Friday, February 21, 2014

Sweet Tomato Chutney with Dates and Mango Fruit Leather

Well, that's a long name. But you have to understand that I had to. Without the dates and the mango fruit leather, it will be a simple tomato chutney not an extraordinary one. And I had to point it out, you see?

I am quite confused by the terms "relish" and "chutney". In Indian cooking, the term "relish" does not exist. We only have chutneys. Sweet ones, spicy ones and sometimes in between.

According to my understanding, relishes are usually made of pickled vegetables. For example, in North America, relish is a pickled cucumber jam. Chutneys can however be made of fruits and vegetables (mango chutney, ginger chutney etc.). Hence, chutney is a specific kind of relish.

All chutneys are relishes but all relishes are not chutneys. Quite like, all thumbs are fingers but not all fingers are thumbs. Sorry that's a little weird thought to put it here! But you get it, right?

Now if I may call my recipe a chutney- it has vegetables and fruits. Vegetables: tomato, ginger. Fruits: dates and mango. Interestingly, in India we enjoy a spoonful or two of chutney just as it is at the end of a meal. Kind of like dessert but not quite. I say not quite a dessert because it is a little spicy and is usually enjoyed in small quantities. Also it pairs very well with a rich and spicy meat or fish dish.

But if you are not an Indian, and not used to Indian meals which end with chutneys, I suggest you enjoy this as you would a jam or a relish. Put it on a toast or on crackers and serve. You'll love it.

This recipe calls for a specific spice mix called "panch phoran"- panch= five, phoran= spice. Five spices are mixed in equal quantities.

Cumin seeds
Fenugreek seeds
Mustard seeds
Nigella seeds 
Fennel seeds

You can buy all these individually, mix in equal quantities and store in an air-tight container or buy pre-packaged panch phoran from any Indian grocery store or Whole foods market (you can find anything in Whole foods- I love it!).

You need (makes 1 cup):

1½ tablespoon of white oil (vegetable or canola)
2 medium size Roma tomatoes, chopped
½ teaspoon of minced ginger
½ teaspoon of panch phoran (described above and where to find it)
1 dried red chili or ¼-½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (add according to your tolerance of heat. I would however suggest not to omit this completely. A little kick takes this recipe to the next level)
pinch of salt
10-12 pitted dates, chopped
¼ cup mango fruit leather, chopped in small rectangles or squares(½ inch size) [optional, but do not substitute with fresh mango] I used homemade fruit leather, learn how to make yourself here.
½ cup granulated white sugar


Heat a small sauce pan on medium heat with the oil. Temper the oil with the dried red chili, panch phoran spice mix and ginger.

When the ginger is fried (will take a min), add the chopped tomatoes, pinch of salt. Stir.

Add half of the sugar to the tomatoes. Add the chopped dates and cook for 5 min or until the tomatoes are cooked down and thickens.

Add the mango fruit leather pieces. Add the rest of the sugar and simmer for another few minutes on low-med heat. Taste for sweetness and heat. Add extra accordingly.

Let the chutney cool. The chutney will thicken further on cooling. Once cool, if you find your chutney too thick, add water to thin it out. On the other hand, if you find your chutney too thin, put it back on the heat for some more time (another 5 min) to thicken.

Serve with an Indian meal or enjoy it with toasts or crackers like you would any jam or relish.

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