Indian chutneys often resemble pestos. It is the same preparation, except that there is no oil or cheese. They are served as accompaniments to meals, as relishes, and are a staple in Indian meals. Packed with vitamin A, the cilantro chutney adds a refreshing punch of flavor. Chutneys are also served with fritters, samosas, and steamed dumplings (dhokla) as dipping sauces. Chutneys are essential for street foods like bhel and chaats. Homemade chutneys are easy to make and are so much more flavorful than store-bought ones that often have preservatives.
We love to spread this chutney, slightly thinned, on bread for sandwiches, or on buns for veggie burgers. A classic Indian sandwich is bread, butter, chutney, thinly sliced cucumbers, and thinly sliced tomatoes. Another option is chutney, sharp cheddar cheese, and tomatoes. Our yoga friends have enjoyed serving this chutney with shrimp and fish.
Hira’s chutneys were prepared in a stone pestle and mortar, identical to the Mexican molcajete. We prepare ours in a blender. The chutney is a vibrant green, with a clean limey flavor, and no sugar. It stays well in the freezer for up to one month. Defrost the desired amount overnight in the fridge or leave out at room temperature for several hours. Do not defrost in the microwave. The chutney stays well in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- 6 cups fresh cilantro tough stems removed (a large bunch though sizes vary tremendously)
- ½ cup Spanish peanuts (dry roasted or roasted peanuts are good as well)
- 4 long hot chilies (or to taste jalapenos, serranos)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (about 1 large juicy lime, or to taste)
- ¼ cup plus 1 or 2 tablespoons of water
- Place the cilantro in a large bowl and fill it with cold water. Swirl the cilantro and then place it in a colander. Discard the water with the grit from the cilantro. Repeat the process till the water in the bowl is clear. Sometimes there is no gritty sand, and sometimes there is a lot.
- In a blender or food processor, grind the peanuts coarsely with the salt and lime juice.
- Add the cilantro in batches, along with the water, till you have a pesto-like consistency. Add more water by the tablespoon, if needed.
This recipe yields about 1 ¼ cup of chutney. Cover tightly and store in the fridge.
Serves 12. Preparation time: 10-15 minutes.