I miss the sunlight sneaking in through the curtained bedroom window to wake me up. Instead when I open my drowsy lids to the sound of alarm from the cell phone, it feels like the sun hasn’t risen—it’s still dark and cold outside. The kind of cold that makes me long to go back to few more hours of fitful slumber. The house is silent when I stumble downstairs, sleepyhead and disoriented, into the kitchen and switch on the kettle to brew some tea—my pep pill. Once I’m done with a mug of hot tea, I’m almost ready to take on the challenges of the day. One by one. Patiently.
Winter. A season of holidays, joy and traditions. The beginning to an end. The rain has swept us right into the company of winter. Hot humid days of summer are now a thing of the past, with no regrets. I love winter. Especially the mild winter months in Doha. When I take time to reflect on winter, I admit, I don’t have the best memories attached to it. At least not in the past three years. Three Christmases back I was injured in an accident that left me partially disabled for a couple of weeks. Yes, it was Christmas day. And I spent the evening in the ambulance, in and out of consciousness, and a painful night at the hospital bed in the emergency. A year later, I resigned from my job. Again, in December. My New Years came and went quietly, both times, lacking fanfare. And my days drifted into months just as delicately. Those are my most vivid recollections of winter. How can I forget such life changing events? I embrace each New Year with hopes of forgetting the past and finding a future. Hope.
This December, unlike any other, I’m gripped by this strange compulsion to bake. Not every week, but everyday. Yes, I have this big fat crush on baking! Like this week alone I gave into the urge and baked lemon delicious pudding, pepperoni pizza and coconut macaroons. It might be nothing out of the ordinary for some of you. But for me, it’s not. And if I’m not in a mood to bake, I want to cozy up and while away the quiet mornings watching a movie, enjoying a good read, or simply browsing the Net. How peculiar is that?
At times like this, when the hours slowly tickle by and I'm too lazy to cook, I think no further than a no cook chutney for lunch. Chutney served with seasoned yoghurt, pappadam and steamed rice. Surely it can't get any simpler than this.
I am a pickle — chutney person. Period.
Chutneys and pickles are an indigenous part of Indian cuisine. They are served with meals to compliment dishes, add to flavors, stimulate appetite and sometimes even to aid digestion. Usually just one or two condiments are served at a meal, and diners mix a little with the other food for extra dimension of flavors—spiciness, sweetness, tanginess or a combo of tastes.
The variations is Indian chutney are endless. In fact each region and perhaps every family has their own special recipe. Sweet, sour and spicy are the prominent flavors, depending on ingredients used. The Kerala version of chutney or chammanthy falls somewhere between a relish, condiment, salsa or dip. Chutneys here are invariably tangy with a bit of heat from the chilies and subtle sweetness from the coconut, no sugar is added.
My favorite fruit for making chutney or pickle is mango—green mango. From the months of April to March the trees back home are heavy with local mango varieties like Muvandan, Priyor, et cetera. I cannot help but remember my grandmother—dad’s mother—preparing a medley of dishes with the gorgeous bounty from her garden. She would make pickles and chutneys, and preserve some fruit to enjoy over the winter months. That too plenty of variety. I simply loved sneaking into the kitchen and enjoying generous dollops of her mouthwatering pickles or achar. Mango connects me to these beautiful memories of many summers past. I wish that I could go back in time and embrace it all, let the good times flow, once again. Silly me.
Now, back to the present and to the subject matter without further ado. I’m sharing two chutney recipes with brined mangoes—one with coconut as an ingredient, and one without coconut. If you wish to go the traditional route and brine mangoes, there's a simple recipe for brining too. Otherwise use store bought mangoes in brine to make the chutney.
Here are a few other delicious chutney recipes to try, if you like.
Brined Mango — Uppilitta Manga
Mangoes are summers finest treasures. Make the most of unripe, green mangoes whenever you find them at the farmers market, or in the supermarket shelves by canning them to keep its fresh, tangy flavor on hand. And trust me, canning is no big deal.
2 ¼ cups water
2/3 cup coarse salt
2 green mangoes (sour, unripe ones with green peels)
5 bird chilies (kandari mulaku)
Use a wide mouth glass jar for pickling. To sterilize jar, wash in hot soapy water, rinse well and dry in a baking sheet in the oven at 180oC/160oC fan/gas for 10 minutes just before using. Set aside.
Wash, dry and cut the mangoes into chunks. Discard seeds.
Meanwhile, bring water to boil with the salt, and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and leave to cool completely.
Pack the mangoes and whole chilies into the clean, sterilized jar. Pour over the brine so that the mangoes and chilies are completely immersed. Seal, label and store in a cool, dark place to ferment for at least a week. Potted and sealed fruit has a shelf life of 6-8 months when stored this way. Once open, store in the fridge.
Use it in curries, pickles, chutney, and many other mango-based dishes. This way you can enjoy the taste of summer all around the year.
Green Mango Chutney — Uppumanga Chalichathu
This is more of a chunky chutney with a punchy tang and real kick. If you are not familiar with this kind of taste, tweak seasoning to suit your palate. Traditionally, this chutney is made using coconut oil, which is amazingly satisfying. For a healthier version, use olive oil.
The tart mango flavor really comes through here which makes it a great last minute accompaniment with steamed rice in the absence of pickle. It can also be served as an appetizer to go with crackers like Indian pappadam.
¾ cup brined mango pieces
2 green chilies, thinly sliced, or to taste
4-5 shallots, thinly sliced
10 curry leaves, chopped fine
2 tablespoon oil, preferably coconut
Thinly slice shallots, green chilies and curry leaves. Set aside.
Crush the mango, few pieces at a time, in a mortar and pestle until mangoes are finely chopped, but not too smooth. Spoon into a serving bowl and squeeze out as much brine as you can.
Tip in the crushed shallots, green chilies and curry leaves, and mix everything together with the mango using your fingertips. Then mix in oil and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Season to taste. In general, there is no need for extra salt as the mango is salty.
Or, if you don't want to do this the traditional way, throw all the ingredients (no need to slice shallots, chilies and curry leaves) except oil in a food processor for a smoother, more refined chutney in mere minutes. Serve as an accompaniment with rice.
This would keep sealed in the fridge, or at room temperature for a few days.
Coconut Mango Chutney — Uppilitta Manga Chammanthy
Adding coconut mellows the flavor and make this a perfect partner for dosa, idli or steamed rice. When mixed with a bit of coconut oil and sprinkled with chili powder, this classic chutney makes a great dip for boiled tapioca. Make it pasty or stiff (as pictured), per your taste.
5 big chunks of brined mangoes, or half a big mango
¾ cup fresh coconut, shredded
5 small shallots
6 dry red chili
2 sprig curry leaf
small piece fresh ginger
small piece fresh ginger
1 teaspoon oil
brine, to taste
salt, to taste
In a food processor or blender, pulse all the ingredients, except oil and brine, until ground and well combined. Add a splash of brine if you like it pasty and thinner. Season to taste.
Scrape into a bowl and stir in oil. Taste once more and adjust seasoning as needed.
This will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days if kept well sealed.