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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

All About Chutney

I first had chutney served with Indian food, probably with curry. It was thick and gloppy and vinegary but I loved it anyway. Since that time I have eaten chutney with roasted meats such as lamb and pork and I can't bear to eat a cheese sandwich without it. I've even experimented with adding it to stews and casserole dishes.

I've also discovered that there are lots of different kinds of chutney. Some are fresh and raw, others are cooked but only slightly and the most common type I've tried is a fully cooked chutney, which usually includes vinegar, spices and some combination of fruit and or vegetables. They range from sweet to spicy and sometimes a pleasant combination of the two.

The name chutney is an anglicized version of the Hindi word, chatni. It became very popular in Europe in the 17th and 18th century and the first mention of it in the Oxford English Dictionary comes in the early 1800's. It is popular in the British Isles, and can be found in many former British colonies such as Jamaica and South Africa. Interestingly it is also a name for a type of calypso and soca music from the Caribbean, especially Trinidad and Tobago.

I recently met up with Alison of McQuade's Celtic Chutneys. Alison was making chutney from her family's recipes for friends and neighbors when one of the owners of Cowgirl Creamery asked her to make chutney for the shop to sell with cheese, and so a business was started. Now her chutney is available at several cheese shops and markets around the Bay Area. McQuade's Chutneys are a very chunky style and not goopy at all. A kind of chutney even chutney haters could love. I tried the Spiced Apple on a grilled cheddar sandwich with pear and turkey, and it was amazing.

Alison and I were chatting about how we use chutney and it occurred to me that there ought to be a cookbook for cooking with chutney. It's excellent as a condiment but it is really wonderful in recipes as well. Until someone writes the ultimate chutney cookbook, here are some of my favorite things to do with chutney in addition to serving it with Indian food, or with cheese or grilled meats:

* Mix with sour cream for a dip

* Add to barbecue sauce

* Add to mayonnaise and use with sandwiches

* Serve over a block of cream cheese or goat cheese as a appetizer

* Spread on bread in grilled cheese sandwiches

* Add to stuffing for turkey

* Add to chicken salad

* Stuff phyllo or puff pastry with goat cheese and chutney

* Bake a brie with chutney on top and serve with toasted baguette slices