Chutneys are palate-teasing relishes with sharp contrasts of sweet, sour, hot and salty flavors that perk up Indian meals or serve as an accent to other dishes.
Chutneys may be thick or thin, chunky or smooth, robustly or delicately seasoned. “Chutney” is an Indian word that became Anglicized soon after the East India Company began trading with Madras in Southern India. A catchy verse suggests:
All things chickeny and mutt’ny
Taste far better when served with chutney.
This is the mystery eternal:
Why didn’t Major Grey make Colonel?
– John F. Mackay, in “The Cooking of India” by Santha Rama Rau (Time-Life Books, 1975)
A simple or elaborate meal is considered incomplete without a piquant dab of homemade chutney or pickle.
Chutneys can be served freshly prepared or cooked. They are a simple mixture of raw food blended with seasonings. Freshly prepared chutneys are perishable and should be consumed within 24-48 hours after they are made. Cooked chutneys are tempered through cooking and can be kept for a few days.
Chutneys are easy to make – they just need a little chopping, sautéing, simmering and blending. Many of the ingredients are stimulating digestives, including mint, green chilies, cilantro and garlic. They are naturally prepared with no artificial additives.
The Hindi word for “to crush” literally means “to make chutney.” The authentic process for making chutney includes crushing the ingredients together with a stone or a pestle and mortar.
If your skin is sensitive, I advise that you wear a pair of hand gloves when coming in contact with hot green chilies.
Prepare the following recipe for Cilantro Chutney with Roasted Peanuts in a blender. It makes an ideal accompaniment to appetizers such as samosas, potato and cauliflower fritters (pakoras), cutlets, crackers and bread.
Cilantro Chutney with Roasted Peanuts
• 8-10 raw peanuts
• 1/2 teaspoon olive oil (to roast peanuts)
• 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, washed and chopped
• 5-6 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
• Pinch of garlic paste salt, to taste
• Pinch of white sugar or dash of agave nectar (balances taste)
• 1/2 green chili (optional)
Heat oil and roast peanuts on low heat in small frying pan until brown in color. Skin should start to peel. Let cool.
Combine remaining ingredients with roasted peanuts in blender on high speed. Process to smooth paste, adding 4-5 tablespoons of water to blend.
Check taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Serve immediately with a favorite appetizer.
Gitika Baveja is author of “Indian Flavors to Savor: The Easy Home Cooked Way.” For more information and additional recipes, visit www.flavorstosavor.com.