Living the Good Life…

My food blog & cookbook in progress

Relish them chutneys

Chutney is perhaps best known in the West in its admittedly delicious guise of the sweet-n-spicy fruit paste (usually made of mango but also of peaches and other fruit) that comes in a jar from Sharwoods, Bedekars and the like. But tasty as these chutneys might be, one would be seriously amiss, and not to mention seriously lacking in experience, to limit oneself to them, because the there is an infinite world of chutney out there with vast differences in ingredients, methods of preparation, durability (shelf life) etc. etc. etc (the list can go on). They come in an artist’s palette of colors, and an equal variety of textures. Really the only limit is ones imagination.

Okay so that last sentence is a bit of a cop-out, because it leaves the field wide open and does not give any guidelines as to what a chutney really is. So here’s my definition – basically I think that a chutney is a relish or condiment like ketchup, mustard or well… relish, that is eaten along with other foods (staples usually but also veges and meats) to add a notch of flavor or zest to the meal. One of the things that makes them different from other foods that serve similar purposes – e.g pickles, is their shelf life. An Indian pickle (the only kind I refer to in this write-up)  is usually oil-based and can last for several months if not years. Chutneys are typically shorter-lived although the fruity ones most frequently associated with the word may last almost as long as some pickles. Another difference is texture. Pickles, by and large, tend to contain whole or large pieces of the vegetable/fruit being preserved, whereas a chutney is a more homogeneous mixture with the consistency of a thick pulp or paste. Occasionally ( I can think of two examples) there are chutneys that are virtually like thick powders, with no liquid ingredients. One is even called chutney-podi (which translated means chutney powder, go figure). I guess their function – as a flavor-enhancing, bite-imparting condiment in a meal – led to their designation as chutneys in the culinary parlance of the region.

Right enough said. Following are a selection of recipes for chutneys arranged by their colors/base ingredient. Some are classic accompaniments to certain dishes – coconut chutney for idlis and dosais for example, or the green coriander/mint chutney for samosas and other snacks – while others are just good to have handy in the ‘fridge or cupboard. Bottom line – they’re all lip-smackingly delicious.

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