Chutney - A Flavourful Condiment to a Variety of Dishes
Aromatic, intense in taste and colourful - this is what best describes a chutney, a condiment made from fresh fruits and exotic spices. Not surprising, considering that it originates in India, home to vivid colours, appetising flavours and intensely aromatic spices.
Inspiration for Home Cooks and Professional Chefs
During the colonial period, Englishmen who acquired a taste for chutneys during their stay in the Indian subcontinent brought the then unknown condiment to Europe on their way back. The cooked and preserved dips and spreads made from fruit, onions and spices were so well received that legions of home cooks and kitchen staff in England created their own recipes using regional ingredients. Exotic fruits like mangoes and pineapples were replaced with local varieties such as apricots, plums, cherries or sweeter pumpkin varieties. Old cookbooks contain astonishingly refined recipes and tips for preparation. The common misconception that chutneys, like sauces, are used to disguise or drown out badly cooked dishes couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, in upscale gastronomy, developing and making chutneys is considered to be discipline in its own right and is the domain of highly skilled specialists.
Appropriately enough, “chutney” is derived from "chaatna" which means "to lick" in Hindi.
Diverse & Appetising Flavours
Chutneys come in a bewildering variety of flavours ranging from fruity & spicy and tangy & spicy to dangerously fiery and harmlessly sweet. They are served in many ways in homes as well as high-end restaurants - as a condiment with grilled foods, Mediterranean fish terrines, savoury cutlets, a delicious cheese board or as part of a platter of appetisers. The intense-tasting little side dish is always consumed with relish.
Chutneys stimulate the appetite, complement good food and even demonstrate a bit of cosmopolitanism with their diverse range of flavours. Plus, during the cold and dark months of the year, these brightly coloured flavour bombs add pep and spice to life. We can conclude by saying that a delicious chutney is always a well-chosen gift.
If you'd like to try your hand at making a chutney yourself, here is a basic recipe.
1 kg of fresh fruit or sweet vegetables such as pumpkin and beetroot
250 grams of sugar
0.25 to 0.5 L vinegar (use more vinegar for sweet fruit and less vinegar for sour fruit)
1 large onion or 2 medium yellow onions
Neutral oil such as sunflower oil
2 tbsp mustard powder or coarsely crushed mustard seeds
1 tsp salt
Heat some oil in a pan and sauté the very finely chopped onion until translucent. Add the vinegar and sugar, bring to the boil and stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer over low heat for at least 20 minutes. Check intermittently to make sure it does not dry out. Add a little water if necessary. But not too much, because the chutney should contain very little liquid at the end. To extend its shelf life, fill in sterile jars, close the lids tightly and store in a cool place.
Variations: You can add a personal touch to this recipe by adding your favourite spices, chili, ginger or alcohol, such as whiskey or dessert wine.