I love Indian chutneys and keep a stash of classic tamarind date chutney in the freezer and make a fast batch of fiery green (cilantro and/or mint) chutney for samosas, fried mung bean vada fritters, and bondas (spicy potato dumplings in chickpea batter). In Monica Bhide’s new cookbook, Modern Spice, I discovered this new one to add to my repertoire. Its tart-sweetness results from combining fresh kumquats with sweet canned mango puree (more on this below); a little sugar and vinegar makes things pop more.
The chutney receives lilting notes from sweet fennel seeds and pungent onion seeds. You can find both of these spices at Indian markets and well stocked health food stores and specialty markets. Onion seeds (also called nigella and kalonji seeds) look like black sesame seeds but have an uncommon peppery pungency and slight butterscotch-like flavor. They are not related to onions. Below is a photo for your reference.
India and Southeast Asia have the best mangos around, and Monica’s chutney recipe called for canned Alphonso mango. I’d never used canned mango but when a cookbook author suggests a particular type of ingredient, I follow their instruction. Canned mango is sold at Indian markets but I forgot to do so, having been swept up in the weekend shopping fervor at the busy Indian Cash and Carry market in Sunnyvale (on El Camino Real, north of the Lawrence Expressway, near Hankook Korean market). I followed my hunch and headed to Staff of Life, our local hippie health food store. Indeed, there was canned Indian mango on the shelves. It was the kesar variety, which is excellent. The flavor turned out to be the epitome of ripe mango goodness. It was so striking that I said to my husband, “I’d be willing to bathe in this stuff.” The canned mango was smooth, having been strained. Beyond this chutney, I imagine using it for darn good sorbet, margaritas, and smoothies.
Kumquat season continues in California and I hear that Southern California Trader Joe’s has kumquats. Get yourself 10 ounces of kumquats for the “dry pint” (2 cups) that Monica calls for in the recipe. This beautiful chutney tastes better the next day. I plan to use it for another of Monica’s treats – chile pea puffs – as well as other Indian dumplings, sandwiches, grilled meats, and whatever else that can take a wallop of fruity tart-sweet-pungent goodness.
Kumquat and Mango Chutney with Onion Seeds
When using the Ratna canned mango, Monica says to drain 6 to 8 slices and place them in a bowl. Then crush them with your hands before measuring out the quantity needed. My canned mango puree didn’t come in slices. It was completely smooth so I didn’t need to crush anything. For the kumquats, I sliced them a generous 1/8 inch thick, using the tip of my knife as I worked to remove the seeds.
Makes about 1 3/4 cups
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon onion seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 dry pint kumquats, sliced and seeds removed
1/4 teaspoon red chile powder or dried red chile flakes
1 cup sugar
1 cup canned Alphonso mango puree
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1. Heat the oil in a deep saucepan over high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion and fennel seeds. As soon as they begin to sizzle, add the kumquats, chile powder, sugar, mango puree, and vinegar and stir well to combine.
2. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and continue boiling for 25 to 30 minutes, until the mixture has thickened (think of hot jam) and the kumquats are soft. Remove from the heat and let cool for about 5 minutes before tasting and adding salt.
3. Allow to cool to room temperature before transferring to an airtight jar. Cap and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
Adapted from Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen (Simon & Schuster, 2009) by Monica Bhide.
Serving suggestion: Try a plop of this chutney in the crevice of a Mondern Indian chile pea puff!