Friday, October 22, 2010

Adventures in African Cooking: Chutney

Chutney is the ketchup of my childhood. We put it on sandwiches (especially cheese sandwiches), chips (or anything with potatoes, for that matter), chicken, roast beef...I drew the line at pizza. Chutney comes from the Indian subcontinent and traveled widely as a popular import as early as the 1600's. Of course, European versions were sweeter and less spicy than the Indian versions, as are African ones like Mrs. H.S. Balls, to the left.

Really, chutney can be made at home with whatever is in season, some spices and a saucepan. Mango is indubitably the most popular, but I'm recovering from malaria so let's save that for another post.

For now, here are some ideas about how to use bottled chutney. Of course, I prefer the South African brand to the left, which you can find even in Monrovia, but if you're lucky enough to have a friend who makes her own, good for you.

  • Salad dressing, especially on a cabbage-based salad: Mix a spoonful of chutney with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
  • Marinades for beef, lamb chops or chicken, especially for a barbeque/braii: Use it straight or mix it like the salad dressing, above, using less oil and less vinegar.
  • Cheese toast: My favorite. Toast bread in a toaster oven and add slices of cheese as it starts to brown. When the cheese bubbles and browns, smear on some chutney.
The savory-sweet combination might be a bit strange at first, but it's a unique and hard-to-pinpoint flavor combination that's worth experimenting with. I recommend it especially as a lift for cabbage salad, for those of us that are scared of the local lettuce and haven't yet gotten around to growing our own.

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