A Palette of Flavors - Chutneys
Chutneys: clockwise from bottom - tamarind , coconut , coriander, capsicum
Chutney - colorful, tangy, tasty, spicy, zesty, lip-smackingly delicious, yummmmm !!!
So many words to describe the ubiquitous, humble, earthy chutney!
The word "Chutney" has become synonymous with the Indian subcontinent and immediately conjures up images of scorching heat, dusty roads, noisy markets, fresh produce, spicy foods, savory smells, .. Oh, I could go on!!!
Chutneys have earned their place of honor in the English lexicon and it is not uncommon to find the word associated with any spicy/sweet condiment. Chutney is simply ingredients that are crushed and blended together into a thick sauce. Check out a description of chutney in wikipedia here.
Chutneys play a very important role in the Indian cuisine. They are the tried and trusted side dishes for various main courses. Some pairings of chutneys are legendary - idli-chutney, dosa-chutney - while others are not so common. But there is no dish that cannot be pepped up with the addition of a chutney or two.
Chutneys vary widely depending on the region in India. Chutneys in the south are often made with fresh coconut and green chillies where as chutneys from the north region are often made with coriander, onions and green chillies.
I love chutneys of all kinds and eat them with chappatis, puris (my favorite!), toast, buttered bread, crackers etc.
I often make a batch of chutneys to have on hand. My favorite, top-ranking chutneys are
- Tamarind or Imli chutney
- Red capsicum chutney
- coriander chutney
- Coconut chutney
The order is not how much I like them, but how long they keep.
Most of the ingredients needed for these 4 chutneys will be readily available in any well stocked pantry and kitchen:
chutney ingredients for all 4 types:
Clockwise from top left: brown sugar, curry leaves, red chillies, tamarind, fresh coriander, peanuts, grated fresh coconut, red capsicum, cumin/jeera, roasted chana dal(dalia), green chillies, black pepper, red chilli powder, lemon
Tart and sweet, this chutney can be used for bhels and other chats. It goes very well with green coriander chutney and can be served with all kinds of fried snacks like bajjis, pakodas even french fries :) . It keeps forever in the freezer. It gets a consistency like soft icecream and I just scoop it out and thaw it whenever I need some.
Tamarind, brown sugar, chilli powder, black pepper
- Soak the tamarind in hot water and extract the pulp.
- Take equal amounts of tamarind and sugar and heat in a non-reactive saucepan
- Simmer till quite thick. The consistency should be just a little runnier than that of ketchup
- Add salt, black pepper and chilli powder according to taste
- Cool and store in container
- This will stay for months in the freezer. Thaw as required.
Red Capsicum Chutney
With a brilliant orange hue, this chutney is lip smacking good. It is creamy like a mayonaise, but has almost no fat. Goes well with dosas. Spread it on dosas to make Mysore Masala Dosa. mmmmm...
If you take care to grind it without any water, it will stay fresh in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. If the blender absolutely will not grind it, add a tsp of oil to help loosen it up. We've packed this chutney in a bottle for a road trip and it kept beautifully.
red capsicum, cumin seeds, dried red chillies
- Seed and finely slice the red capsicums
- Heat one 1 tsp of oil in a frying pan
- Add the jeera and fry till it gets a golden brown and aromatic
- Add the dried red chillies and the sliced capsicum
- Fry well till the capsicums are cooked and all the water from them has evaporated. This is very important. If there is still a lot of water left, the chutney will not keep well.
- Cool and then grind to a velvety smooth paste without adding any water. Trust me, this will grind in a regular blender.
- Add salt to taste.
The good old standby coriander chutney! Lots of uses for this chutney. Use it for bhels and chats and also for making wonderful sandwiches. Spread on bread with butter and then layer with cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, and other veggies of choice for yummy bombay-style sandwiches.
peanuts, coriander, cumin seeds, green chillies
- Grind all of the above and adjust salt to taste
- Squeeze a bit of lemon juice to retain color and give it a tang.
- This will stay fresh in the fridge for 2-3 days
The "King of the South" - this chutney reigns supreme in all south indian kitchens. A perfect accompaniment to idlis, dosas, oothapams, upma, kozhakattai and other south indian breakfast dishes. This can be made with fresh or frozen grated coconut - dessicated coconut is not a good substitute!! . Sadly this chutney will spoil quickly and turn rancid the next day, if it lasts that long!!
grated coconut, green chillies, roasted chana dal(dalia)
- Grind coconut, green chillies and roasted chana dal to a smooth paste.
- Add salt to taste.
- Heat 1 tsp oil in a small pan
- Add 1/4 tsp asafoetida, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds and a few curry leaves.
- When the mustard seeds pop, pour this mixture on top of the chutney.
This is the basic version of the chutney. There are umpteen variations. Some people add a bit of tamarind for a slight tang, others add a spoonful of yogurt. I've had this with red chillies instead of the green. Some add one or more of - ginger, garlic, coriander leaves, curry leaves while grinding.
There are no set rules for chutneys. You can let your creativity flow and come up with new combinations to make chutneys and new ways to use them.
That's the universal appeal of "Chutney"!!