When one thinks of chutney, the first thing that comes to mind is the ever-popular Coconut Chutney. Did you know that there are many different types, perhaps hundreds or thousands?
Chutney is a general term for condiments in South India that are made of finely ground vegetables and spices. Sometimes they are even made with fruit for a different flavor. I was surprised to learn that this tasty dish can be traced back to Europe rather than India over 2000 years ago where it was a method of food preservation. With traders and conquerors over the ages, the tasty treat was spread to India where it took hold and developed. During the British reign over the Indian princely states, these Indian condiments became staples in British food and were spread to other British colonies as well as the UK. Now chutney is made with regional ingredients and spices, and is loved by all. It is even available in many different varieties and flavors in American grocery stores.
Chutney is made by grinding the primary ingredient(s), the item(s) listed in the name, then mixing it with spices that have been carefully prepared by roasting or frying, and grinding. The most popular spices in chutney are red chiles, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, asafetida and salt.
A mortar and pestle is the traditional tool for making chutney but most cooks today use a spice grinder or blender. My husband believes that grinding it this way results in a superior flavor. I think using electric equipment saves time and energy while increasing consistency in the ground ingredients.
Chutney is served with most Indian meals or snacks. No Indian meal is complete without it. Traditionally it is made just before the meal so it is fresh. Specific chutneys accompany certain dishes because the cook wants to add a unique flavor to enhance the dish. Many chutneys are spicy since they include red or green chiles but heat is not a requirement, they can be mild. Chutney is also used to add a sweet taste to a teatime snack or at the end of a meal. Common chutney pairings include:
- Coconut – Sambar, Dosa, Idli
- Mint – Pappadum, Samosa, Kababs, any snack
- Cilantro – Pappadum, Samosa, Kababs, any snack
- Garlic – Chaat
- Onion – Dosa, Idli
- Tomato – Dosa, Idli
- Chile – Dosa, Idli, Uthappam
- Dal – Idli, Dosa, Uthappam
- Green Mango – serve with any meal
- Raw Papaya (Achar) – serve with any meal
- Date – Chaat
- Tamarind – Chaat, Pappadum
- Mango – Snacks, Spicy cheese, spread on bread or crackers
- Pineapple – Snacks, spicy cheese, spread on bread or crackers
Chutney does not need to be served in a separate bowl along with a meal. This is a very versatile concoction and can be added to foods to create an entirely new taste. Try serving a fruit chutney with cheese or add some to some of your favorite recipes:
- vinaigrette dressing with mango or onion chutney
- chicken or tuna salad with mango or cranberry chutney
- roasted root vegetables with mango or pineapple chutney
- roasted chicken with tomato or onion chutney
- beef with tomato chutney
There are many varieties of chutney. I listed a few above but, in fact, the list of primary ingredients and, then, combinations of ingredients goes on and on. Next week the Recipes of the Month will all be chutneys. Try a few of my chutney recipes with your next meal!
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