The Date and Tamarind Chutney is an essential part of the cuisine, especially in central and northern regions of India. One cannot think of the lip smacking street foods without this particular chutney. It is blended with a unique taste which is often not easy to describe; sweet, tangy and spicy combines with the subtle hint of other flavors.
What seemed like only a few days, actually slipped into a little over a month. Thirty days and more since I last posted. In between these days we went through birthdays, a sudden trip to Austin to attend the award ceremony for T (she won the Geography Poster Contest at the State Level), a trip to Atlanta for Thanksgiving and so much more.
I seemed to have lost the association with the blog and to the internet to some extent. And finally when I did sit down to write this post, I could not go beyond two sentences in a day. I resigned and hoped for a better tomorrow. I think I will need some time to pick up that momentum I have lost.
But here I am with a recipe which falls almost to the “essential” category in some parts of India. It is used as a dip, as you would “dip” your friend snacks, or stirred in like a sauce in some other kind of snacks.
I have very different memories associated with the date and tamarind chutney, which involves no snacks. It was not very often that we indulged in Chaats and the street food kind of delicacies at home. They were mostly saved for the times we ate out or I happened to sneak out to a street vendor. However if this chutney happened to be stored at home, I had created a very exclusive use for it. During the hot summer months, I would stir in a few spoonfuls into ice cold water and voila! you instantly have the most refreshing drink ever! If you add some soda water, it is even better.
After we got married and moved here, I was thrilled to find out that A makes a drink out of the chutney too! A good reason for me have a jarful of this stocked at home all the time.
Khajur Imli ki Chutney: Date and Tamarind Chutney
- 1 – 1.5 cups pitted dates
- 1 + 1/4 cups (not tightly packed) dry seedless tamarind (approx. 2 – 3 tablespoon of the store bought concentrated tamarind paste)
- 1 teaspoon kala namak/black salt
- approx. 1.5 cups gur/jaggery (adjust to taste. the chutney is supposed to be sweet with a tang of the tamarind) – the gur/jaggery may be substituted with dark brown sugar or molasses. Please adjust the amount if you are using substitutes.
- 2.5 cups water
- 1 tablespoon red chilli powder (or adjust to taste)
- 1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
- 1/2 teaspoon roasted fennel seed powder (toast the seeds in a skillet until just fragrant; cool and dry grind)
- 3/4 teaspoon sooth/sauth/dried ginger powder
- a very small pinch of hing/asafoetida (optional)
- a generous pinch of saffron, slightly toasted (optional)
**Note: There is not an exact proportion of ingredients for this recipe. Please adjust amounts to taste; some like it more tangy than sweet or vice versa. Some like it with more spices, while others have almost no spice. Some make it with the pulp, while the others prefer a smooth texture. So it really depends on what kind you want. The kind of tamarind you use (pulp, dry or concentrated) will also make a difference as the sourness of each varies considerably.
Wash the dates and dry tamarind. Chop the dates. Soak the dates and tamarind (if you are using the dried tamarind) in warm water for about 15 – 30 minutes.
Strain out the water from the dates and tamarind and add them to a heavy bottomed pan along with the water and jaggery/or brown sugar/or molasses. Bring it to a boil (about 5-7 minutes) and then add the rest of the ingredients/spices to the pan. Simmer in low heat for about 15-20 minutes or until the mix becomes thick and pulpy. The consistency should be thicker than what you started with but you should still be able to pour it out. All the dates and tamarind should have broken down and softened. Cool.
(If you want a super smooth consistency, blend the cooled mixture). Cook the mixture on low heat for another five to seven minutes. The chutney should start coating the sides of the pan and coating a spoon when dipped in it, but again you will still be able to pour it out. Cool again and store in air tight containers and refrigerate. Use as required in the next few weeks.
If you are not blending the mix after cooking, you may want to cool and strain the mixture through a sieve to remove any fibers or lumpy pieces of dates and/or tamarind. If you like the chutney a little coarse and with texture, skip the blending and also the straining.
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 30-40 minutes
Serves/Makes about 2-2.5 cups (8 oz cup size)
Difficulty Level: Easy
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