Chutneys are an integral part of Bengali food culture. Traditionally they are made to be of slightly thin consistency compared with the chutneys in the west and are usually consumed on the same day unlike the west where we tend to store them for longer. In summer months a sweet tangy chutney would be prepared usually of raw mango, or tamarind, or pineapple etc and served at the end of lunch meal. Its said to aid digestion and also help in cooling the body. During a multi course feast the chutney would come after the main course and before desserts to act as a sort of palate cleanser similar to what some sorbets supposed to do. In Bengal Chutneys are popularly made from raw mango, tamarind, pineapple, tomato et. They also add dried dates and Aamsotto (mango fruit leather). This tomato chutney takes me back to my childhood days when my grandmother used to make it. I have made it slightly drier so that it will stay in the fridge for about 5 days if necessary. It’s an easy and quick recipe but the Panch Phoran (bengali five spice mix consisting of Black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek, kalonji seeds) is a must (you can make your own but it’s far easier to buy ready mixed and then you need only one. It is available in good Asian markets and in an increasing amount of our regular supermarkets too (Waitrose sells them). This is great on its own but you could add some dried fruits to it like apricots, dates or if you can get your hands into it, another Bengali delicacy the aamsotto (fruit leather made from mango) also known as a am papad in other parts of India.
A can of Chopped good quality tomato
2 to 3 tablespoons of sugar according to your taste
2 cloves of garlic
A small cube of ginger
1 tsp of bengali five spice mix (Panch Phoran)
One small dried red Chilli (without seeds if you prefer mild)
Pinch of salt
2 tsp of oil
Optional extra 2 tbsp chopped mango fruit leather or 5/6 apricots or dates chopped.
Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the spice mixture. As soon as they start to pop, add the ginger and garlic and the chilli. Stir for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomato. Add the pinch of salt and the sugar. Cook on a medium to low heat for about 20 minutes stirring often. We are looking for a stage where the mixture sort of sticks together and it’s not runny. Now add the dry fruit if using and stir for another 5 to 10 mins. Take off from the cooker and let it cool down completely. Store in a clean jar or a container in the fridge and use as required. Do not forget to lick the spatula and the spoon.