Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Chutneys, pt. 2: The Devil Made Me Do It

devil chutney!
Originally uploaded by michelle1975.

The second chutney recipe that I tried from Patricia Brown's Anglo-Indian Food and Customs was quite a bit spicier and quite a bit more exotic than the tomato chutney: fittingly, it's called Devil Chutney. Being a huge fan of hot and spicy cuisine, I found the name impossible to resist, but I also wanted to try out a tamarind-based recipe because I had a package of tamarind pulp that I'd bought at La Dépense a few weeks earlier that was just begging to be used. Brown's Devil Chutney recipe was the perfect excuse to transform that tamarind pulp into tamarind purée and put it into action.

The finished product reminds me of Jamaica's famous Pickapeppa sauce because of its fruit flavors, although the Devil Chutney certainly packs more of a punch, but the recipe seems to hail from the Indian subcontinent. Nevertheless, I'd like to dedicate this recipe to our friend Lucas because it's his birthday today, because he too loves spicy food, and because we just yesterday found out about his connoisseurship when it comes to West Indian food in general and Jamaican food in particular. I can think of a few Jamaican specialties Devil Chutney would be happy to grace with its charms. Here goes:

Devil Chutney

1 cup dark raisins
1" piece of ginger root, peeled and minced
2 tbsp tamarind purée
malt vinegar
2 green chilies, chopped
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1 tbsp sugar
salt to taste

To make tamarind purée out of a block of tamarind pulp you need to break the block of tamarind pulp (around here they usually come in bricks weighing 250 g, which is exactly what you need for this formula) into little pieces as best you can, then pour 2 cups of hot water overtop, cover it, and let it sit overnight. The next day, you just pass the softened tamarind pulp and the liquid in the saucepan through a sieve, smashing the pulp against the wire of the sieve with a wooden spoon in order to extract as much tamarind goodness from the pulp. Make sure you scrape as much of the tamarind purée from the underside of the sieve as possible. Then place the tamarind purée in a jar and refrigerate it. You've now got the basic ingredient for a whole host of Thai, Indian, West Indian, and Central American dishes.

Now, once you've got your tamarind purée prepared, place all ingredients in a blender with enough vinegar to make a smooth paste. Remove from blender and adjust the seasoning to taste. Your Devil Chutney should be hot with a sweet and tasty finish. Place in jar and refrigerate. It will keep for 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

Yield: one 250 ml jar.

Now, I wanted to can my batch, so I made a change or two to the recipe. Among other things, I sauteed some onion--I'd noticed that other recipes for Devil Chutney and "Hellfire Sauce" were often onion-based--then poured the puréed ingredients into my saucepan, added an additional secret ingredient, and then cooked it until it made a soft jam. That said, the basic recipe produces an excellent chutney, one unlike anything that's commercially available. It goes great with curries, but it's also excellent with cheese and crackers, and it makes for a truly wicked sandwich (I should know, because I've been having them for lunch all week).


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