Adapted from Preserved: Condiments by Darra Goldstein, Richard Martin, and Courtney Burns (Hardie Grant, North America, 2023)
The word chutney is the anglicized form of the Hindi chatni, which refers to a wide variety of relishes used to enhance meals throughout the Indian subcontinent. The British, who colonized India for nearly one hundred years, popularized chutney in the West in the nineteenth century. Chutneys are wonderfully versatile, since they can be made from all sorts of vegetables, herbs, and fruits mixed with spices. Their flavors are highly regional, ranging from hot and spicy to sour and sweet, depending on local tastes and ingredients. This ginger-sesame chutney is a specialty of the state of Andhra Pradesh in the northern part of South India. It tastes more sour than sweet, due to a generous amount of tamarind paste. And it’s healthful besides. Traditional Ayurvedic practice considers ginger a universal medicine, thanks to its ability to aid digestion, stimulate circulation, reduce joint pain, and counter inflammation.
MAKES 1 PINT
5 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons / 85 ml regular, untoasted sesame oil
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
1¼ cups / 120 g peeled and minced fresh ginger
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 or 3 fresh green chile peppers, such as serrano, stemmed and chopped with seeds
1 or 2 dried red chile peppers, such as chile de arbol, stemmed and torn
¼ cup / 35 g white sesame seed
1¼ teaspoons black mustard seed
1¼ teaspoons cumin seed
Zest of 1 large lime
Zest of 1 lemon
5 tablespoons / 50 g tamarind paste
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
2½ tablespoons / 35 g grated jaggery or firmly packed light brown sugar
In a medium sauté pan, warm 5 tablespoons of the sesame oil over medium-low heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the onion and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Do not let the onions brown. Stir in the ginger, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook the mixture, stirring, until golden, 5 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions and ginger to a blender, leaving the oil in the pan.
Return the pan to the burner and add the garlic and green and red chiles to the remaining oil. Cook over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the garlic is golden. Scrape the mixture to one side and add the remaining 2 teaspoons of sesame oil to the pan. Drop the cumin and mustard seeds into the oil and immediately cover the pan. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 30 seconds, just until the sputtering diminishes.
Stir in the citrus zests and the sesame seed and warm the mixture for a minute or two. Transfer the contents of the pan to the blender along with the tamarind paste,
salt, and jaggery. Purée and taste for seasoning. Spoon the hot chutney into a sterilized 1-pint / 475 ml canning jar, leaving a ½-inch / 1.25 cm of headspace. For long keeping, process the chutney in a boiling water bath; otherwise leave it to cool at room temperature, then store in the refrigerator. Allow the flavors to meld for a few days before using. The chutney will keep, refrigerated, for at least 3 months. Use as a dipping sauce for whole grilled fish, layer it into cheese sandwiches, or bake it with halloumi cheese.