India And The Origins Of Chutneys

Many people believe chutneys to be an English invention. In fact, the dish originates from Northern India and England, as many people erroneously believe. Indeed, the word 'chutney' itself is a corruption of the Indian chatni. It's derived from he word chatna which literally means 'to lick' and represents the lip-smacking sound made on eating something tasty (such as a chutney is meant to be).

Typically, the original Indian chatni is made from a mix of uncooked fruit (such as mangoes, apples, bananas etc), green chillies, green herbs and spices, an acid base such as vinegar or tamarind juice and sometimes sugar ground together to make a paste. Indian chatnis are fresh and intended to be consumed soon after they are made.

This basic chatni recipe was brought back to Britain during the 18th Century where it was adapted as a way of preserving the surpluses resulting from the autumn harvest of fruit and vegetables. As a result the original recipes were adapted to become more of a spicy preserve or condiment where the fruit or vegetables could be preserved over winter by cooking in vinegar and sugar and flavoured with spices before being bottle.

Here I present a classic Indian chatni followed by a British chutney so that you can clearly see the differences inherent in them:

Green Chatni with Pomegranate Seeds

150g fresh coriander leaves
100g fresh, young, mint leaves
2 green chillies, with stalks removed
2 ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp anardana
salt to taste
1 tbsp cumin seeds (dry roasted and ground)
1 tsp amchoor

Add the tomatoes to a blender and purée before adding the coriander, mint and chillies. Blend until smooth then add the spices and salt. Blitz to mix thoroughly and serve (this will also freeze quite well so you can make a large batch for later use).

Marrow Chutney

1.5kg marrow
500g onions, chopped
500g ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled and chopped
600ml malt vinegar
120g dates, stoned chopped
2 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp salt
2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
675g Demerara sugar

Peel and de-seed the marrow then cut into small chunks. Add to a pan along with the tomatoes, onions, dates and half the vinegar. Bring to a boil reduce to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes, or until the vegetables become pulpy and the marrow can be easily crushed.

Add the spices and seasonings and continue simmering for 15 minutes before adding the sugar and the remaining vinegar. Stir until the sugar dissolves, return to a simmer until thickened (about 20 minutes). The chutney is thick enough when you can draw a spoon through the mixture and no liquid oozes into the spoon's path.

Ladle the mixture into sterilized jars that have been warmed in an oven set to 100°C for 5 minutes. Allow 1cm of head space then secure the lid, allow to cool and store. You will need to leave this particular chutney for at least 1 month to mature so that the flavour develops fully.

I hope that these recipes have given you an idea of the differences between the Indian and British methods of chutney preparation and have given you a taste for making your own preserves and chutneys.

Users Reading this article are also interested in:
Top Searches on Asian Food:
India Spices Spices Of India
About The Author, Gwydion
Dyfed Lloyd Evans both runs the (and is the main author for) Celtnet Recipes site and the Celtnet Articles Directory. You can find many of her recipes for preserves and many other jam, chutney, pickles and preserve recipes at the Celtnet Jams, pickles and Preserves website.