Quick Indian-Chutneys

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Posted by Bina

They bring excitement to a meal. Like the grand finale in a fireworks display, bursts of tangy, spicy and sweet lighting up the tastebuds. Often referred to as condiments or accompaniments, chutneys have their own special, much loved place in Indian cuisine. Chutneys took center stage in our house when I was growing up, and no matter what other special dishes were set out in front of us, it was the chutneys we would zero in on! And ofcourse, the street food! All through college, ignoring our pristine college cafeteria, my friends and I would head out the wrought iron gates to the carts with chaat and their green and tamarind chutneys, vegetable sandwiches with the spicy green chutney and Amul butter, vada-pav with the garlic chutney, and dosas with coconut chutney. No matter what we were eating, the common request always was "Bhaiyya, aur thoda chutney daloge?" Loosely translated, "Can you please add more chutney?"

Chutneys are eaten with any meal, starting with breakfast right upto a late night snack. They are usually made with herbs, vegetables, fruits or leafy greens and can be either raw or cooked. The consistency can range from thick spreadlike to runny and can be powders too. Traditionally, chutneys used to be ground or pounded using a mortar-pestle or grinding stone but thanks to blenders and coffee-grinders, chutney-making has become a fairly simple task. Most of them freeze very well too. I usually freeze them in ice-cube trays and transfer the frozen cubes into ziploc bags, taking out cubes as needed. They are great as sandwich spreads, dips and in grilled cheese sandwiches. Just let your creativity run wild!

Here are some of my favorite chutneys. The amount of chiles (both fresh and dried) in the following recipes will have your tastebuds tingling but will not set your mouth on fire or make your ears ring! I have used thai chiles in recipes calling for green chiles. If you are unsure about the amount of chiles you can handle, start with half the amount called for and you can always add the rest in the last few pulses of the blender.

Tomato chutney

Makes approx. 2 cups


6 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped (approx. 3 cups)
1 medium onion, roughly chpped (approx. 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup carrot, roughly chopped (optional) - It adds some color and sweetness
1/2 cup red bell pepper, roughly chopped (optional)
1 green chile
1 1/2 tbsp canola/peanut/other neutral oil
For seasoning
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
1 dried red chili
3/4 tbsp oil

  • Heat 1 1/2 tbsp oil in a wide skillet and add the green chile, red bell pepper and chopped onions. Once the onions start to soften, add the chopped tomatoes and carrots.
  • Cook on medium high heat, stirring occassinally, for about 10 mins till the tomatoes become soft and all the vegetables are cooked. Let this mixture cool to room temperature.
  • While the tomato mixture is cooling, heat the 3/4 tbsp oil on medium heat in a small pan. Add the fenugreek seeds and let them turn darker (a couple of shades beyond golden brown).
  • Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and dried red chili. Once the mustard seeds start to pop, turn off the stove.
  • Put about 1/2 cup of the cooled tomato mixture in a blender and add the seasoning to it along with a little salt.
  • Grind to a fine paste and then add the rest of the tomato mixture and this time, grind to a slightly coarse paste. You can taste and add some more salt if needed.

    Cilantro chutney

    Makes approx. 1 cup


    2 cups cilantro (leaves and tender parts of stem), roughly chopped
    1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
    1 tsp cumin seeds
    juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
    1 green chile
    3/4 tsp sugar

  • Put the green chile, onion, cumin seeds, salt, sugar and lemon/lime juice in the blender and grind to a coarse paste. This helps the blades move easier when the cilantro is added.
  • Add the cilantro and puree to a fine paste.
  • Taste and add more salt if needed.

    Variation: You can replace half the cilantro with mint and add approx. 1/2 inch piece of ginger or a clove of garlic for a cilantro-mint chutney.

    Tamarind-Date chutney

    Makes approx. 1 1/2 cups

    3/4 cup tamarind concentrate/pulp
    1/2 cup pitted dates, soaked in a cup of hot water
    1 cup water
    1/3 tsp cayenne pepper powder
    1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar/jaggery
    1/2 tsp roasted cumin powder
    1/4 tsp ginger powder (optional)

  • Blend the dates along with the tamarind concentrate and 1/2 cup water in the blender till you get a smooth paste.
  • Transfer to a small pan and add the other 1/2 cup water, salt, cayenne pepper powder, brown sugar, cumin powder and ginger powder.
  • Cook on medium heat until it comes to a boil. Turn off heat and let it cool to room temperature.

    (Tamarind concentrate can be found in Indian stores as well as Asian stores. The Indian concentrate is usually very dark and looks a lot like thick molasses. It should be used in very small amounts. I use a product from Thailand that is similar to this and just love it! It looks and tastes like freshly made tamarind pulp)

    • Coconut chutney

      Makes approx. 2 cups


      1 3/4 cup grated, fresh coconut (I use frozen).
      1/2 cup roasted gram dal (dalia) or dry-roasted peanuts
      1 green chile
      appprox. 1 cup water
      1 tsp tamarind concentrate or 1 tbsp yogurt or 1 tbsp lemon/lime juice
      1 tbsp canola/peanut/other neutral oil
      1 tsp mustard seeds
      1/2 tsp cumin seeds
      1 tsp urad dal (optional)
      1 dried red chile
      a few curry leaves

    • Powder the dalia or roasted peanuts along with the green chile in the blender.
    • Add the grated coconut, water, tamarind/yogurt/lemon juice and some salt and blend to a smooth paste.
    • Tranfer to a bowl. Heat oil for seasoning in a small pan and add the urad dal, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, dried red chile and curry leaves.
    • When the urad dal turns golden brown and the mustard seeds start to pop, pour seasoning over coconut mixture and stir well.
    • Taste and add salt if needed.

      You can find grated (shredded) fresh coconut in the freezer section of larger grocery stores as well as in Indian and Asian grocery stores.

      This post was written by Bina

      Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: thedailytiffin@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

    • Where are you from? - The, sometimes, unanswerable question...

      Monday, February 08, 2010

      Posted by Hilda

      I’d like to talk about something a little personal, if I may, because I’m curious about what the rest of you who have experienced this in the past or are experiencing it now feel about it.
      I’m sort of a third culture kid, although even that doesn’t really describe what I am. I didn’t go from one culture to another and then form a third culture out of that mix of experiences; I was born in one Iran, raised the first half of my life in France and spent the second half of my childhood in the US in California. I’ve often been described as being like an onion, my core is Iranian, my mid-layers are French, and my outer layers are American, though the skin is Iranian based on my looks, and I've described myself as a cultural mutt when asked "what I was."
      I married a Pakistani who was born in Lahore but who, in terms of education, was raised in the United Kingdom, and in terms of vacation time was mostly in Saudi Arabia or sometimes back in Pakistan. He and I have funny arguments about the meaning of various words in American English as opposed to British English. I have two step-children, one who is half Pakistani-one quarter Kuwaiti-one quarter Swedish, and the other who is half Pakistani-half American. My ten month-old daughter, who is ethnically half Iranian-half Pakistani, was born in London, entitling her to a British passport to go with her various other passports and residency permits.

      Where am I going with this? Well, I’ve always had an easy and a hard time fitting in. Easy because there were few ways in which to be entrenched, my parents not being big sticklers for tradition, hard because I could always see what the other side of the argument might be, or the way that those “foreign” people might interpret the situation. I think of everywhere as home and nowhere as home if that makes sense. Wherever I am, if I am there for a while and haven’t traveled, I start to feel antsy and homesick for another home. It’s disconcerting sometimes because I can be in a room of people who have very strong opinions about their country or their part of the world and it feels like this brings them a sense of security in something permanent that I have never felt.
      That isn’t to say that I haven’t argued for my various countries of origin, as I actually did most of my life though I didn’t begin to realize it until I was in my late teens.
      My French childhood friends would sometimes refer to me as “l’Iranienne” (the Iranian); to my American schoolmates I was a French “frog” first but became Middle Eastern when the Middle East would come up in the news which then often translated to my representing terrorism somehow; to my French friends I became “l’Américaine” who could understand the way Americans thought and behaved and probably was betraying French culture and tradition by assimilating somehow; on the round went until eventually there were so many arrows pointing from one place to the other on so many different subjects that I stopped trying to defend one culture to another as a function of where I was geographically. If people didn’t want to understand, that was their own problem, not mine, but the feeling of not belonging was only delineated more sharply by the ever-growing impossibility of taking one side and sticking to it.

      So the question is, how do I raise my daughter to feel a sense of home that is, pardon the pun, foreign to me. The saying is that “home is where the heart is,” but that’s a bit trite and nebulous, isn’t it? I can certainly agree with the idea that my home is where my family is, but even though family is immutable, one still goes through life in one’s own head and is, in a way, alone. It’s likely that we will be traveling a fair amount as she grows up, partly because that is our wish and partly because our personal and professional lives require travel. Is the answer simply to make sure she has a thick skin?
      You’re probably wondering how my stepchildren have fared so far, and my answer would be quite well, but I don’t know what it was, or perhaps wasn’t, that has resulted in their faring so well while being pulled in so many different directions. I haven’t had a long discussion with either one of them about this because I don’t think I was fully cognizant of the source of my discomfort until I was in college, so I don’t think it fair to bring this open-ended question into their lives, until they start to feel it for themselves, while hoping that perhaps it will never enter their consciousness.

      I know that many of you who read the Daily Tiffin are expatriates in your own right, some having children and raising them in completely foreign cultures from your own, but wonder which of you were brought up in a couple or more different places, as I was, and feel like they have no country but, also, every country.
      And, if you have children, are you finding that their experience of several cultures is similar to yours or different, or that they are affected in ways you couldn’t have imagined because their experience was not, in the end, what you thought it would be based on your own understanding of the nomadic life? Why don't you step into my office...

      This post was written by Hilda

      Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: thedailytiffin@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

      OLD IS AS OLD DOES and Can we really be cool parents at 50?

      Tuesday, February 02, 2010

      Posted by Jamie

      Between school and careers, traveling and, quite possibly, selfishness, we are marrying older and having our children later than our parents and grandparents had them. This means that when our children enter their teen years we are pushing fifty or more. As our children are coming to terms with puberty and those turbulent adolescent years which bring the coming of adulthood, we are dealing with our own mid-life crisis, both of us passing over the rocky road of a life-changing period, coming to terms with a process that neither of us are really prepared for. And because of the bad timing, we end up bumping heads a little too often. Our kids are trying to look older, act older, appear older while we, yes, are trying to turn back the clocks. We are trying to wrap our heads around the fact that we have aged even if we don’t feel it at all, they want to grow up all the while clinging onto the safety of childhood. We color our hair and slip on something tight and try to deal with the withering look or, worse maybe, the eyes rolled heavenward in disbelief of our teen; the teen avoids the scrutinizing glare, the judgmental scolding of the parent when he or she appears in the hallway dressed in a similar uniform. The line between teen and parent of teen gets finer every year.

      Remember when moms and dads dressed like moms and dads? Remember the good old days of TV families, like The Cleavers or Rob and Laura Petrie? You know, dads wore suits to work then changed into beige cardigan sweaters and slacks before the 6 o’clock news came on and moms wore shirtdresses or skirts and blouses, sweater knotted casually around the shoulders, looking so cool and collected while dashing between clubs and grocery store? Moms and dads fell into recognizable categories and there was comfort in knowing that when we got home from school we would always find the same thing every day. And moms and dads never crossed the line, stepped over into our teen territory either in their wardrobe, their activities or their language. We wore the bell-bottomed jeans, they wore the polo shirts and banlon, we biked with our friends, played board games, surfed and danced, they played bingo and bridge or Mah Jong, had cocktail parties and went on cruises. We listened to The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, they played Herb Alpert or Burt Bacharach LPs. Now the line is oh-so fuzzy and our roles are tossed topsy-turvy up in the air like balloons, blown this way and that, changing day to day.

      I turned fifty this week. No matter how I saw it coming, it still surprised. The years pass and somehow I feel younger now than I have for a long time. But how to be a good parent when I feel so young, when I loathe playing the part of “a woman of a certain age”, the traditional mom? Changing times call for changing roles, yet I think that the younger generation is actually more uncomfortable with the setup than we are. We twitter and Facebook, we blog and we text. We chat with our girlfriends on Skype, giggling and gossiping like schoolgirls, laughing about hot musicians and hotter rugbymen, we hold hands with and kiss our husbands in public and while watching tv, we dress in the latest fashions, fashions quite possibly meant for younger women. And even while our sons’ friends say “Wow, your parents are so cool!” our sons wail “Why can’t you be normal like other parents?” Our tiny pleasures incite embarrassed glances, their friends only invited over when we are out. They shake their heads in dismay when they see us hunched over the computer, typing furiously, giggling hysterically as we tweet or update our status. And as I slip on my Doc Marten boots over my favorite fishnet stockings, hands are slapped against foreheads, as husband chases me around the house whooping like a crazy man, dog hot on his heels, as we fall in a heap onto the sofa and start making jokes about the latest celebrity gossip, they get up and silently slide out of the room.

      Can we be the cool parent at our age or are we simply an embarrassment? Should we get upset each time they say that we just don’t get it, that we grew up in The Dark Ages and therefore there is no way we understand anything that they are going through, that we can’t possibly know how to correctly use any of the internet social sites? Do they resent our advice, our advice lost somewhere between 1960’s straight-laced parental thinking and cool 20th century ideas? Well, yes. But what’s new? I actually think that our teens are just going through the same old teen rebellion, that ages-old parental disdain not unlike what we went through at their age and secretly they are pleased that their friends think we are cool, are pleasantly surprised that we have a popular blog, are proud when their friends gobble down crazy mom’s cakes and cookies and beg for more. They laugh at our jokes (no matter how hard they try to suppress the grin), enjoy going on vacation with us and think it’s funny when their friends flirt with us (yes it has happened!).

      So stay cool, keep on truckin’ (no, wait, that’s wrong…), allow yourself the same freedom of expression that they assume for themselves, laugh at yourself (and at them) long and hard and enjoy that youth for as long as you can hold onto it. One day, they, too, will understand and be glad that we taught them how to be content with what we have, who we are, what they are and what they can be. As I wrote in my birthday blog post: Time is fleeting, life is ephemeral, youth is a game. Enjoy it while you can. Everything else will fall into place.

      And I’d love to share an incredibly delicious, luscious, lemon treat that we all ate with gusto on this most important of birthdays.


      Makes 6 individual soufflé puddings.

      1 cup (200 g) sugar, divided
      3 Tbs (45 g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
      3 large eggs, separated
      1 tsp vanilla
      1 Tbs lemon zest
      1/3 cup (50 g) flour
      ¼ tsp salt
      1/3 cup (80 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
      1 cup whole milk (I used half low fat milk + half light cream)
      1/8 tsp cream of tartar (if you don’t have cream of tartar replace with a few grains of salt and a drop or 2 of lemon juice)

      Preheat the oven to 325°F (170°C). Butter 6 individual ramekins or pyrex bowls.

      Remove and set aside 2 Tbs of the sugar. Separate the eggs: place the yolks in a large mixing bowl and the whites place in a separate bowl preferably plastic or metal.

      Cream the butter with the rest of the sugar (1 cup less the 2 Tbs) until blended and fluffy. Beat in the yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition until blended. Beat in the vanilla and the lemon zest. Add the flour and the salt and beat just until combined. With the mixer on low, beat in the milk and the lemon juice. It will be very liquid.

      In the separate bowl with very clean beaters, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until foamy and then until soft peaks form. Continue beating the whites as you gradually add the 2 tablespoons sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form.

      Fold the whites into the yolk/lemon batter just until incorporated and you have no more chunks of whites.

      Using a ladle, fill the 6 ramekins with the batter almost to the top. Place the filled ramekins in a large baking pan (placing a piece of newspaper on the bottom of the pan keeps the water of the water bath from boiling) and very carefully (so as not to get any water in the lemon batter) fill the pan with hot water, so that the water is halfway up the ramekins. If you like, place the baking pan in the oven and then pour in the water; this will avoid you having to lift and move the baking pan after it is filled and risk splashing the water into the batter.

      Bake for 40 – 45 minutes. The tops will be puffed up, maybe ½ to 1 inch (1 – 2 cm) above the rim of the ramekins, and a deep golden brown.

      Remove the baking pan from the oven then carefully remove the ramekins from the water bath onto a kitchen towel. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Like a soufflé, the tops will sink a bit when cooling.

      Serve hot or warm – they can be eaten later but are best when fresh from the oven or just slightly cooled – with a sprinkling of powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream.

      These mini soufflé puddings are a cross between a soufflé, a mousse and a pudding: they will have a top layer of puffed, light as air soufflé and the bottom layer will be creamy, almost like a pudding. They are tart and lemony like the best of lemon pies but warm, light and soothing and oh-so elegant.

      The soufflé-like top.

      The pudding bottom.

      They are also delicious after a day or two in the refrigerator, like a fabulous, rich lemon mousse.

      This post was written by JAMIE

      Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: thedailytiffin@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.