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Easy-to-make Indian chutney
September 17, 2017, 1:42 pm
The word chutney comes from the Hindi word ‘chaatna,’ which means to lick. Chutneys are such flavor bombs that, in theory, even a lick is enough. Hot, tart, sweet, or a delightful mixture of all three, chutneys can yank your taste buds and your meal in a good direction, whether it be a coconut chutney with dosa or green chutney with samosas.

Like salsa, guacamole, and hummus, Indian chutneys are whipped out of fresh ingredients, meant for immediate consumption, and have a lot of flexibility as far as ingredients and proportions are concerned. Follow the given steps and prepare your own delicious chutney.

Pick your star ingredient: Chutneys can be made from vegetables, herbs, nuts, and/or fruits. First, pick your star ingredient. This could be tomatoes, zucchinis, mango, cabbage, cilantro, mint, or dill. You can include more than one hero ingredient as long as they cook for the same amount of time. Combine with something that will bring heat (fresh green or dry red chili peppers), something tart (lime juice, lemon juice, tamarind paste), and a homogenizing agent like raw peanuts, roasted peanuts, or sesame powder. You can also add some garlic and salt.

Decide on cooking: Your star ingredient will dictate if you need to apply heat or not. With herbs like cilantro, mint, or basil, take advantage of their freshness and green color and go raw. Vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini, and cabbage demand heat so that they can break down and facilitate grinding. Or, go for a straight nut chutney that simply requires roasting and grinding.  

When not heating ingredients, gather them and pulse: Untie a bunch of cilantro (or a mixture of cilantro or mint), snip off the hard stem ends, and throw the leaves in a powerful blender with your chilies.  Add a handful of raw peanuts, juice of one medium lime, one garlic clove, and a few salt pinches into the blender.  Pour some water, just enough to facilitate grinding and make sure to grind to a smooth, creamy paste. Raw chutneys will last for a week in the refrigerator.

Some herb, raw combinations to try:

  • Cilantro + green Thai chili peppers + raw peanuts + juice of lime + garlic
  • Basil + green Thai chili peppers + pine nuts + lime juice + garlic
  • Cilantro + mint + green Thai chili peppers + raw peanuts + lime juice
  • Dill leaves + Thai green Chile peppers + garlic  + lime juice + chopped pieces of 1/2 medium avocado + small teaspoonful of sour cream (pungent flavor of dill requires 2 homogenizing agents, avocados and sour cream)

Sauté and pulse: Tomatoes, zucchini, mango and cabbage are ingredients that break down readily with heat and lend themselves well to chutneys.  Use one to two chili peppers per tomato or about a cup of chopped zucchini, and two to three for a medium mango. Feel free to add a clove or two of garlic or a handful mint leaves.

Some combinations for chutneys that need to be cooked before grinding:

  • Two tomatoes chopped + two to three Thai green chili peppers + handful ground peanuts (garlic and mint optional)
  • Two cups of chopped zucchini/bottle gourd + three to four Thai green chili peppers + one garlic clove + a handful ground peanuts + lime juice
  • One medium mango peeled and chopped + two to three chili peppers + lime juice + a handful ground peanuts + some grated ginger if you want some extra kick.

Pour one swirl of vegetable or canola oil in a sauté pan, throw in peppers first as they take longest to cook. Turn the heat to medium. After about five minutes or so — when peppers start charring and changing color— add your vegetable of choice and garlic.  If you like turmeric, or ground or grated ginger, or another spice, add a pinch when the main ingredients are cooking.

Vegetables will steam out and their water will evaporate in about ten minutes. Turn the heat off and let cool. Combine this mixture with three to four pinches of salt, the homogenizing agent, and lime juice in a blender and pulse for coarse chutney. For a chunky paste, the ideal method is to grind in a mortar and pestle.

Roast and grind a nut chutney: Nutty chutneys are a thing of beauty because of the ease of preparation and their endless uses. Grab a handful walnuts, almonds, or pistachios and throw them in a blender. Add two to three pinches of salt and eyeball about half a teaspoon of red chili powder or paprika. Grind until semi-coarse.  Store this powdered mixture in a clean, glass jar at room temperature.



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