The making of Anglo-Indian chutneys with a long shelf life is an autumnal job many people don’t even want to think about. It is one of those culinary chores, like jam-making, that is considered highly labour intensive — and one we should avoid.
The Indians serve freshly-made chutneys using those fruits and vegetables that are in season — and at their best and cheapest.
However, most non-Indian cooks also run away from making fresh chutneys because they think a great deal of work is involved. They couldn’t be more wrong.
Fresh chutneys are made to be eaten on the day, which means the amount of fruit and vegetables involved is small and the preparation time is short.
Most of the fresh chutneys call for only a small amount of chopping or grinding (and even less when a blender can be used) and can be prepared in as little as 5-10 minutes.
Fresh chutneys are usually sweet or sour and sometimes sweet and sour. The souring agent is often lemon juice but it can also be yoghurt as well as other acidic fruits such as tamarind. If a fresh chutney recipe calls for vinegar, use a cider one as its acidity is much less aggressive.
Chutneys are meant to tease and jolt the palate but they have a secondary role: that of decorating the table. Serve them in white porcelain dishes to accentuate their intense colour or in bright ceramic bowls of complementary pastel shades. And don’t forget that all freshly-made chutneys match very nicely with all kinds of western summer dishes.
Mint chutney is most aromatic and soothing and it seems to be just about everyone’s favourite. You can buy biggish bunches of mint at the Mercat d’Olivar for around €1.50.
You will need: 50grs fresh mint leaves, 1 finely chopped spring onion, 2 tbsps fresh pomegranate seeds (when in season), a good pinch of cumin seeds, salt to taste, 4tbsps lemon juice.
Put the first three ingredients into a mortar and pound coarsely. Add the cumin seeds and the salt and pound until the seeds are well crushed. Put the chutney into a bowl, add the lemon juice (or to taste) and mix thoroughly. Serve well chilled.
An electric blender would reduce the mint to a paste, so don’t use it with this recipe. This chutney calls for the rough texture achieved by pounding the ingredients in a mortar.
Apricots are in season and they are ideal for making fresh chutneys. For a tangy one you will need: 300grs half-ripe apricots, 2 tbsps chopped parsley, 1 heaped tsp finely chopped shallots, salt to taste, lemon juice as needed.
Wash and dry the apricots, halve them and remove the pits. Put the fruit, parsley and shallot into a mortar or an electric blender and pound or blitz to a pulp. Stir in the salt. Transfer to a serving bowl and add lemon juice if the mixture is too thick. Chill well before serving.
This chutney is ideal for serving with western dishes. For an interesting variation use slightly unripe pears instead of apricots.
If you’ve seen the movie Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, then you’ll know that green tomatoes can be turned into a delicious sauce. And if you’re American, you knew it without having seen the movie.
Green tomatoes can also be used to make a delectable fresh chutney, so this is the recipe to use when they are plentiful at the Mercat d’Olivar or your local supermarket. The best place to buy green tomatoes is Supercor in Calle Ramon i Cajal (just along from Made in China, one of Palma’s best Chinese restaurants). They are always very green and the price is lower than at any other outlet I know.
You will need: 4 biggish green tomatoes, 4 spring onions, 2 tbsps chopped parsley, 1tsp ground ginger, salt to taste and lemon juice as required.
Wash the spring onions and tomatoes, chop them roughly, and put them into a blender with the parsley, ginger and salt and blitz briefly. The mixture must remain somewhat coarse.
Transfer the mixture to a serving dish and add a little lemon juice, taking care that the chutney does not become too runny. Chill well before serving.
Bananas, available throughout the year, also make a tasty chutney. For this one you will need: 2 medium sized bananas, 2tbsps desiccated coconut, pinch each of ground cumin, mustard powder and ground cardamom seeds, 2tbsps lemon juice, 1tbsp finely shredded fresh mint, salt to taste.
Peel and roughly mash the bananas and blitz them in a blender with the other ingredients, except the mint leaves. Transfer the mixture to a serving dish and chill well. Just before serving, sprinkle the shredded mint leaves over the surface.
This chutney makes a delightful side dish that pairs well with cold roast meats and poultry and other western dishes. Experiment to see where it best fits in with your favourite dishes.
Grapes make splendid chutneys and as the seedless varieties are widely available there is no need to pick out the seeds. You will need: 300grs seedless grapes, 2tbsps finely chopped parsley, pinch cumin seeds, 1tsp ground ginger, lemon juice if needed and salt to taste.
Wash and dry the grapes and briefly blitz in a blender with the other ingredients. If the consistency is too thick, add lemon juice to make it a little thinner, but don’t make it runny. Chill well before serving.
Fresh chutneys lend themselves to improvisation and experiments. You can make them with any kind of fruit, so use the above recipes as a guideline and try other fruits that take your fancy.
Raitas are similar to fresh chutneys in that they are cooling side dishes made with yoghurt. They have a double advantage in summer — they help to combat the heat and provide a nice variety of vitamins and minerals.
Yoghurt is probably the cheapest and most natural food you can buy. It is rich in calcium, iron and proteins and is an essential food for the young, middle-aged and the elderly. It is even said to prolong life. Members of communities in Russia and Bulgaria, which have a high proportion of centenarians, say their longevity is a direct result of the large amounts of yoghurt in their daily diet.
Yoghurt has been an integral ingredient in Indian cuisine for thousands of years and has been used in Middle Eastern cooking since biblical times. Indians use yoghurt in spicy fish and meat dishes, delicious cooling drinks and also for marinating. In Indian cuisine, raitas are a side dish in which vegetables, fruits or herbs are mixed with yoghurt and a wide variety of seasonings.
The making of raitas is sheer simplicity. The main ingredient is prepared first and then yoghurt is added along with herbs and spices of your choice. A garnish is usually sprinkled on top, adding a decorative touch to a little dish that is already tasty and full of health-giving properties.
Like chutneys, raitas lend themselves to endless experiments and improvisation with the main ingredients, seasonings and garnishes. The more adventurous you are with your raitas, the more interesting and delectable they will be.
Raitas are meant to provide a touch of coolness when hot spicy food is being served. But don’t limit their use to Indian dishes — like chutneys, they also fit in very nicely with many western dishes and can also be a feature on summer buffet tables. Some of them have the added attraction of being substantial enough to serve as starters for a light summer luncheon or dinner.
The following recipes, which are enough for 4-6 servings, will give you an idea of how to combine main ingredients and different seasonings. But do experiment with your own mixes of vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices.
The kind of raita that makes a nice little starter for a western meal is one done with potatoes. You will need: 6 medium waxy potatoes, 1 firm bright red tomato, 3-4 cartons of Mercadona’s Greek style yoghurt, salt to taste, 1/2 tsp mustard powder, 1 heaped tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp paprika (pimentón dulce), 1tbsp finely chopped parsley.
Waxy potatoes that don’t disintegrate when boiled are essential for this dish. Boil them in their jackets, peel them and chop finely. Finely chop the tomato, add to the chopped potatoes and put aside.
Put the yoghurt into a deepish serving dish and stir in the salt and mustard. Mix in the potato-tomato mixture and then the ground cumin. Stir carefully until everything is well blended and sprinkle paprika and parsley over the surface. Chill well before serving.
Spring onions and tomatoes make for a colourful raita. You will need: 6 spring onions, 3 small bright red tomatoes, 2-3 tubs of Mercadona Greek style yoghurt, salt to taste, pinch of black pepper, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 heaped tbsp finely chopped fresh mint.
Finely chop the spring onions and tomatoes. Put the yoghurt into a suitable serving dish and stir in the salt and black pepper. Add the chopped spring onions and tomato and mix well. Dust the surface with the cumin and refrigerate until well chilled.
Just before serving, sprinkle on the finely chopped mint. Mint discolours with surprising rapidity so you must never chop it until you are ready to use it.
Bananas make a most satisfactory raita. You will need: 2 ripe bananas, 2-3 tubs of Mercadona Greek style yoghurt, 1tsp sugar (or to taste), 1tsp lemon juice, 1/2tsp ground cumin, 1/2tsp paprika (pimentón dulce).
Peel the bananas and cut into thin slices, Put the yoghurt into a bowl and add the sugar, lemon juice and salt and mix well. Stir in the banana slices. Sprinkle the surface with ground cumin and paprika. Chill well before serving.
A raita made with cucumber is the most popular one of all. Buy small firm cucumbers rather than large ones which are inclined to contain lots of seeds and water. You will need: 2 medium sized cucumbers (or 4 small ones), 3-4 tubs of Mercadona Greek style yoghurt, salt to taste, 1tbsp finely chopped parsley, 1/2tsp mustard powder, 1tsp ground cumin.
Peel the cucumbers, slice in eight lengthwise and discard some of the seeds. Chop them finely, and put them into a colander. Sprinkle with some salt and leave for at least an hour to get rid of excess water. Rinse under a running tap and dry in a tea towel.
Put the yoghurt into a suitable bowl and stir in the salt and most of the parsley. Add the rinsed and dried cucumber and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle the surface with the mustard, cumin and remainder of the parsley. Chill well before serving.
As a variation you can use chopped mint or fresh coriander (cilantro) instead of parsley. Other ingredients you may like to try in raitas include radish, spinach, desiccated coconut, grated carrot, seedless grapes and finely shredded rocket or lamb’s lettuce.