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Chutneys: the Relish of India

Chutneys are a common sight on the everyday Indian table. They are served alone and paired with many foods, including pakoras and samosas. My favorite is a spicy/refreshing mint variety that we use as a dip for crispy warm pappadams. There are many, of course, including a very popular mango as well as those with a pineapple, tomato, coconut, and walnut base. The ingredients will vary by region. (scroll down for rest of article)

We don't hesitate to try off-the-shelf varieties. They're very delicious and available at many Internet retailers and ethnic markets. However, in India, to serve anything but a homemade chutney would be less than honorable! Just like my mint favorite, most chutneys are designed to create a range of sensations in the mouth. In addition to the heat, you might expect sour, salty, pungent, and sweet.

The word chutney is from the Hindi word, "catni." Catni is pronounced with a "ch" sound.
With the wide range of select ingredients, chutneys are served with meats, poultry, and fish, along with fresh or cooked vegetables and crackers or chips. In fact, chutney is perfect for any meal, regardless of its ethnic origin.

You'll find chutneys very simple to make; typically, just blended or processed. Once you have tried a few versions, you'll develop your own feel for texture, which can range from thick and smooth to somewhat lumpy. When working with fruits, select them a bit on the unripened side for a depth of true Indian flavor. Give chutneys a try; you'll find you can't stop with just one bite.

Mint Chutney (Pudina Ki Chatni)

2 cups fresh mint leaves, lightly packed
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 hot pepper, such as a serrano or jalapeno (this is optional, and the little bird peppers are fiery hot for those who are feeling brave)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3.5 oz. water
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender or processor and pulse until almost smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Walnut Chutney (Akhrote Chatni)
Perfect for meats and veggies from the grill

1 cup shelled walnuts
½ cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon red (cayenne) pepper
Salt to taste

Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until a smooth paste forms.

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