It's no secret that it's strawberry season. Everyone is talking and writing about these luscious nuggets of sweetness. Of course, they are delicious just like the shot above - but is there anything else you can do with them? YES. Make them into a delicious chutney - a condiment that will not only have your guests raving - but may just be the talk of your summer table.
But, first - what exactly is chutney? Think of relish or salsa multiplied by a thousand. Chutneys are India's answer to both condiments and then some. In Indian cuisine we love layering flavors. And, a savory or sweet note in the form of a chutney on the side of our plate, helps us to meet this challenge. Not to mention that many chutneys are essentially raw, uncooked foods that are nutritionally beneficial in a society that does not commonly start meals with leafy salads.
There are many types of chutneys out there. You may be familiar with mint or tamarind - both of which are served alongside snacks like samosas, but there are also tomato, coconut, mango, and many others. The possibilities are endless, as this article from the Times of India back in 2006 explains.
When making a chutney, always look to balance sweetness with an acid (lemon juice, vinegar, or tamarind), and spice. Try this recipe for strawberries and then experiment with whatever fruit is in season including mango, peaches, plums - whatever suits your palate and your table. Keep in mind, this is a cooked chutney, while many others are raw. Find recipes for those others on this website, my cookbooks, and many other Indian cuisine resources.
Yields 1 cup
¼ cup green or golden raisins *
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar (red wine, distilled white, apple cider will also do)
1 heaping tablespoon grated ginger
3 whole cloves
3 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 3-inch long cinnamon stick
¼ teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon salt
1 pound strawberries, hulled and chopped, about 22 large **
Put all ingredients except strawberries in a pot and simmer for 2 – 3 minutes, mixing occasionally to prevent sticking.
Once melted, add strawberries. Simmer 17 - 20 more minutes uncovered until your mixture thickens slightly. Be sure to mix well as you’re cooking to prevent burning and sticking.
Turn heat off and cool about 10 minutes. Remove whole spices and serve over cream cheese or goat cheese with crackers, as a spread on a sandwich, or use on the side for lamb, beef, or chicken. I use a dollop in my kids’ yogurt parfaits. There's so much you can do with this amazing condiment!
* Sub any raisins, but the green/golden plump up a little better and are used more frequently in Indian cooking.
** If you are using small, locally grown strawberries try them whole.
Want to learn more? Check out this great article on what to do with strawberries from Chicago-based food writer Heather Lalley in the Chicago Tribune food section.
Enjoy! xoxo Anupy