Do you think I should tell my husband I’m having an affair? No? I didn’t think so either. With whom you ask? Well my blender of course. Like so many lovers, our story started out with us being mere acquaintances. He was already living in my husband’s kitchen when I moved in. At first we hardly spoke-I wasn’t in the habit of making recipes that called for purées or homemade pastes. However, as I began to explore more and more global cuisine, especially Indian cooking, we began to meet more frequently and quickly became good friends. Now we are inseparable. We spend time together almost every day while my husband is at work and sometimes while my husband takes a nap in the evening, though then I must tell my dear blender to be quiet so as not to wake him. He has made my life so much easier and flavorful-can you blame me for my love?
I previously used to associate blenders with smoothies and that’s about it. However, owning a good blender can open your world to amazing global, gluten-free cuisine. So many ethnic recipes call for making a paste or purée as a flavor base for the dish. My blender, which is technically called a “mixer grinder” made by the Indian appliance company Preethi, is especially amazing because it is specifically designed with ethnic food in mind and has heavy-duty blades which can grind anything from onions to garlic to hard pieces of cinnamon and other spices to form smooth purées or even dry spice mixes. My mother in-law even uses this guy to grind rice and lentils to form rice-based batters and dough. If your current blender/mixer is leaving you feeling uninspired, I highly recommend that you too fall in love with a heavy-duty Preethi product, available internationally from Amazon here.
Now on to the recipe! Before being comfortable with a good blender I never used to make homemade chutneys and would have to wait for eating out at an Indian restaurant to be able to enjoy this tasty accompaniment. Put simply, chutney is the Indian equivalent of salsa and served as a dipping sauce for a variety of dishes including grilled meats/kebabs, rice dishes (such as Indian Masala Rice) or “bready” type foods such as dosa, an Indian rice pancake. Chutney can be made from a variety of ingredients (ALL GLUTEN-FREE!) including mint, coconut, peanuts, tomatoes, and mango to name a few. Today’s chutney is my personal favorite-mint! Serve this herb-packed, slightly spicy/salty chutney with grilled fish, chicken or as a side to any rice dish and be prepared to enjoy the amazing flavor combination!
- ¼ tsp Asafoetida powder or pieces (hing)
- 2 dried (or fresh) red chilis
- ¼ cup coconut shavings
- 1 TBS chopped ginger
- ½ tsp tamarind paste
- Leaves from 1 bunch of mint (about 1.5 cups of loosely packed leaves)
- 1 cup of loosely packed, chopped cilantro (leaves and some stems)
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp jaggery or brown sugar
- 3 tsp water plus ¼ cup
- vegetable oil
- Heat a very small drizzle of oil over low-medium heat in a small frying pan. When oil is heated add the asafoetida, red chilies and coconut shavings. Stir for about 2-3 minutes to allow the spices to release their flavor and the coconut to slightly toast (but not brown)
- Add the ginger, tamarind, mint and cilantro leaves and stir fry on low until the leaves shrink in size and become wilted/tender (about 2 minutes)
- Turn off the stove and remove pan from heat. Let the mixture cool for about 5 minutes
- Put the mixture in your blender along with the salt and jaggery (or brown sugar) and 1 TBS of water. Give the mixture a few quick pulses and then add remaining 2 TBS of water. Mix until there are no large chunks and it seems like an even constancy. It should look thick and grassy.
- Remove from the blender and transfer to your serving bowl. Add another ¼ of water to thin the mixture and stir to reach a smooth, salsa like consistency.
- Enjoy as your new favorite condiment! Serve cold or room temperature and store leftovers in the fridge
What is Asafoetida???
If you find yourself stuck on the first ingredient in this recipe fear not-even I was very unfamiliar with this pungent spice until I was introduced to Indian home cooking by my dear blender. Opps, I meant to say husband. Asafoetida (also called hing) is the dried gum or sap from the root of a perennial herb in the fennel family. It is cultivated and widely consumed in India, especially in certain religious households where garlic and onions are prohibited, as this spice has a slightly dried garlic/onion flavor. Raw this spice has a very strong smell (to put it politely), but once cooked it adds a smooth, subtle flavor. Asafoetida comes in two primary forms-as a ground, whitish powder or in its more pure form of brownish lumps. I use the pure form because we bought this fresh from India but I’ve used the powder before too. Just be careful-if buying the powder make sure it does not contain wheat flour-sometimes manufactures dilute the ground asafoetida with wheat or rice flour so check your label!
If you cannot find this spice for this recipe you can replace with a 1/4 tsp each of onion and garlic powder.
What coconut to use!?
I have a confession-I’m scared of breaking fresh coconuts. I love their amazing, fresh flavor but I also don’t trust myself to have the coordination of breaking one open with a hammer, though I know it can be done. If unlike me you are brave and strong and not clumsy then I invite you to use freshly grated coconut for this recipe. However, if not there are some great alternatives, my favorite being frozen, fresh coconut!
You could also use dried, unsweetened coconut shavings though you may risk losing some of the fresh taste. Regardless, choose whatever coconut product you are most comfortable with and can find easily! Coconut adds an important flavor and saltiness to this chutney so don’t omit!
1.Heat a very small drizzle of oil over low-medium heat in a small frying pan. When oil is heated add the asafoetida, red chilies and coconut shavings. Stir for about 2-3 minutes to allow the spices to release their flavor and the coconut to slightly toast (but not brown)
2.Add the ginger, tamarind, mint and cilantro leaves and stir fry on low until the leaves shrink in size and become wilted/tender (about 2 minutes)
3.Turn off the stove and remove pan from heat. Let the mixture cool for about 5 minutes
4.Put the mixture in your blender along with the salt and jaggery (or brown sugar) and 1 TBS of water.
Give the mixture a few quick pulses and then add remaining 2 TBS of water. Mix until there are no large chunks and it seems like an even constancy. It should look thick and grassy.
5. Remove from the blender and transfer to your serving bowl. Add another 1/4 of water to thin the mixture and stir to reach a smooth, salsa like consistency.
6.Enjoy as your new favorite condiment!