I’ve talked about chutneys here before, right?
I’m always talking about chutneys (not to be confused with Indian pickled condiments like aachaars) in class, telling my students that in Indian cooking they are not always chunky, nor even always cooked. They can be raw or cooked, and usually are highly-seasoned with a smooth consistency, unlike the fruity chunky chutneys I see served on roast meats here in the West (though this one looks GREAT!) Westerners tend to use my chutney recipes for anything and everything: as dipping sauces for vegetables or chips and as all-purpose condiments in lieu of say- ketchup. But a very traditional way is to have some chutney just on your plate next to the rest of your food. And have your ketchup too, if you must.
This chutney recipe came about since I shopped at my regular grocery store this week, the Wheatsville Co-op, and was surprised to see an overabundance of local produce. The crops must have just exploded with these colorful edibles since I was just there a couple of weeks ago and saw very little. I picked up some sunshine yellow squash and thought I’d make a chutney out of them since they’re a water-laden vegetable and could blend up nicely after a quick saute.
You only need a dollop of this South Indian style condiment for your whole dinner. Use it to add a dimension of flavor to your already flavorful curries. By that I don’t mean mix it into your curries. Set it on the side of your plate (it does look ugly, but then so does a lot of Indian food!), next to your chhole, kheema, chappattis or rice, raita, and whatever else you might be lucky to enjoy today. With each forkful or handful of starch plus curry, scoop up a spoonful of yogurt or raita and a bit of the chutney. Another way to use these chutneys is to mix it into some khichri, a satiating porridge of overcooked lightly spiced lentils and rice (the British transformed this dish into kedgeree). Or simply mix chutney into steaming plain basmati rice with a bit of ghee and some homemade yogurt. That’s how the South Indians do it!
Save the rest of the chutney for dosas or idlis the next day, should you be so lucky to have them in your meal plan. I might even use this condiment as a base on bruschetta or pizza. If you make this, I’d love to know how you used the chutney!
Makes about 1/3 cup, enough for 6-8 adults
This authentic South Indian style vegetable chutney from Andhra Pradesh is meant to taste spicy, strongly seasoned, and faintly sour from the tamarind. If you don’t have tamarind, just leave it out as lemon just won’t give it the same flavor. Thai chilies are great for the heat, but you can use Serrano peppers as well. And sesame powder is a cinch to whip up so don’t be put off by that last extra step, though it is optional in this chutney.
2 tablespoons canola oil or any high-smoke point cooking oil
¼ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
2 Thai chilies, sliced and quartered lengthwise
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
10-15 fresh curry leaves (not curry powder)
½ medium onion, thinly sliced crosswise into half-moons
1 medium-sized yellow squash, cut into a ¼ inch dice
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
2 quarter-size pieces of dried seedless tamarind pulp, soaked in 2 tablespoons hot water
3-4 green onions, chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted in a dry skillet over medium heat, then finely ground to a powder
1) Begin the tempering of spices (known as tadka/chowk/thalimpu): heat oil to medium-high in a small saucepan or skillet until shimmering and very hot, but not smoking.
2) Add mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, which should be within a few seconds if the oil is hot enough, add cumin seeds (which should sizzle around the pan) and immediately lower heat.
3) Immediately add the sliced chilies, sliced garlic, and curry leaves. The leaves can cause oil splash so keep a lid nearby. Stir constantly to avoid burning the garlic. Lower heat as necessary.
4) Add onions and stir well. Cook for a few minutes, until the onions are beginning to sweat and turn translucent.
5) Stir in the squash pieces.
6) Add turmeric and salt. Mix well.
7) Put in the tamarind pieces without their soaking water into the skillet. Keep the soaking liquid for later.
8) Cook on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the squash softens and the tamarind pieces soften.
9) Turn off heat and cool slightly.
10) Scoop the skillet contents into a food processor, adding 1 tablespoon of the soaking tamarind water and additional water, up to 2 tablespoons, to achieve desired consistency (like a paste, or thick dipping sauce).
11) Blend in the ground toasted sesame powder.
12) Taste for salt and for sourness. Add more tamarind water as desired.
13) Serve at room temperature with curries, dosas, idlis, chips, or pita bread.
copyrighted by Shefaly Ravula/ Shef’s Kitchen