Easy-to-make chutney is the perfect lip-smacking standby to make any grilled foods taste extra special
By Wolfgang Puck
Tribune Content Agency
I enjoy celebrating the start of the warm-weather grilling season by encouraging you to make a big impression when you cook outdoors. But let’s face it: Sometimes, at the end of a busy workday or week, you want to relax and enjoy a great meal by simply tossing some burgers, steaks, chops, chicken, kabobs or fish on the grill.
That doesn’t mean you can’t make such basic fare seem extra special. All it takes is adding the right accompaniment, such as fruit chutney.
You’re probably familiar with the term “chutney.” It comes from the Hindi word chatni, literally meaning “to lick,” and appropriately refers to the wide range of sweet and spicy relishes and other condiments that add so much lip-smacking variety and delight to Indian cooking.
If you order any meal in an Indian restaurant, it will probably be served with one or more chutneys – from refreshing, pesto-like mixtures of pureed mint to fiery red chili pastes to tart-sweet tamarind sauces to mildly spiced fruity mixtures of mango and fresh ginger. Chutneys are irresistible for dipping Indian breads or appetizers, and they really come into play when spooned on the side of your plate to add variety to every bite of a spicy stew or tandoori-style grilled food.
You don’t have to cook a curry, however, to enjoy the pleasures of a good chutney. During summer, when so much wonderful produce is available, I like to make batches of my own chutney rather than spooning a commercial version out of a jar.
The following recipe for spicy mixed fruit chutney recipe is incredibly versatile. For example, you can vary the mixtures of fruit (plus peppers and onion for a balance of sweet and savory) based on what you like best in the market. And while I’ve come up with what I think is a pleasing balance of seasonings for the chutney mixture, you can certainly adjust that once you’ve tried the recipe as it is written.
Most importantly, you can use the chutney itself in a great variety of ways. Spoon some on top of a chicken piece or fish fillet as a sort of chunky sauce; or use it to replace the mustard on your burger or hot dog; or scoop a little on the side of your plate, seasoning each bite as you like. The chutney is also delicious stirred into some plain yogurt to make a refreshing dressing for salads topped with grilled food.
This recipe makes a batch that will last up to three weeks in your refrigerator. But one taste may have you licking your lips so enthusiastically that you’ll be making more much sooner than that!
SPICY MIXED FRUIT CHUTNEY
Makes about 4 cups (1 L)
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/8-inch (3-mm) dice
- 1 jalapeno chile, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/8-inch (3-mm) dice
- 1 large red onion, cut into 1/8-inch (3-mm) dice
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) plus 2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon finely diced, 1/8 inch (3 mm), fresh ginger
- 1 large garlic clove, cut into 1/8-inch (3 mm) dice
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) dried currants
- 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup (185 ml) Champagne vinegar
- 1 pound (500 g) apples (about 2 medium), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/8-inch (3-mm) dice
- 1 pound (500 g) mangos (about 2 medium to large), peeled, fruit sliced from the pit and cut into 1/8-inch (3-mm) dice; or peeled and diced nectarines, peaches, or other stone fruit in season
- 1/2 pound (250 g) pears (about 1 large pear), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/8-inch dice
- In a large stainless-steel or enamel saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the red pepper, jalapeno, onion, 2 teaspoons of the brown sugar, the ginger and the garlic. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Stir in the currants, remaining brown sugar, mustard, cayenne, turmeric, salt and vinegar. Continue cooking for 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the apples and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the mangos or stone fruit and the pear. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until all the fruit is tender, 5 to 7 minutes longer.
- Scoop up a small spoonful of the chutney mixture and taste it. If necessary, stir in a little more salt or sugar, the smallest pinches of any of the other spices, or a splash more of vinegar to adjust the balance of flavors to your liking.
- Remove the pan from the stove, and leave the chutney to cool to room temperature. Then transfer it to one or two nonreactive containers, cover and refrigerate until needed. Serve with grilled or roasted meat, poultry or seafood. The chutney will keep in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.