November 30, 2023
No matter the meal, there was always chutney. It's the little extra. The next level. The thing that locks in all the flavor. When folks ask me what chutney is exactly, all I can say is that my childhood would not have been the same without it. It was - but it wasn't - the focus of our meals and our road trips. You could make do without it on the table, but you craved it. A side bar - but still incredibly crucial and important. And on our trips to Hershey Park, the Poconos, the Jersey Shore, and even Orlando, Florida with my grandparents visiting from India - the mint-cilantro chutney was slathered on one side of a slice of white bread and smashed together with a lavishly buttered slice. The chutney sandwiches lasted our whole road trip and were delicious - never soggy or spoiled.
A chutney can be fresh, cooked, smooth, roughly chopped, spicy, sweet, cooked, or raw. I do personally feel that because in Indian cuisine we don't have a tradition of eating leafy salads, a chutney can be that layer that adds a layer of raw nutrients. North Indian mint chutney is completely raw and uncooked - the herbs, onion, ginger, garlic, chiles and spices are simply ground down together in a blender.
Here, I share a cooked tomato chutney recipe I've made for years - the same chutney served with a South Indian dosa. But, it is also perfect with eggs, burgers, french fries or tater tots, and even drizzled on steamed veggies. I often make a large batch to keep in the fridge - it can keep for a few weeks. You can also transfer it to ice-cube trays and freeze it to grab a cube whenever needed.
Stovetop: Simple Tomato Chutney
Makes 3 cups
4 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
1 pinch hing (asafoetida)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
5 dried red chiles, broken into pieces, divided
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
4 medium tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped * (about 3 cups)
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black mustard seeds
5 - 6 curry leaves
1. Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Once warm, add the oil. Then, add the hing, cumin, 4 dried chiles, garlic, ginger, and turmeric. Stir and cook until the seeds sizzle, about 2 minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes and salt. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 12 minutes. The tomato juice will dry up a bit and the tomatoes will break down. Stir and mash the tomatoes down as they cook and soften.
3. Turn the heat off, remove the pan from the warm burner, and let it sit for about 15 minutes to cool. Then, transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender. Process until completely smooth. Set aside.
4. In the same saute pan or another, heat 2 teaspoons of oil. If using the same pan, be sure to wipe down the sides. Any residue remaining will overcook and that will affect the color of your chutney later. Trust me, I'm speaking from experience.
5. Add the mustard, 1 dried chile, and the curry leaves. Stir and cook until the seeds sizzle and turn greyish, about 2 minutes. The leaves will wilt and curl up.
6. Carefully transfer the tomato mixture from Step 3 into the hot pan. Stir and bring to a boil. Simmer 1-2 minutes until all the flavors pull together. Turn the heat off, cool, and transfer to a glass container to keep in the fridge. All of the spices including the curry leaves are edible. This will last several weeks, though mine does not last more than a couple of days - it's that delicious!
* Peeling the tomatoes is not essential, but it can give you a smoother chutney. I always use a serrated peeler to peel my tomatoes. You can also soak them in boiling hot water. Or, frankly, skip this step. I've made it both ways and have been pleased with the outcome.
To learn how to make other types of chutney, click below:
Green Mint-Cilantro Chutney
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