But I can't stop. These are not 30-minute meals; they're 3-hour experimental extravaganzas, difficult to blog because everything is so very new and fun that there's nothing in particular I can get a proper focus on.
Also, I've had trouble, which sounds sort of peculiar, arranging the food properly on a plate. Normally, as you know, I let everything duke it out in a bowl, but that doesn't cut it with Indian meals because not all the items are friends with all the others, and the way you eat these meals is complex in itself, arranging little tasty mouthfuls of this and that, or this, that, and the other thing, spooning a bit of saucy curry over rice, dipping up some raita with a piece of flatbread, following a bite of something fiery hot with a cooling chaser. In the end, I've settled on a sort of thali arrangement, like you might get in an Indian restaurant, with the different foods separated in bowls on a large round plate. There are actual thali plates, big round metal plates with shallow indentations to keep the various foods separate, but I don't have one. I do, however, have a lot of little bowls.
So yesterday it snowed all day, our first real snowstorm of this extraordinarily mild winter, and since I couldn't get out without making some kind of extraordinary effort, and since I'd just been to Chinatown on Friday with my friend Fi, where I found big fresh bundles of methi leaves and curry leaves and some gorgeous little bowls...okay, I found three large grocery bags of stuff but then I don't get to Chinatown all that often...anyway, I decided to make an afternoon of it and experiment with a few chutneys.
My guide on this journey has been Neelam Batra's 1,000 Indian Recipes. This is a perfect book for Western cooks with intermediate Indian cooking skills, like me. Apart from being big and heavy and of many pages, with recipes that are easy to follow and always work out, lots of definitions and explanations of basic techniques, and being very kind about giving the English as well as the Indian names for things (split pigeon peas and toor dal; fenugreek leaves and methi), it's an omni cookbook, but vegan friendly: all the vegan recipes are marked with a big "V" and you've got to love a cookbook where the meat recipes are consigned to a section called "Non-Vegetarian Fare."
In my family, we grew up making rhubarb chutney, green tomato chutney, fruit chili--boiled, jam-like concoctions, very sweet, that will keep in a sealed jar for ages. But in Indian cooking, there are two main types of chutney--that "jammy" kind, called preserved chutney, and fresh chutney, which won't keep longer than a few days in the fridge and is more like a salsa. This post is about the fresh kind, of which I made:
1. Basic green chutney (Hari chutney)
I don't want to infringe on Ms. Batra's copyright, but here's Manjula's version. Get together your green onions, cilantro, mint (frozen in this case), lime juice, green chilis, and sugar and process to a paste:
Add salt and pepper to taste. You're done. Easy peasy:
2. Roasted dal and fresh green chile pepper chutney (Bhel-puri ki chutni)
Bhel-puri is a kind of Indian snack made with potatoes and puffed rice, and is served with many kinds of chutneys, including this one. You can check out the recipe if you like on Google Books. It's like the basic green chutney, but with split chickpeas (channa dal) added. Start by roasting your washed dal:
|Pan is lined with the remainder of a spice mix; I though it couldn't hurt...|
Once the dal is roasted:
...let it cool, then powderize it up in a spice grinder (I use the Magic Bullet):
Mix the dal with the green paste, add salt to taste:
3. Roasted coconut chutney (Bhunae nariyal ki chutni)
Here's a version from Mamta's Kitchen. A really pretty start:
Lightly roast all this stuff together, until it turns into this:
|Pretty, isn't it!|
Grind up the coconut. Mine turned into a sort of delicious roast-coconut butter. Not sure if that's right, but it's what happened and the results were yummy, so I won't complain:
This chutney is a little more complex. You finish it off with a tarka of oil, mustard seeds, dried hot peppers...
...curry leaves and asafoetida:
Add the ground spice mix to the ground coconut along with some tamarind paste and the tarka:
...to get the finished chutney:
This looks a little dull, perhaps, but it is packed with flavour, and I ate way too much of it just as is.
4. One more, a dal-based chutney this time, which is meant to be stirred into yogurt, Yogurt chutney with roasted dals and spices (Dahi aur bhuni dal ki chutni). Start with some dry split chickpeas, urad beans, and mung beans (channa dal, urad dal, and moong dal):
Dry roast them:
The rest is all tarka. Start with black mustard seeds and dried chilis:
Add curry leaves, dried coconut, chopped ginger and fresh chili, and asafoetida:
|I should have used a bigger pan|
Roast it some more:
Now separately grind up the dals in a spice grinder, add cilantro to the spice mix, and grind that all up too, and mix everything together:
So...now that you've got all these chutneys, how to use them?
First, you can make big batches and freeze them in little portions, in an ice cube tray, for instance, so you don't have to go through all this trouble more often than occasionally. I made little batches because I was experimenting.
The chutneys can all be served plain as a condiment, perhaps with a bit of water added to make them softer.
They can be mixed up with yogurt, or yogurt and cold vegetables like cucumber and/or tomato, to make another kind of chutney, or a raita, or with warm vegetables to make a side dish.
Spread them into a sandwich.
Use them as a dip or salad dressing.
Mix them up with cooked rice for flavoring.
Pour them (with or without yogurt) over cooked vegetables.
Have them with yogurt and bread as a quick little meal or snack.
Use them for adding a burst of flavour to soups and stews.
Don't forget to label them!
Here's something I made up, though I'm sure it's not original. I mixed some fresh sesame-peanut chutney with a little water and two tablespoons of chickpea flour to make a paste:
...then stuffed some little Indian eggplants with it:
...and fried them on low heat, covered, until the eggplants were tender and the chickpea flour was cooked through:
So...it's still snowing. I wonder what I'll get up to today? I did pick up some amaranth leaves in Chinatown...