When it’s getting near the end of fresh tomato season and the freezer and shelves are full of sauces it’s time to think chutney. Lots of good recipes out there but my all-time favorite is adapted from the indispensable Madhur Jaffrey. I’ve been making it for over thirty years and it never fails in spite of all the variations on a theme.
It’s hot (garlic, ginger, cayenne); sweet (sugar, tomatoes, dried fruit, mace, garam masala); sharp (vinegar, tomatoes); spicy (fenugreek, fennel, turmeric, cayenne) and completely delicious.
In her description Jaffrey writes: “I love to eat it at tea time, spread over freshly made mutthries. You could also eat it with toast!”
It goes well with all kinds of Indian dishes and it’s brilliant on a grilled cheese sandwich. (A mutthrie by the way is a little pastry biscuits with cumin seeds or kalonji seeds – I had to look it up.)
Here then is the basic recipe.
First find your fresh, firm ripe tomatoes. My garden is close to an end for this year so these tomatoes came from Barton’s. I bought a big bag full and used about half of them for this. The other eight are currently simmering away for yet another batch of basic sauce.
If this all sounds like too much chutney then just cut the recipe in half.
The recipe calls for ground fennel and fenugreek. I used a coffee grinder designated for this purpose. You could grind away with a mortar and pestle using elbow power.
8 large ripe firm tomatoes (say 4 lbs) washed and dried
4 cups distilled white vinegar
3 to 4 cups of sugar( I use a mix of brown and white)
3/4 teaspoon of ground fenugreek
3/4 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
20 plus cloves of garlic finely chopped
4 bay leaves – fresh or dried
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 inches chopped fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon of ground ginger or a combo
Handful of dried fruit – raisins, currants, whatever you have.
Teaspoon of salt or to taste.
A small handful of shredded curry leaves would be good too but optional.
Bring the vinegar to a boil, add the tomatoes
Use a non-metallic stockpot or pan for this and bring the vinegar to a simmer. Put the tomatoes in and roll them about with a non-metallic spoon for a few seconds. The skins will soon begin to split. Remove to a non-metallic bowl and let them cool.
Add the sugar to the vinegar and let it slowly melt giving it an occasional stir. Grind the fenugreek and fennel seeds.
Slip the skins off the cooled tomatoes and cut into bite sized chunks and add to the vinegar and sugar.
Stir in the minced garlic, ginger, bay leaves, cayenne, turmeric, ginger, garam masala, mace and the fenugreek/ fennel mix plus curry leaves if using.
Bring to a steady simmer and let it bubble for about an hour. Stir occasionally.
I always find the timing varies so best to start keeping an eye on it after an hour or so. It takes a while for the consistency to thicken with a nice glossy sheen. I’ve managed to ruin a couple of good thick bottomed pots by letting it simmer too long. A good bottom-scraping stir as you begin to feel it starting to stick does the trick. One of those pots I managed to rescue – the other is a garden ornament.
Add the dried fruit about 20 minutes before the end. For this version I used a mix of dried blueberries and cranberries but chopped dried apricots would also work well.
When it’s nice and reduced pour into sterilized jars and seal. This will keep well in the fridge for some time but with this amount you will want to keep some for the long winter ahead. So this means submerging the hot sealed jars in boiling water for least ten minutes. And then when you remove – using the tongs – you get that satisfying ping as the lids seal down as the contents cool. And that means you can store unrefrigerated.
This batch made five 12 ounce jars with just enough left for a cheese sandwich.
And – while we are still in local tomato season – here’s a quick tip on a painless way to put some away for the winter. Wash, dry, put into freezer bags. When you are ready to use run under the tap.The skins will come right off and you have that delicious tomato taste when everything in the store tastes of cardboard and you don’t want to use the canned variety.