One year flew by. Didn’t it? Never to come back. Never to repeat. Never to offer us another chance.
Is this why at every New Year’s eve I prefer staying home instead of attending parties and calling in another New Year? To mull over the gone by days? To think of what I could have done different? I am not a pessimist. It is not that I do not want to usher the “New”. However ever since I remember, the last day of the year for me always quietened me down, got me retrospecting one day at a time of the moments never to come back. I would sit in my room with a book. Even if we had friends and family over on this day, I would sneak out every once in a while in the quiet corner of my home wanting to be just with my immediate family or just alone.
It is only an affirmation that nothing is forever. It is also a call to remind us to seize the “present”, to make every second worthwhile. I do not make resolutions. But this is what I want to do: make the best of every inch of the day and do the right things.
My favorite thing to do is to spend time with my family. That is exactly what we did in the winter break. Did nothing. No rush, no plans, no schedules. We slept in and were happy just being around with each other for the entire day. We stayed up late talking or reading in the bed. We talked and talked and talked and it seemed like we were catching up for many years. This was probably the most relaxing break for all of us.
Of the very little planned activity we did, one was to visit a friend who had graciously invited us for Christmas dinner. I cooked Biryani and the Pineapple Cranberry Chutney.
In my home state in India, sweet fruity chutneys are served at the end of the meal. Usually a tablespoon or two of the sweet sticky medley of fruits and spices is enough to satiate the craving for desserts that invariable knocks after meals.
However the way you serve the chutney is not limited to a tablespoon after meals. There are so many ways to love them.
The world cuisine has absorbed the concept of chutney, and have started using them in very creative ways!
Use the chutney during the holidays instead of the traditional cranberry sauce.The warmth of the spices make perfect pairing with any meat.
However it does not need to be just for the holidays. Using it with cheese and crackers in the appetizer course could probably be the most popular use. Then there are times when the sweet and spicy chutneys pair beautiful with ham or any grilled meat for that matter. Use it instead of a spread or preserve in a sandwich.
Have you tried grilled cheese open faced sandwich with spicy chutneys? They are bliss! Then there are times you can glaze meat of vegetables with them.
Make a dipping sauce. It already has all the lovely flavors infused in it. Get creative and find more possibilities…
While chutney in India is an integral part of the cuisine in every state, each region has their own recipes and traditional ways to make them. The kind I have today, is a very typically recipe from Bengal. Mostly seasonal fruits are used. Sometimes fruits can be combined. But for the sweet and spicy fruit chutney the process pretty much remains the same: a light tempering with spices, followed by the addition of fruits and sugar and simmering until done. The ginger adds the lovely zing to it! Then it is finished off with a final round of roasted and ground spices.
I have posted a few of the fruit chutneys. (see links after the recipe). Pretty much any fruits can be used, just like preserves and spreads. To break the traditions, use spices of your choice.
Today just “lick” away the Pineapple Cranberry Chutney! (“The word “chutney” is derived from the Hindi word chatṭnī, meaning to lick”)
Pineapple Cranberry Chutney
Ingredients: (makes approx. 3 cups)
- approx. 4 cups (8 oz cup) fresh pineapple, diced (canned pineapples may be used too)
- 1- 1.5 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1/2 teaspoon pure mustard oil (or any other cooking oil)
- 1/2 teaspoon Panch Phoron/five spice mix (*Note Below)
- 2 dried red chili pepper, removed seeds if you do not want spicy
- 3/4 cup sugar (or adjust to taste) + 1/2 cup water (or the juice from the can)
- 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1.5 tablespoon lemon juice
*panch phoron = cumin, fennel, mustard, methi/fenugreek and nigella/kalonji combined – each in equal measurement.
For tempering after cooking: (this is an optional step which adds some extra depth of flavors)
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 4 peppercorns
- 2 cloves
- 1/2″ stick cinnamon
- 1 dry red whole chilli pepper
Heat a pan/pot and add the mustard oil. Let the oil get to smoking hot. Switch off the heat and let it cool down.
Switch on the heat and add the Panch Phoran and the red dry chili pepper in the oil, and fry them till they are turn a shade darker and start to get fragrant, for about a minute. Lower the heat and add the pineapple and the cranberries. Add the sugar and water/juice into the pan/pot and bring it to a boil. Add the lemon juice, salt, ginger and cook at medium to low heat till the pineapples soften (they will still hold their shape) and the cranberries pop and the liquid gets sticky, syrupy and thick enough to coat the fruits. This should take about 30 minutes or more. Taste and adjust sugar. It might need more depending on the tartness of the fruits.
Half way through cooking, lower the heat and partially cover the pan. Once done. the consistency should be like a preserve, but the diced pineapples still holding their shape. Any liquid left should be thick enough to coat a spoon.
To prepare the spices for tempering:
In a skillet, dry roast all the spices above (for tempering), till they are fragrant and a shade darker in color. It should not take more than 2 minutes. Cool. Grind them to a coarse powder in a spice or coffee grinder or in mortar and pestle.
Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon (or as much as you want) of this ground spice to the cooled chutney and stir to combine. (If there are any leftover spice powder, store in a container in a cool place for later use).
Store the cooled chutney in a clean air tight jar/bowl in the refrigerator. It will keep for about a month. so it really works well as a make ahead recipe.
Serve with cheese, or ham or any grilled meat, over ice cream and dessert or simple eat a spoonful to satisfy the sweet craving after meal – the typical Bengali way!
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Difficulty Level: Very Easy
Serves/Makes: approx. 3 cups (8 oz. cup)
- Aam Murabba/Green Mango Relish
- Anarosher Chutney – Indian Spiced Pineapple Chutney
- Apricot Jalapeno Chutney
- Begun-er Tok: Bengali Style Sweet and Sour Eggplant Chutney
- Bharwan Laal Mirch ka Achar: Spice stuffed Red Chilli Pickle
- Mango Jam
- Preserved Figs with Spices and Rose Petals
- Spiced Cranberry Apple Jam/Chutney
- Spiced Strawberry Chutney
- Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus
- Sweet & Spicy Fruit Chutney – Spread the Warmth
- Sweet and Spicy Green Mango Chutney: Kancha Aamer Chutney