Monday, 22 June 2015

Indian guacamole,pickle or chatni?

Most people think of chutney as a mere condiment.It is dark brown, has a strong odour
and is generally not very appealing.Many people also think that chutney has to be cooked.Not true.Chutney made the journey to Europe from India in the early nineteenth century,and in the process changed out of all recognition.Indian chatni is standardly a relish made from fresh fruits or vegetables with appropriate spices.In Britain,whether commercially bottled or home made, chutney making manages a rising tide of apples tomatoes and windfalls from gardens at the end of summer.This cooked variety resembles more what the Indians would call a pickle.
A true chatni is a blend of things, with quite a sharp taste. It can be sweet(tamarind) or savoury(chilli), cooked(mango) or uncooked(chilli). Generally its mashed up with spices and herbs  (common ingredients being ginger mint, green/dry coriander, red/green chillies, garlic),and sometimes thinned with yoghurt.
At our local Mercadinho de verão  this weekend I happened to pick up a real gem of a cook book.The price dictated why I had picked it up, but it wasn´t until I got home and browsed it in depth that I realised the true gem I had purchased.Neelam Batra’s The Indian Vegetarian (1994) contains a wealth of unusual recipes.She combines authentic Indian spices with readily available Western produce.The use of vegetables like avocados, generally not found in Indian cuisine, is a welcome change, from using the same old vegetables everyday.It is a book like this to remind me why I dabbled briefly in vegetarianism as a student.If I had had this book then might I still be a vegetarian today? The beauty of this book is in her interpretations of classic Indian dishes to New World inspirations,Combining Indian culinary tradition with others from around the world ,her recipe for lemonade is memorably minted; so is her version of the British cucumber sandwiches. 
My favourite so far was her modern treatment given to avocado by turning it into a tangy,spicy,herby chutney.It’s more or less guacamole but with ginger, garlic, green chilli, cumin, and mint. Using lovely Portuguese grown avocados the touch of yoghurt lightens things up and adds a certain tang.
Chatnis were always ground with a pestle and mortar made of stone. Nowadays, electric blenders or food processors are used as labour saving alternatives to the traditional stone utensils. Various spices are added and ground, usually in a particular order; giving a wet paste.This makes complete sense to me.The pounding of the aromatics is just right for releasing the oils. The technique used in this recipe provides a key that people miss.In essence you are making a dressing in which to coat the avocado as one would a salad.The next time I make ´real` Guacamole I am going to use this technique.
When you're finished, remove the pestle and serve in the mortar. Less washin´up,less of a pickle  and more time to enjoy a chutney chat with friends.

Avocado and Mint Chutney
Yields: Serves 4
Eat this chutney as a summery snack with corn chips, pappadums or home made crackers.Use it to replace butter when you make sandwich and fcombine it with hard-boiled egg, rocket and capers,or just stay traditional and use it as a side to an Indian curry or grilled meats.
  • 1 tablespoon chopped yellow or spring onion
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 Thai or Serrano chile, chopped
  • Flor de sal
  • 1 large ripe avocado, pitted and roughly chopped
  • Lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped coriander leaves
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons plain whole fat or low-fat yoghurt
1. Use a mortar and pestle to pound the onion, garlic, ginger, chile and a pinch of salt into a coarse texture. You want the ingredients to shed their liquid. Add the avocado and a few good squeezes of lime juice. Lightly pound to mash and mix the ingredients together. Stir in the cumin, coriander, mint and yoghurt.
2. Transfer to a serving bowl.If you can avoid  temptation Let it sit for 5 minutes, then taste and adjust the flavour before serving.

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