Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chutney, Again.

Yesterday’s post got me thinking about the interpretation of Indian food by representatives of Her Majesty's Empire when they returned to Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The general consensus is that it was pretty appalling – the addition of a few spoonfuls of a single type of store-bought generic curry powder added to everything from hard-boiled eggs (mixed with apple) to soup to bananas to devilled fowl being sufficient to label it “Indian” or “Bengalee” or somesuch name.

It wasn’t all a travesty however. Without getting into the always-unwinnable debate about authenticity, I continue yesterday’s chutney theme with the following delightful-sounding recipes from a lovely book called The Englishwoman in India: information for ladies on their outfit, furniture [&c.] by a lady resident (1864).

Mint Chutnee.
½ lb. green mint leaves.
1 ounce red chillies
¼ lb. salt.
¼ lb. raisins or kismis.
2 ounces green ginger.
¼ lb. brown sugar.
1 ounce garlic or onion.
Pound with a quarter pint of vinegar, mix well and pour over the chutnee half a pint of boiling vinegar: when cold, stopper the bottles.
N.B. Country vinegar answers perfectly for most chutnees.

Sweet Chutnee.
½ lb. tamarinds.
½ lb. dates.
1 lb. green ginger.
½ lb. kismis [raisins]
½ lb. onions.
¼ lb. chillies, without seeds.
4 tablespoons brown sugar.
2 tablespoons salt.
Pound these ingredients with vinegar, and rub through a piece of net, or a coarse sieve. Bottle and cork, and it will be ready in a fortnight.

Quotation for the Day.

“A chilli,'said Rebecca, gasping,'Oh, yes!' She thought a chilli was something cool, as its name imported, and was served with some.'How fresh and green they look,'she said, and put one into her mouth. It was hotter than the curry; flesh and blood could bear it no longer. She laid down her fork.'Water, for Heaven's sake, water!'she cried.”
William Makepeace Thackeray.


Anonymous said...

Delightful, and it sounds viably delicious, too! I think I'd rather have this mint chutney than my own recipe - I will have to give it a go. Thanks!

The Old Foodie said...

haleysuzanne - I am keen to try the mint chutney too, but my mint patch is looking very sad at present with the onset of autumn.

Heather said...

This is interesting, though on close inspection perhaps not that appetising. When I first looked at it I thought it was in the style of a modern Indian fresh chutney (mint, coriander or a combination, with or without yoghurt) which is of course eaten the day it is made (the sooner the better). But when you look at it more closely it is a strange cross between that and English style mint sauce, and was presumably meant to keep, at least for a while. (All that salt!) As I loathe mint sauce I think I will be resisting the impulse to make it.

Mae Travels said...

Two books cover the issues you touched on:

"The Raj at Table: A Culinary History of the British in India" by David Burton

"Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors" by Lizzie Collingham.