Most westerners, (myself included ), think chutneys should have a thick texture with large identifiable pieces of fruit. This however is not the case in South East Asia. What we might call ‘dipping sauce’, they also call chutney. In India, a chutney can be dry or wet, sweet or spicy. They are essentially condiments to enhance the meal.
Here is my recipe for Tamarind Chutney, or Imli Chutney. The recipe is straight up easy and the taste is complex and addictive. Sweet, spicy and tangy, this chutney is a kitchen staple. It goes well with pakoras, samosas or drizzled over your favourite meat.
Servings: 3x 250 ml jars. Preperation Time: (Total) 45 minutes
400 grams tamarind pulp
10 cups water
600 grams brown sugar
3 tsp cumin
3 tsp ground chilis
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp amchur powder*
1/2 tsp asafoetida*
Place two small bowls in your freezer to test the consistency of the chutney later on.
In a medium pot, bring tamarind pulp and water to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer. Start breaking up the block of pulp with two forks; pulling the pieces apart. Continue simmering for 5 minutes; or until only the hard bits are left floating in the pot and the pulp has been dissolved. (Blocks of tamarind pulp contain some pieces of tamarind shell which will not dissolve in water). Strain the liquid through a sieve and collect the pieces of the shell to discard. You may need to force some of the mix through, which is normal. (You want to get all that ‘tamarindy’ goodness!)
Return the tamarind liquid to the rinsed pot and add the sugar and spices. Bring to a simmer and stir continuously. When the mixture begins to thicken, check the cooled consistency by dropping 1 tsp in to a chilled bowl and returning it to the freezer. If after 30 seconds the cooled chutney is the consistency of barbecue sauce, it is ready. If it is too thin, continue stirring and try again in a minute or two.
When the chutney has thickened to your liking, remove the pot from the heat and ladle the chutney into clean, sterilized jars. Process as if you were canning a jam or jelly. Refrigerate the filled jars. They will stay unopened in the fridge for several months. Opened jars will be good for a week. Serve and enjoy!
* Amchur is a spice powder made of dried unripe green mangoes. Asafoetida is a powder derived from the latex of the Ferula plant’s roots. (It stinks to high heaven but in tiny quantities adds the right amount of ‘umami’ to Indian dishes). Both of these ingredients are widely used in Indian cuisine and are available for purchase at all South East Asian grocers. If you have trouble locating them, don’t despair. Substitute ginger. The flavour will be slightly different but still delicious.
A block of tamarind pulp as you would find it at the grocery store. ( I took this photo after opening it. They don’t sell them already opened!)