Chutneys, Raita and Yogurt


Mint Chutney
1 cup fresh loosely filled mint leaves ... or 1/2 cup dried mint leaves
1/2 cup lime juice (lemon juice may be substituted)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 medium size pod of garlic
1 teaspoon cumin seeds roasted
1/4 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
1 hot green chilli pepper (more or less to taste)
2 medium onions.

Roast the cumin seeds in a microwave for 60 seconds, or in a toaster oven at 400 for three minutes or on top of the stove in an iron skillet, until the roasted cumin flavor fills the kitchen.
Mix all ingredients in a blender and grind to a paste. Serve in a bowl (garnish with an herb sprig or a strawberry) as a dip with samosas or pakoras. The chutney may be prepared ahead of time as it preserves refrigerated for a week or longer in an airtight jar or a Tupperware container.

Coconut Chutney
1 cup unsweetened grated coconut
1 cup sweetened grated coconut
1 cup fresh grated coconut
1/4 cup frozen coconut cake - flaked

1 cup roasted chana
1 cup roasted peanuts

1 cup loosely filled fresh cilantro leaves
5 hot green chilli peppers (more or less to taste)
3 pods garlic peeled
1 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
1/2 cup lime juice
1 cup water (or more if required in your blender)

Mix all ingredients. Pour in a bowl. Garnish with fresh curry leaves, parsley or any other herb of your choice and lightly sprinkled with paprika.


Chutneys, pickles, salads and raita are used in a variety of ways in India depending upon the economic strata of a family, the life style, the local and regional tradition, and the western influence.
In most homes they serve as condiments to enhance the taste and flavor of dishes. In economically deprived rural and urban homes a normal meal generally consists of plain rice in the south and plain roti made from wheat or millet flour, in the north. In such cases chutney or pickle is served to spice up and bring a taste to the meal.
Today, in middle class homes chutneys and pickles are still served as condiments with meals. In addition, they serve as a dip with tea-time snacks, and with appetizers. Salads and raita are also placed on tables with meals as well as outdoor barbeques.
Here in the United States. when served with appetizers at a gathering where beer is served, I personally believe chutney with hot chilli pepper makes the beer more enjoyable. For coffee and tea drinkers, a sip of the hot beverage not only soothes the tongue but brings a new appreciation for the hot chilli pepper.
The use of hot green or red chilli peppers need not be scary. A touch of the peppers help to enrich the taste of appetizers, snacks, as well as any meal. Jalapeno peppers may be substituted when hot green chilli peppers are not available.
Mint chutney with a subtle sweet and sour taste slightly spiced with fresh green peppers and mint leaves is refreshing and breathtaking.
The flavor of freshly ground coconut, hot green peppers (to taste), cilantro, and garlic in fresh lime juice, enhances the flavor of many vegetable and meat dishes; it also serves as a great dip mixed in plain or vanilla or lime flavored yogurt for appetizers.
In addition to these, there are many other variations of chutneys that are prepared and served in the homes in India, and in the homes of Americans who have settled here from the Indian sub-continent. I provide here recipes of those that I grew up with and I still enjoy them.
While most of the chutneys are freshly prepared, the tomato ginger chutney is more of a relish. I prepare it during the tomato season when there is an abundance of tomatoes. In airtight jars the chutney (relish) can be preserved over several months, perhaps for a year until the next tomato growing season.

Raita reparations vary from region to region. However, the common thread that runs throughout India is the cucumber raita. Raitas are the "salads" of India. Because of the sub-tropic conditions and a lack of refrigeration in many homes, salads are steeped in yogurt, lime juice or vinegar. This keeps the vegetables marinated and preserves them longer.

A word about yogurt: in India yogurt is prepared at home at the end of the day for two reasons; one, because of the climatic conditions and lack of refrigeration, it is the only way to make use of left over milk, and two, yogurt is easy to preserve for several days without refigeration and used in preparation of serveral dishes.
Fresh yogurt is generally used in raita and with rice. As it ages it used for cooking. However, it is perfectly alright to use yogurt from the super markets for raita, for serving at the table with rice, and in the recipes. Nontheless, if you feel ambitious and want to do it, there is nothing like fresh home made yogurt!

For those enthusiasts with herb gardens, you may experiment with the recipes by adding one or more herbs from your garden. Another option is to use a sprig of your fresh herb to garnish a bowl of any chutney.
Chutneys and raitas are mild-flavored and meant to provide a "cooling" effect. Achaar, or pickles, on the other hand, unlike the "pickles" in the U.S., have a stronger flavor and taste. Most pickle recipes are time consuming and nowadays the most common ones are available ready made in jars in supermarkets specializing in international groceries and in markets specializing in Indiašs products. However, I do provide here two quick and easy recipes, one adopted by me and another handed down to me by friends. I use them a lot.

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Sherbanoo Aziz