Anglo-Indian Sweet and Sour Tomato Chutney
In India, there are many varieties of tomato chutney, ranging from fiery hot to salty. However, this sweet and sour version is one of my personal favorites. It has a delicate flavour which complements and enhances the taste of grilled and roasted meats. In fact, I often place a small dish of tomato chutney on the table at mealtime to add a little welcome zing to just about anything and everything on my plate.
I love the Indian tradition of serving meals with an array of condiments — chutneys, pickles, yoghurt sauce (raita) and the like. These tasty condiments allow the diner to customise the meal according to personal preference.
In fact, I have often wondered whether or not ketchup is a derivative of India’s tomato chutney. Chutney is a more vibrant and exciting option. However, it bears striking similarities to ketchup. Both sauces are spiced, sweet, and sour. Moreover, tomato chutney, like ketchup, is delicious with just about everything.
History of Chutney
Chutneys have existed in India since at least 500 BC. The earliest chutneys were probably fresh preparations. Many fresh versions, like cool and spicy mint chutney, are still enjoyed throughout India today.
However, during the British colonial period, the concept of chutney expanded to include some very different preparations . Having fallen in love with chutney in India, returning colonists adopted it as their own, and adapted it to suit their needs and palates.
India’s spectacular fresh chutneys must be prepared and eaten on the same day. Since many Indian spices, fruits, and vegetables were unavailable in Europe, returning colonists had to develop recipes that could be preserved for the long journey home.
So, they began to experiment with preserved chutneys. These chutneys used fruit, sugar, and vinegar, along with Indian spices. Cooked chutneys, prepared with sugar and vinegar, had the advantage of being able to survive the long trip to Europe.
The earliest British chutney recipes may well have been inspired by Indian murabbas (fruit jams), which are also highly spiced, and are often served with savoury foods. However, unlike many murabbas, preserved chutneys are not fermented, and they always contain the sour note (and preservative power) of vinegar.
About the Recipe
I am a huge fan of small batch preserving because I don’t have the time my mother and grandmother had to spend weeks in a steaming kitchen filled with huge boiling pots in order can things properly. Moreover, with globalisation, tastes have changed. My family loves to eat all sorts of different foods from around the world. So, we don’t want to eat 39 jars of any one pickle or preserve in the course of a year!
If you feel the same way we do, you will wonder why this recipe makes an entire quart of chutney — rather than a much smaller quantity. The answer is simple. This chutney is highly addictive. In fact, I am usually surprised by how quickly we run through it. If your family is smaller than mine or you’re not certain how much your family will like this particular condiment, the recipe can easily be halved.
Adjusting the Heat
I love spicy food, and so does my family. However, you may be less accustomed to chili heat and may prefer a lot less spice in your chutney. Or you might be a chili-head and want a lot more. Please feel free to adjust the quantity of green chilies and cayenne to your personal comfort level. If you’re uncertain, start with a very small amount. You can always add more. However, nothing is worse than a dish that’s so hot you can barely eat, let alone, taste it!
I hope your family enjoys this chutney every bit as much as mine does. Bon appétit!