Friday, September 25, 2009

Musings Sweet and Sour

It's the little things in life that make a big difference, a smile, a kind word or gesture, or even a thought can make your day. I long for time to watch the sun and clouds, sit and do nothing or play with my kids without worrying about chores left undone, almost as much as I long for my mom's perfect come-home-to lunches during my growing up years. My mom, like everyone else's mom, was the greatest cook on earth. And I, like most of you (I hope), took her cooking for granted. She didn't have any recipes written down, and I had no interest in learning how to cook. At first, it didn't matter. I could cook the everyday stuff reasonably well, so we didn't go hungry. 

But then, as years passed, that nostalgia for mom's food came out of shadows and took on giantesque proportions. We ate out, I tried to cook like ma, but it wasn't the same. It was never the same. I could never figure out the little something that made my mom's cooking so extra special. So, please forgive me if I bang my own drum to inform you that I've finally perfected ma's technique of making this sweet and sour imli chutney. On second thoughts, I might even have beat her to it.....(okay guys back off, I was just kidding! I know I can't be better than my own mother....). This common accompaniment to most Indian snacks and chaats is surprisingly simple and almost makes itself once you get the ingredients together. 
Imly and date Chutney 
Imly (Tamarind) 100g 
Gur (Jaggery) 75g or to taste 
Kala Namak 1tbsp/ to taste 
Red chilli powder 1/2 tbsp/to taste 
Sultanas/ Raisins A fistful 
Dates about 10, pitted and chopped 
Fresh pomegranate seeds about 1/4 cup (optional) 

  1. The tamarind I used is available as a block in most Indian grocery stores. I took half of this block and soaked it in about 300ml water for 3-4hrs. When the tamarind softens, mash it in your palms and separate the seeds and fibers from the pulp. You can add more water and soak for an additional 1h (or even overnight) if you wish.
  2. Pass the tamarind paste through a large mesh soup strainer. Collect the tamarind water, and try to separate as much pulp as you can. 
  3. That's it, like I said, this chutney will cook itself. Add the salt and half of gur to tamarind water, and cook on low heat for about 20 min with occassional stirring. 
  4. Taste the chutney, add the rest of the gur, dates and raisins and keep cooking till the volume is reduced to half. You might want to do an occasional taste test and add the gur slowly, since both raisins and dates will also contribute to the sweetness. 
  5. And lastly, add the fresh pomegranate seeds just before you turn off the stove, and your chutney is ready! The little things that made a big difference in the chutney this time ( I think),
  1. Separating tamarind from seeds rather than the ready-to-use paste that I always used. I think the little fiber that remains from tamarind block adds to the texture and taste.
  2. Kala Namak or black rock salt instead of regular salt
  3. And finally, the pomegranate!
I've finally hit the taste-pot with this one! Linked to Pickles & Chutneys Event.