for each meal by grinding spices, herbs, pepper, garlic and some type of fruit, like coconut, limes, tamarind, and at times mango. This type of chutney is a vegetarian dish and always has a sour tang.”
Chutney has woven its way into our culinary landscape. The recipes were brought here by the indentured labourers in the 1800s. Mango chutney was probably the most popular then, and although mangoes originate in India, it was the Portuguese and Spanish who actually brought mangoes to the West Indies in the 15th century. When the Indians arrived there were already mango and tamarind trees, and hot peppers and other spices, making it easy to recreate their beloved chutneys.
Chutneys are used widely today as an accompaniment to all our Indian delicacies; in fact without a spicy chutney some of these items can be quite bland.
Most of the chutneys here today are commercially made and sold. We have an array to choose from: tamarind, mango, roasted pepper, coconut, and sometimes a combination is available. However, as with all commercial condiments, much of the fresh flavour and spicy kick is lost. I am wondering whether it moves from being a chutney to a spicy condiment because of the commercial mode of preparation?
But the chatni has now evolved to a chutney, which according to the Trinidad and Tobago diaspora of foods, could easily include the commercial preparations as well.
Nothing beats getting a kick out of a home-made chutney. Here are some of my favourites for you to create and enjoy through this Divali week and beyond, and yes, some are cooked and some are fresh.
Green mango chutney
2 large green mangoes, peeled and grated
1 tsp garlic, minced
¼ cup chadon beni
salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1 tsp pepper sauce or to taste
1 tsp sugar
Place all the ingredients in a blender except the sugar, blend to a fine consistency, add sugar only to balance the sourness of the mangoes, adjust salt. Will keep for 2 weeks in a glass bottle in the refrigerator.
Makes about 1 cup
4 large pommecytheres
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp ground hot pepper
⅓ cup chopped chadon beni
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
Place all the ingredients in a blender except the sugar, blend to a fine consistency, add sugar only to balance the sourness of the pommecythere, adjust salt. Will keep for 2 weeks in a glass bottle in the refrigerator.
Makes about 1 cup
2 cups peeled, ripe tamarind pods
2 tbsp salt
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tbsp freshly-ground, roasted geera
½ hot pepper, seeded and minced (more or less to taste)
6 cloves of garlic minced
Put tamarind pods in a small saucepan and barely cover with boiling water, let steep for 30 minutes.
Remove the seeds from the tamarind and discard, (a potato crusher works well to separate the seeds from the pulp)
Add the salt, sugar, geera, pepper and garlic, stir to mix.
Bring the mixture to a boil and remove from heat.
Taste and adjust seasonings. The chutney should be slightly sour-sweet in taste.
10 green mangoes
20 cloves garlic, peeled
4 hot peppers
1 small package amchar masala
1 cup mustard oil
Peel mangoes and grate, squeeze out the liquid from the mango and lay flat on a large tray to dry, place out in the sun or in a 200F oven for a few hours.
Mince garlic and pepper, add to mangoes, then stir in amchar masala.
Now pour on the mustard oil and stir just until it coats the mango. You may not need all.
Taste and adjust to suit.
Makes about 4-8 oz jars.
Will keep for up to one year.
Roasted coconut chutney
1 coconut, cracked and meat removed in large pieces
1 hot pepper
4 cloves garlic
1 small onion
2 blades chadon beni
Wash and dry coconut meat roast in oven or an open flame until browned all around.
Grate or blend in a blender with pepper, onion, chadon beni and garlic.
Add salt to taste.
"Spice it up with chutney"