July 31, 2016
... or is it perhaps a date ketchup?
What do you associate with "chutney"? A somewhat gooey spiced jam? An exotic confit d'oignon plus fruit? Well, the condiment served on the Indian subcontinent under this term ranges from a dry, crunchy powder (roasted lentils, peanuts) to a spicy relish of raw ingredients (coconut, mint, coriander leaves), from a dribbly, fresh yoghurt sauce to a pasty, sour vegetable and fruit concoction. In other words, our westernized take on this Indian condiment doesn't tell the whole story, but it also doesn't quite make up a phantasy either.
Right at the top of the list of much loved Indian chutneys is a date chutney, khajur ki chattni, which more often than not is prepared with tamarind. This rather sweet chutney with a dark copper to black hue, belongs to the so-called saunth chutneys, i.e. it is made with dried ginger powder which is known under an array of similar names in the many Indian languages: sonth, sonti, shunti, soonth, suntha, etc.
This sweet chutney is the tomato ketchup of chutneys, used to liven up a quick casual snack, street food or even fast food. It is often combined with other chutneys, like a flaming chutney made of coriander and green chillies as well as a dry crumbly peanut chutney. Use this date chutney as a condiment for meat or veggie burgers, as a barbecue sauce for grilled sausages or for whatever you would use ketchup with.
Sweet Date Chutney (one medium-sized preserving glass)
150 g brown sugar (natural cane sugar, muscovado, demerara, jaggery)
100 ml date vinegar
200 g dates, deseeded and chopped into small pieces
2 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp chilli powder (or to taste)
1 pinch asafoetida (optional)
Juice of 1 squeezed lime
Salt to taste
In a small saucepan bring sugar and vinegar to the boil. Then add the chopped dates and cook fiercely for about a minute, making sure to stir continuously. Then turn down the heat and add the spices and salt. Cook on low heat until all dates have dissolved more or less into the mixture.
Place a sieve onto a second, clean saucepan and pour the chutney into the sieve. With a spoon strain the mix through the sieve so that the fluid chutney drips down into the second saucepan below. Put remaining bits and pieces of date which won't go through the sieve back into your first saucepan, add some boiling water and cook fiercely for a minute or so. Pour back the mix into the sieve and repeat stirring and straining, so that you extract as much chutney through the sieve as possible.
Next, first clean a medium-sized preserving glass meticulously, then pour boiling water into it and over its lid, thereby sterilizing it. Second, bring your strained date chutney in the second saucepan back to the boil; be careful that it doesn't spatter! Remove from the heat and add the juice squeezed from one lime to your chutney, and stir one last time.
Now carefully drain the water from your preserving glass and pour the boiling chutney into the scalding hot glass without spilling it over the edge of the glass. Quickly cover the glass tightly with the hot lid. Let it cool down completely before storing in the fridge.