Chutney is an Indian condiment that's used to add more flavor to main courses. Chutneys can be sweet, savory, sour or spicy and are often a combination of the four.
The kids went cherry-picking recently. After "pigging out" on their haul, all that was left was about a quart of fairly unattractive cherries. They were too smushed for a pie or a tart, but I was determined not to waste them. It occurred to me that a chutney might be an excellent use for them. Cherries have a sweet and sour flavor that matches perfectly with the spices commonly found in chutneys. In fact, one of my father-in-law's favorite chutneys is made from raw mangoes. Unlike the chutney that's made from ripe mangoes which is very sweet, the raw mango chutney is more tart, while still maintaining some fruitiness.
This chutney would be the perfect accompaniment to lamb, goat or poultry but since there are so many vegetarians in my house, I decided to serve it with some fried tofu. They don't even know what they're missing!
Servings: 3 cups
1 quart fresh Bing cherries, washed, stemmed, pitted
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 cup malt vinegar
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 whole dry red chile, stemmed
Place the cherries in a bowl. Coat them with one tablespoon of brown sugar and the lemon juice. Let macerate for about 10-15 minutes until the juices begin to flow.
Dry roast cumin and fennel seeds. Grind both spices in a spice grinder (I use a coffee mill that I keep exclusively for grinding spices).
In a saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook , for about 2-3 minutes until they're translucent. Add the whole dry red chile and the ginger garlic paste. Cook for about 5-8 minutes over medium heat. Stir occasionally.
Add the cherries, cumin and fennel powder, red chili flakes and about 2-3 tablespoons of water. Season with salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil then immediately reduce the heat to medium. Cook for about 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add the lemon and orange zests. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the zest is coated in the syrupy mixture.
Add the malt vinegar, the lemon juice and the remaining brown sugar; let simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove and discard the whole red chile.
Let the chutney cool completely.
Serve at room temperature. I paired the cherry chutney with some fried tofu and brown basmati rice.
Indian cuisine always calls for ginger garlic paste. It tastes great and is very healthy for you as well. Just clean the ginger and remove any dirt. Peel the ginger root with a paring knife, then finely chop the root. Place the chopped ginger and 5 cloves of garlic in a blender, add about 2 tablespoons (or more) of water for a smooth flow. Transfer to a small jar and store in the refrigerator. You can keep this paste for at least a week in the refrigerator.
My tip to get freshly pitted cherries is to call your kids . Just make a small criss-cross incision using a pairing knife and use your fingers to get the pit. It's messy (they can eat the ones they mess up) and fun for them.
Cherry Chutney can be served as an appetizer with crackers, toasted bread or as a spread on a turkey sandwich.
Chutneys are usually served with basmati rice or roti (an Indian wheat-base flat bread).