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

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      Oh bina this is an exceptional post. I love the tamarind date chutney and have noted the ingredients already. chutneys add such jazz to any dish and i love them on cheese sandwiches. indian meals are just not the same if my shutney is not accompanying it!

      Meeta K. Wolff said...
      February 17, 2010 at 8:29:00 AM GMT+1  

      The Tamarind-Date and Tomato chutney look yummy! I think I am going to try and make one of these this week. What would you put the Tamarind-Date chutney on? Bread? Or is there something else that you could recommend? Great post Bina!

      Unknown said...
      February 17, 2010 at 11:03:00 PM GMT+1  

      Wow, chutneys are looking tempting!!!!!

      Khaugiri said...
      February 18, 2010 at 3:57:00 AM GMT+1  

      Thanks Meeta and Khaugiri.

      Jennifer-The tamarind-date chutney usually pairs well with fried foods and things with plain yogurt(like raitas etc).Let me know how it turns out!

      Bina said...
      February 18, 2010 at 4:13:00 AM GMT+1  

      Wow! This is fabulous and Oh so professional. I love the images, the recipes, the write up and the whole look. Very professional looking indeed. You are really getting good at this.


      Usha said...
      February 19, 2010 at 12:53:00 AM GMT+1  

      this is an awesome post! thanks so much for sharing. I love to have variety in my condiments and what a great idea for a post.

      Chitra said...
      February 23, 2010 at 10:27:00 PM GMT+1  

      Chutneys!!! WOW!!! Love them...I also make a combination of cilantro and mint..


      Astha said...
      February 25, 2010 at 4:15:00 AM GMT+1  

      Great Indian cilantro chutney recipe! I just tried it a couple of days ago, and it was delicious, and easy to make. Thanks!

      Barb said...
      February 25, 2010 at 5:20:00 PM GMT+1  

      Usha, Chitra and Astha-Thanks!
      Barb-Thanks and glad you liked it!

      Bina said...
      February 27, 2010 at 1:12:00 AM GMT+1  

      Bina, this is fantastic - I love chutneys and you have offered us a fabulous array. I have never had the courage to make a chutney but now I think I will. Your beautiful photos are too mouthwatering!

      Jamie said...
      March 3, 2010 at 9:26:00 AM GMT+1  

      Such beautiful pics especially the placement for the green chutney and the red one. I wish that chutney topped bruschetta slice was in my mouth right now! Great post - I am always saying that "Bhaiya, thoda aur..."

      Sunshinemom said...
      March 5, 2010 at 10:21:00 AM GMT+1  

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