I wanted to steer clear from the word, "condiment" in the title but please bear with me! The world of chutneys, pickles and raitas in Indian cuisine is mind-boggling not just for outsiders but also for people from the subcontinent itself. In my previous post of cilantro-mint chutney , I briefly touched upon this, and gave you a basic idea to make a green chutney.
Today, I'm writing about another chutney which may get classified as a bharta (mashes) in some regional cuisines in India, like the Maharashrian bhareet, or a chokha (mashes) in parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand or a pora/poda (charred mashes) in Bengal and Odisha respectively or lie somewhere between a thokku (sour fruits or veggies cooked until moisture is gone) and thuvaiyal (lighty cooked and ground) in the south
. In the western cuisine parlance, it'd easily fit as some version of a Mexican salsa verde.
In most parts of India, we love vegetables or meat roasted on open fire. Actually, the little of the world that I've seen, I can safely claim it's true in many other places too. It's also the easiest and fastest, also most delicious (I feel!), way of cooking that brings out flavours of an ingredient in its most unaltered and un-influenced form. Once the slow roasting is over, what remains is simply boosting the flavours by tempering or what we call tadka in Indian cooking. But, sometimes you wouldn't need to temper at all, like this slowly roasted mash of tart tomatillos, cloves of garlic and some fiery chilies. Some salt and some herb of your choice to complete it.
So, what's the formula?
Choose a vegetable with a thin skin that will peel off when charred or one whose charred peel you wouldn't mind eating. My favourites are eggplants, tomatillos, tomatoes, ridge gourds, chayote, zucchini or bell peppers. Once I roast them, I mildly peel off the skin but don't bother about the little bits that refuse to come off. If I pan roast them, such as a tomatillo, then these only get blotched on some sides. And, that means no peeling at all!
For a hot quotient, choose your favourite chilli peppers. I love any kind of Indian chilies or Serrano peppers or jalapeños or anything else that's available. There's no restriction here. This ingredient is not to be skipped! Go for a mild pepper if you can't tolerate extra heat.
Garlic, and lots of it of course! Sometimes onions or spring onions also go very well with it. I don't char the onions rather chop them and add them raw.
Char/roast the chosen veggie along with chilies and garlic on open fire or grill pan or a simple cast iron pan. You can slightly coat the ingredients with oil before roasting.
Cool the ingredients until you can handle them. At this stage, there are two options: Mash them nice using your hands or use a pestle and mortar to pound them coarse. There's a third option too. Blend them. Add coarse salt and a herb of your choice to add freshness. Cilantro usually works with everything. But you can definitely experiment with sage, parsley or mint. If your veggie is not tart by default, you may add a few drops of lime juice or tamarind extract.
What do you serve it with?
I love it with sattu parathas! Flatbreads which are stuffed with roasted and powdered Bengal gram and spices.
It add tons of flavour to the good old dal-chawal.
Serve your fritters or patties with it.
Spread it on your sandwiches or wraps.
Top it on your crackers!
These are just few ideas. You can do a lot more. Whatever you do, this chutney-mash will enhance flavours and add texture to any palate of food.
This recipe uses tomatillos. Check out my formula to create charred mashes and variate this recipe.
4-6 tomatillos if in season or green tomatoes
3-4 hot peppers like Serrano
10-12 cloves of garlic
a handful of cilantro
1/2 a lime (optional)
Coarse salt like rock salt to taste
Mildly smear the tomatillos, chillies and garlic with some oil.
On open fire or a grill pan or a cast iron pan, char the ingredients until black blotches appear on the surfaces and the tomatillos are tender and change colour.
Let the charred ingredients cool for a bit.
In a bowl, add all the charred ingredients along with salt and chopped cilantro and mash them with your hands to a desired consistency or pound them in a pestle and mortar. Optionally, grind them in a blender.
If the final dish is not tart enough, add a few squeezes of lime and mix. Serve fresh and store leftovers in the fridge.