Mango-Cranberry Chutney: A Relish to Cherish
“Want some chutney with that?” You may hear that when you’re enjoying an Indian meal. Chutney originates in India, hence the Hindi derivative “Chatni” but as the world enlarges to incorporate different cuisines from all over the world, chutney can be found in your local store. Store-bought chutney may satisfy some, but for those who yearn for a touch of the authentic and exotic, only home-made chutney will do. After all, chutney is a clever blend of fruits/vegetables, spices and herbs, tenderly simmered down to a savory delight and only you can determine its ultimate flavor with the masterful selection of ingredients.
I’m such a person and no, I’m not trying to be a cook snob. I just love that I get to choose the ingredients, determine the flavor I want and I get to put them altogether to create “preserve” magic.
So, if you’re thinking, “Enough already. Get on with it.” Well, I’m just about to. Don’t hurry the cook. A hurried cook is a harassed cook and you’ll be sorry with the result.
Chutney is very easy to make. And the beauty of that simple act of labor in the kitchen can yield months of enjoyment. After all, chutney aged well and will keep for a long time in air-tight containers. Chutney making is very much like making jam or preserve—it’s a collection of ingredients put in a pot and then cooked under low heat until everything coagulates and looks thick enough to slather on some nice cold cuts or thick pieces of bread. Or pappadums, if we’re talking chutney.
To begin with, it’s important to choose the right ingredients. Go with your favorites or go with your whim or the “adventurer” in you. You can’t go wrong. Just remember to pick one main ingredient and then play with spices and elements of taste. Here’s a run-down of the different components for chutney-making:
Not everyone can be the protagonist in a story. This applies to chutney making too. Pick one main ingredients. Main ingredients usually include fruits or vegetables. Supporting characters make the story interesting, so in this case, herbs and spices (even nuts) play important supporting roles. Without them, the main ingredient might as well be eaten as they are.
Fruits : apple, pineapple, mango, lemon, limes, peach, plum and nectarine
Vegetables: carrots, tomatoes, radishes, rhubarb,
Herbs: Cilantro, mint, parsley,
Nuts: cashews, macadamias, walnuts and pecans.
Of course, choices are not limited to the above-mentioned. As usual, the cook makes the decision. Go ahead and experiment.
Mango-cranberry chutney in the making.
Spices are like the little sub-plots—they make the story engaging and interesting. So, bring on the spices—chutney thrives on them. They impart flavor, character and gives it an appeal all its own. The choice of spices will determine the character you want to impart to the chutney. Some spices are spicy (not temperature hot, but spicy hot). Some spices are sweet, some are mellow, some impart a smoky flavor, while others are invocative of exotic places. You can use powdered spice but whole spices are usually placed in satchels to be dropped into the chutney to infuse flavor. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with just throwing in whole spices.
Dry Spices: cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, star anise, nutmeg, curry powder, turmeric.
Fresh spices: ginger, onion, garlic, red chilies, green chilies, fresh turmeric, galangal.
Elements of taste
Chutney is often a combination of different taste sensation: sweet, sour, spicy, salty. Balancing these different elements can result in a pleasing concoction of savory treat. Rather like dialogue in a story that propels the story line forward, drawing the audience in, these different tastes help to enhance taste and move the chutney along to its final delectable state. So, sprinkle a little of sugar, add a dash of sour, a pinch of salt and dust a little spice—they all add spunk and juice to the art of chutney-making.
Sweet: fruit or dried fruit such as cranberries, currants, raisins, peaches.
Sour: vinegar, limes, lemons, tamarind
Enough of this story-chutney analogy?
Enough, let’s get on with this recipe that I made with whatever I can find in my refrigerator and pantry. Now, that’s not to say, I was making this mindlessly. I had a vision and here’s how it turns out:
- 1 ripe but firm mango, diced into cubes
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- 1 thumb of ginger, minced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- ½ onion, diced
- 1 small red chili, diced
- 1 tsp of cumin seeds
- ½ tsp of curry powder
- 2 tbs of brown sugar
- ¼ cup cider vinegar
- ½ cup water
- Salt to taste
- Heat a little oil in stainless steel pan (pans made of copper, brass or iron may interact with acid and produce “metallic” flavor)
- Add ginger, onion, garlic, red chili, curry powder, cumin seeds and sautee until fragrant.
- Add mango and cranberries and sautee for a minute or two.
- Add sugar, salt, vinegar and ½ cup of water and bring to a boil.
- Once it boils, lower heat and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes until it reaches preserve like consistency.
Dish it out and your chutney is ready for the eating.
Chutney plays many roles:
- Condiment: Goes well with main dishes, cold cuts, as a side-dish
- Relish: Good on bread, wrap, hamburger
- Marinade: on meat, fish or shrimp
- Dip: Pappadums, fries, vegetables sticks or wedges, pretzels
- Salad dressings: Whip chutney with olive oil, vinegar, more salt and pepper if desire for a sweet tangy dressing.
Chutney with Pappadums
© 2011 anglnwu