Who does not relish a lip smacking chutney or chatni (a kind of sauce for the uninitiated!)! This is one side dish which adds to flavor even to the blandest food and is a great value addition when it comes to eating. A dull and insipid fare suddenly gains a new meaning the moment it is laced with a tangy sauce or chutney!
It is difficult to trace the history of chutney but according to legends post-colonial era, the British carried the recipe back with them to the island as they fell in love with the taste. Major Grey a British officer of the colonial era loved the curries and prepared his own chutney especially from mangoes. Till today these chutneys still find a place in Great Britain and have traveled places to distant lands of South Africa and Caribbean islands. Most of these are vegetable and fruit based, prepared from mangoes, pears, apples with a combination of spices, vinegar, tamarind , raisins, honey , ginger, garlic, lemon, mint and many more ingredients. Cooked mango and papaya chutneys are popular in Caribbean, South Africa, South East Asia and Middle East. Date chutney are available a plenty in Middle East, Sri Lanka and South East Asia.
Chutneys are different from Sauces. Sauces are an essential element in cuisines all over the world. Sauces may be used for savory dishes or for desserts. They can be prepared and served cold, like mayonnaise, prepared cold but served lukewarm like pesto. Some sauces are inventions like Worcestershire sauce, or mostly bought ready-made like soy sauce or ketchup, others still are freshly prepared by the cook. Sauces for salads are called salad dressing. Sauces made by deglazing a pan are called pan sauces.
One can see a great variety of consumption of sauces in Italian, Chinese, Spanish, Thai, Korean, and Japanese cuisines like Bolognese, Pesto, Soy, Wasabi, Bean, Chili, Apple, Cranberry and many more!
Going back to the humble chutneys, the ingredients vary based on what is being eaten as the main dish! The Indian snacks like Samosa, Pakoras and Aloo Tikki go well with green mint or coriander chutney and tamarind concoction whereas the South Indian dishes like Dosa, Idli, Vada go well with coconut, garlic , tomato chutney or Milagai podi! Likewise mint chutney goes best with tandoori dishes like kebabs and tikkas.
The history of Mrs HS Balls chutney is equally an interesting one and is considered to be one of the biggest food brands of South Africa! She started making chutneys whose popularity grew in early 20th century till the time she died at an age of 97 years in 1962 having sold the brand to the giant Unilever. The contents of these popular chutney are still a closely guarded secret by the family of Mrs Balls! Tiger Brands the largest food company in South Africa bought the brand from Unilever in Dec 2012 at 475 million Rand.
No spicy discussion could be complete without a reference to exotic chutney! Once a mother visited her son while he stayed in the hostel and was surprised to find a beautiful girl who dropped in during her visit! The son introduced her as she too joined them for dinner. After she returned back to her native place she received a mail from her son stating that ever since she left the place the girl friend is unable to find a jar containing chutney. ’I am not saying you took it but maybe by mistake it got packed with your belongings’ he continued.
A few days later he got a reply from his mother saying, “I was surprised to see that beautiful girl with you and am not suggesting that she sleeps with you, but had she been sleeping in her bed, she would have found it by now’!
PS- Pictures Kind Courtesy Google