Indian food, both ancient and modern, has always been about those sauces and condiments. Contrary to the jarred preserved stuff westerners think of as “chutney”, the real stuff in India is almost always made with fresh ingredients.
There will be one more classic chutney in the next Indian recipe, but here are three to get us going: cilantro, mango, and tamarind.
All very simple, very basic, very DELICIOUS recipes.
This stuff is one of my all time favorite condiments. It’s creamy yet impossibly fresh, a blast of flavor welcome on almost anything. Here’s what’s in it:
–2 cloves Garlic
-2-3 limes, juiced
-2 large bunches Cilantro
-2 Spring onions (or 4 scallions) whites included)
-1/4 cup plain yogurt
-Salt to taste
You’ll notice there’s no dry spices here. This one is all about the fresh herbs. Also, you can make it in a food processor for a more modern blended sauce, but just like with a good pesto, I prefer mashing in a mortar and pestle, bruising the leaves rather than shredding them and making a chunkier texture.
To start, mash the garlic, then add the lime juice and grind into a thin paste.
Then, LIGHTLY rough chop the cilantro, including some of the stems. You only want to break it up a bit. Over chop, and you’ll leave all the flavor on your cutting board.Add the cilantro in three batches, pounding each handful until it is bruised enough to add more. When all the leaves are wilted, switch to a grinding motion to emulsify everything.
Add the yogurt and season with salt (I like my cilantro chutney on the more yogurty side. If you prefer less, feel free to reduce the amount by half.)
SAVORY MANGO CHUTNEY
A little sweet, a little peppery, this versaitle “quick-jam” is a great topper for dinner or dessert.
-2 just barely ripe Mangos, peeled and diced
-1 teaspoon mustard seeds
-1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
-5 Cloves garlic, minced
-1/2 yellow onion, diced
-3 tbsp. fresh ginger, small diced
-1/2 cup white vinegar
-small bunch garlic chives (or substitute regular chives)
In a little oil or clarified butter over medium low heat, saute the dry spices and garlic chives to temper them, until the seeds begin to “dance”, about a minute.
Add the onion, garlic, and ginger, sauteing until the onion begins to turn soft and translucent on the sides. Turn up the heat to high and add the mango, cooking until soft and just slightly brown. Add the vinegar to deglaze the pan.
Give everything a light mash and remove from the heat. That’s it! Serve it up. Easy.
SWEET AND SOUR TAMARIND CHUTNEY
This one is the simplest of them all. You only need:
-1 lb. block of solid tamarind paste
-1 cup cane sugar (or subtitute brown)
-1 quart water
-2 cinnamon sticks (optional)
Roughly chop the tamarind into large chunks. No need for precision or uniformity here, it’s all dissolving.
Put it in a pot, seeds pulp and all, along with sugar and cinnamon sticks, adding enough water to cover. Bring the mixture up to an easy boil, stirring occasionally until all the tamarind dissolves and the mixture has reduced just a little. It won’t take more than a few minutes once the water is hot.
Pass the mixture through a strainer. You will have to stir and mash it quite a bit to pass everything through. Stir the water and paste together into a new bowl, and add more water if necessary to approach a good consistency. (It’s up to you how thin you want it, but keep in mind it will thicken up considerably as it cools and sets).
And now, our trio is complete, ready to accompany a variety of meats, rice dishes, breads, pulses, and pancakes. More on that next time……. Until then, these three delicious sauces should satiate us.