“Shesh paate chete-pute chaatni”
is what my mother would say to us. It means “finger licking chutney at the end of the meal”!
In Bengali households, chutneys are a must when special meals are served. The chutney is usually not had with the meal but it is a separate course towards the end, after the rice and curries and before the doi-mishti! This, I have seen can spark a long debate on the appropriateness and utility of such a custom but then we know no ther way.
The type of chutney made is very seasonal in nature. Summers call for raw mangoes – the super light thin ombol meant for peak of summers and the thick sweet aam’er chaatni. Basant Panchami is incomplete without kul’er chaatni. Winters are meant for aamsotto (aam papad), khejur (dates), tomato chutneys. And then there are fruit chutneys, plastic chutney (made of thin slivers of raw papaya), daal’er bora’r (lentil fritters) ombol and the fish ombols.
The fish ombols are a separate school in themselves. These are made from various small fresh water fishes, head of the hilsa and fish roe fritters. I never developed a taste for these fishy chutneys.
I hated sweet chutneys as a kid. Slowly I developed a taste to tolerate them and then fell in love with a special tomato-khejur (tomatoes and date) chutney that Ma makes, one with sautéed dry fruits, hint of cardamom and roasted panchphoron powder. The same is also made in summers with mango-ginger, a blonde maiden with sensuous appeal. Now that mango tree are blossoming and raw mangoes will soon flood the market, fall willing prey to its appeals.
Medium tomatoes – 6, Mustard oil – 1 tablespoon + 1 tsp, Panchphoron – 1 teaspoon, Dry red chillies – 2, Salt – 1/2 teaspoon, Sugar – 1/2 cup, Raisins – 10-12, Cashewnuts – 6-7 (broken), Green cardamom – 1
1. Heat one tablespoon mustard oil in a pan. Temper with panchphoron and roughly broken dry red chillies;
2. Add the tomatoes, finely chopped and salt. Cover and cook till tomatoes are mushy;
3. Add the sugar, adjust the quantity depending on taste and sourness of tomatoes;
4. Add the raisins and a splash of water. Cover and cook in very low flame till the tomatoes are glossy and almost jelly like;
4. Fry the cashewnuts in the remaining oil and add to the chutney. Sprinkle the finely crushed green cardamom. Take off flame;
5. Cool completely and serve.