Grandmothers could fill books on practical measures for sustainability, respecting ingredients and getting mileage from having very little resources. Many of them have lived through wars or belong to early settling immigration communities where they had to work very hard for what they had. My nanima was certainly amongst this generation of people. The word ‘wastage’ did not exist for her and through her reverence for food, even today; she continues to connect with food in a way which was unfamiliar to me until recently.
If there was an excess of certain unused produce, she found a way to put them to work. If the season was closing in on certain fruits and vegetables, she would preserve them through pickles, chutneys and Indian salsas. First of all, how resourceful! Secondly, at any given moment in our home, there was always a few of her condiments in our refrigerator that would brighten up even the dullest of sandwich.
Lemon and ginger that ferments in its own juices, positively pungent mango pickle in mustard oil, mint pesto like chutney were just resident pickles at our home. Lately, I have taken her philosophy and incorporated it with some of my other influences. With an abundance of mangoes at home, I made the classic Anglo-Indian ‘mango chutney’. Mango chutney is a derivation of the traditional Indian mango pickle, only it is sweeter and has a jam-like consistency. It has been a mainstay at restaurants in the U.S. and U.K. and is served with poppadum’s. The chutney was such a hit amongst my kids and as I saw my younger son slather it over his roast chicken, it jostled me to become a little more inventive with my usage of it. I tried it later that evening with goat cheese on a cracker and gave my fig spread a break, what a combination!
The chutney has sweetness from the mangoes but the spices and vinegar give it that ‘pop’. Even though it may take an hour to fully mature and lose moisture on the stove, it couldn’t be less demanding of your active participation.
3lb Ripe Mexican mangoes, peeled and chopped in to small pieces
1 medium-sized onion, diced
2 tbsp. thinly sliced ginger
400g rice wine vinegar
400g jaggery (if you can’t find jiggery at your ethnic specialty store, substitute for sugar), broken down to small pieces
2 tbsp. cooking oil
2 fresh red or green chilies, chopped in to 0.5 cm pieces
SPICES: 1 tsp. cumin seeds, coriander powder (or crushed coriander seeds), fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds
6 whole peppercorns
* Sterilize the pickling jars in boiling water
1) Heat the oil. Add the cumin, fenugreek and Nigella seeds, coriander powder, cloves and whole peppercorns, allow them to turn a couple of shades darker.
2) Sweat the onions and fresh chili until the onions are translucent, add the jiggery/ sugar and vinegar and allow the sweetening agent to fully dissolve
3) Add the mangoes and ginger, bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Cook for approximately 1 hour or until the chutney has thickened and that ‘wet look’ from the mango juices have disappeared. The mango will have become translucent at this point and will have a sheen to it
4) Fill the sterilized jars whilst the chutney is still hot and seal
How much is 400g of rice wine vinegar and 400g of sugar? A teaspoon, tablespoon, cup?