Anyone whose enjoyed Indian teatime snacks will know know important the sauces and chutneys that accompany these snacks themselves are. They add so much flavour and are always carefully paired — one sweet and tangy, the other spicy — to add contrast and texture to the samosas, cutlets or pakoras they’re served with. I have a few go-to chutneys and dips that I’ve been serving quite regularly over the last few months that have received rave reviews. Since they’re so new for most everyone, and also so different from the fare served at most Indian restaurants here, they’re also surprising in their flavour and intensity. You only need a little bit to add a burst of colour to your mouthful and the difference is quite incredible.
I wanted to share two of the easiest and most popular of these condiments here: one is a cucumber raita flavoured with fresh coriander. It is extremely simple to put together and is so versatile in how it pairs with different dishes — it’s also delicious with just some plain rice. As with such simple dishes, the quality of the ingredients does make a difference, so try to use organic cucumber (I like to use the skin as well) and the nicest natural yoghurt you can find. My go-to brands in Germany are Andechser and Sorbeke and I use the low-fat version of both, which has a fat content of either 1.5 to 1.8%. You could use full-fat or Greek yoghurt for a more creamy version. I finish this raita off with some pomegranate seeds, which adds a nice touch of sweet — feel free to use whatever else might be at hand for the same result: chopped raisins or dates or grated apple or pear. You can also just leave the sweetness out and substitute with chopped tomatoes, onions and chilli as is typical in India.
The second recipe is a vivid green chutney that literally comes together in about 5 minutes. Fresh herbs and some toasted cumin are blitzed together with salt, chilli and lemon juice and the result is a delicious, intensely flavourful chutney that can be spread on bread, used as a dip, in wraps or as a side with fried or poached eggs. It keeps in the fridge for about a week, so you can make a batch and store it away.
Cucumber Raita with Coriander and Pomegranate
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1/2 medium organic cucumber, washed
1 cup natural yoghurt, preferably organic
1 - 2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander, to taste
2 tablespoons or more, pomegranate seeds
Salt to taste
Grate the cucumber into a medium-sized bowl using the coarse side of a box grater. Using both hands, squeeze out any liquid (you can drink this!) and discard. Add the yoghurt and salt to the cucumber and mix well to combine. Now add the chopped coriander and mix together again, checking to see if the raita needs more salt. Stir in most of the pomegranate seeds, if using, reserving about a teaspoon to garnish. Transfer to a small serving bowl, garnish with the remaining pomegranate seeds and a couple of coriander leaves. If not serving immediately, refrigerate until about 5 minutes before serving time. This dish is best eaten soon after it’s made, unto a maximum of a few hours after.
Coriander Mint Chutney
Makes about 1/2 cup
1 densely packed cup coriander leaves and stems, washed
1 loosely packed cup mint leaves, washed
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted
1/4 - 1/2 green chilli, to taste (optional)
1 - 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
A few tablespoons water
Salt to taste
Place the fresh coriander, chilli (if using) and mint in a mixer or a grinder. Add one tablespoon of water and grind down for about 30 seconds. The mixture should start becoming a paste, if there are still lots of leaf and stem bits, add another tablespoon of water, but very cautiously since the texture can get watery quite quickly. Add the lemon juice and cumin and blitz again until the mixture is a fine paste. Check the flavour and add salt to taste, blitzing once more briefly to mix well. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately; if not store in the fridge for unto about a week. Before using, stir through well and check the taste: you might want to add a dash of lemon or salt again. Enjoy as a dip, spread or side.
Images: Falko Pfitzke & Vatsala Murthy