Choice of India - Chutneys and Pickles

There aren't many Indian dishes which you can consider incomplete without a chutney or pickle. This pungent fruit-based accompaniment is much more than mere jam - it is a jamboree of healthful tang.

Chutney and pickles are full of any or all of fruit, sugar, vinegar and spices, but that dry description hides a continent of mixture.

Chutneys and pickles can be made with any pulpy such as tamarind, peaches, mangoes, lime, plums, lemon... even coconut or cranberries! The spices can vary from red chili powder, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander or caraway seeds. They may include mace and masoor or indeed, almost any other spice.

They can be sweet or salty, hot or plain, completely pureed or left a little chunky or a mixture of some or all of these but in the main, chutneys are sweet and pickles are salty or sour.

I'm sure you'll be unable to resist making your own chutney after reading the above.


1/2lb tamarinds
1/2lb jaggery or brown sugar
5 cups water
1 tsp Garam masala

Notes: Jaggery is a rich brown palm sugar. Garam masala is a mixture of spices, including cumin, garlic, ginger, chili powder, and a few others. It is best to buy it, because grinding the spices and getting the proportions precisely right can be not easy.


Peel and mash the tamarinds unless you prefer a little rougher texture. Add the tamarind pulp to the water in a large saucepan. Heat slowly and allow cooking on medium for approximately 10 minutes. Strain most of the thinnest liquid out and pour into a bowl.

Add the jaggery and continue heating until it is entirely dissolved, stir in the garam masala. During this operation the chutney will thicken considerably.

Alternative recipe:


All the ingredients above, plus:

1 cup coconut
3 dried red chillies
3 garlic cloves

These make for much spicier chutney, but one that is also sweeter, with extra body. The coconut should be dry (roasting is one good way to accomplish this) and grated the day before preparation. The chilies should also be dried and ground.


Unlike American jams, chutneys and pickles are not intended to be spread on bread. Instead, they make for a delicious accompaniment to dosa, lamb, or just as something rich spicy and fruity to put on rice.

Because it is so adaptable chutney and pickle can be served cold or warm, depending on the dish they are being served with. Sweeter chutneys are nicer cold, but spicier ones are just wonderful for a hot dish like curry.

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