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September 2005

Chutney recipes

Farmers in Maharashtra eat simple. A couple of jowari ki roti, two onions smashed smartly with a clenched fist, and lasun ka chatni/garlic chutney. Lunch is generally taken the in shade of a tamarind tree in the heat of the day when the sun is directly overhead. Ploughing hard, dry, clods of soil and handling a pair of large white bullocks is no easy job, as experience tells me, and the afternoon break is one to look forward to, with a stirring of a breeze to cool one down and water that tastes sweet after the spartan but filling meal.

Lasun Ka Chatni

I think of lasun ka chatni and other chutneys as the pesto of the east. A piquant and often hot accompaniment to a basic meal whose main ingredient is grain, taken here as roti/flat bread as opposed to pasta.It is a very significant part because for very little money it adds most of the taste.

It is the imaginative way of poverty to use all that is at hand to the best advantage and luckily these recipes have stayed with people even as they have risen out of the conditions which made it necessary to concoct them. Herbs and grasses, roots and leaves find their way into these chutneys as the most well known of them all, Hare Dhaniya ki Chatni / Coriander Chutney, will bear out.

Most Maharastrians, rural or urban, like a large spoonful of lasun ka chatni with their food, and other chutneys are invariably part of the thali meal. Lunch would not be considered complete without at least one ot two of them.

Chutneys are nice to eat with your main meal or as dips, with fries and chips or julienned vegetables to eat along with drinks or with kebabs. Here are a couple of chutneys I make when there is little to offer in the house and friends come over.

Lasun Ka Chatni / Garlic Chutney

  • 40 cloves of garlic
  • 1 whole copra/ dried coconut, chopped into small pieces.
  • 10 red chillies, broken into 3-4 bits each.
  • 2 tbspns til /sesame seeds 1 tablespoon peanuts,
  • Ball of tamarind the size of a walnut.

Roast all these ingredients on a griddle or in a kadhai one by one to ensure even browning. Put into a blender and process for a short while till it makes a coarse paste . Can be bottled

Karipatta aur Til ki Chatni/Kari leaf and Sesame seed Chutney

  • 1 cup fresh kari leaves. Fry in a tablespoon of oil till crisp.
  • 2 tablespoons til /sesame seeds.Dry roast till light brown.
  • 6 dry kashmiri red chillies.
  • 1/2 tsp sugar.
  • 1/2 tsp salt.

Put all ingredients into a blender with a spoon of water and grind till smooth. Serve immediately. You can also dry grind all the ingredients and bottle till required when you can add a bit of water to make it into a chutney paste.

Tasty Tomato Chutney

  • 500 gms red tomatoes
  • 3 tblsps water
  • 1/2 tablespoon ghee / clarified butter
  • 1 tbsp adrak / fresh ginger grated
  • 3 fresh green chillies chopped very fine
  • 1" dalchini /cinnamon stick
  • 2 tej patta /bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp jeera /cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves
  • Pinch of hing/asafoetida
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tablepoons gur

Boil 1 litre of water, drop tomatoes in for a few minutes and then transfer them to a bowl of cold water. Peel. Put the peeled tomatoes in a blender with the water and puree till smooth.

Heat up the ghee in a thick bottomed pan or kadhai and saute the ginger, the chillies, cinnamon, bayleaves, cumin and cloves for a few seconds. Do not let the masalas get too dark.

Add the tomatoes to the pan along with the asafoetida and salt. Stir well , cover and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Lift cover and stir well again. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes more. It should cook till thick and no water remains. Add the gur and cook on medium heat stirring constantly till chutney has become really thick. Remove the bay leaves, the cinnamon stick and cloves. Let it cool. Serve. Yummy with chips , omelettes, burgers. This is the gourmet version of tomato ketchup.

Imli Khajur ki Chatni / Tamarind and Black Date Chutney

  • 200 gms khajur /pitted dates.Chop fine
  • 75 gms imli/tamarind
  • 450 ml water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground jeera/cumin
  • 1/4 tasp lal mirchi/ red chilli powder (optional)

Boil the tamarind in the water for 10 minutes. take off the fire and strain through a stainless steel mesh strainer , removing as much pulp from the seed as possible. Now add the salt, gur, jeera and chilli powder as well as the dates. Simmer uncovered till thick and all the water has been absorbed . We love this with saboodana vadas/ sago vada or any other fried snack foods.


Aubergine, Brinjal, Baingan, Eggplant - Cultivating Tastes

Fermina Daza , the heroine of Gabriel Garcia Marquez'  " Love in the Time of Cholera'' hated eggplant in any form and, have no doubt about it, Fermina knew her mind.As a little girl she thought they had the colour of poison. As a young wife she was fed the abhorred vegetable every day in Palace Casalduero, where it was cooked  out of respect for her dead father-in-law, who loved the wretched stuff.

Deadly Eggplant

Aubergine would not rate very high on my own vegetable popularity scale .They do have a rather deadly look about them . I dawdled over the very same vangi cha bhaji as a kid and tried hard to hide it between the vati's on my thali in a rather ineffective attempt to make it disappear from the eagle eyed inspection of parents who insisted that nothing should be wasted. No luck; baingan was inescapable and a regular item on the weekly menu.

The reason for the frequent appearance of baingan on our dinner table, despite our moving house constantly from one end of the country to the other, is that it is commonly grown in all states, coming in varied colours and sizes, and every region here has its own special recipe for this vegetable. Several methods of cooking it are recorded, even in the  'Supa Sastra of Mangarasa ' written in Kannada in the 16th century. Never really liked any of them much.

But back to Fermina... one day, many years after the death of her mother-in-law, Dona Blanca, long after she and her husband had moved to their home in La Manga, after their own children had grown up, Fermina was served a delicious food she could not identify. She liked it so much that she had two huge portions. She found out later, to her surprise, that what she had eaten with such delight was .....eggplant!!!

Have your  own notions about hated foods ever altered so drastically as Fermina's ? Well, as regards eggplant...me too, Fermina.

And here is the recipe that did it.

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Deccani Baingan

Deccani Baingan

1/2 kg small round aubergines.(Check to see they are not BT Baingan!
1 large onion chopped
3 green chillies slit
1 walnut size ball of imli / tamarind soaked in a cup of boiling water.
1 tablespoon gur/ jaggery
2 sprigs of kari patta  /fresh curry leaves
1 tablespoon  hara dhania / coriander leaves
1/2 tsp haldi /turmeric powder
6 tbsp oil
Salt

Fry the following spices in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and grind in a blender to make a thick paste:

1 tblsp til /sesame seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
4 dry red chillies
1 tsp jeera /cumin seed
4 lavang/cloves
1" stick dalchini /cinnamon
3 tblsp grated fresh coconut
4 cloves garlic
1" fresh ginger
1 tblsp hara dhania / fresh coriander

Keep the stalks intact and make 3 deep intersecting slits through the aubergine from the bottom to the top without cutting through the end. Stuff them with the ground ingredients.

Fry the onions in the oil till well done.  Add the chillies, kari patta and turmeric and fry for a few seconds. Place the stuffed aubergines in the pan, cover tightly and cook for 15 minutes.  Strain the tamarind  and add the pulp along with the water to the pan. Add the gur /jaggery. Cook for another 10 minutes till the aubergines are done.  Sprinkle with chopped coriander leaves and serve.

*******

And so back to the story  of the stubborn and lovely Fermina  and the Eggplant. After that taste-changing experience she acknowledged defeat and it was served at La Manga so often that her husband, Juvenal Urbino, would say that he would have loved to have had another daughter, if just for the pleasure of naming her Eggplant Urbino.