Summer has arrived in India, albeit a bit early at my place. The heat is overpowering, the sun is scorching and one ventures out of the house, veiled, hatted, or parasoled, to escape the burning rays.
But along with summer comes the lovely brilliance of colors, dotting the fresh produce markets. The colors stand vivid: the cheery yellow ripe mangoes, the sober green of watermelons that open up to a luscious pink when cut, the carrots and tomatoes and red onions and string beans all standing out with their individual hues.
Fluid replenishment takes priority now, more than food as such. Light meals are the norm, better for digestion in this season. There's no need to overwork an already overheated body, is there?
Chutneys are an ubiquitous part of the Indian meal. It no longer matters where you live - in the southern or northern part of the country. You now find idlis and dosas everywhere, and satisfyingly so. And a chutney is always present on the side, a constant shadow to the main dish, but with character all of its own.
There's something special about coconut chutneys. I've never been able to do without them as long as we have a regular Indian breakfast fare at home. Coconuts are so versatile that you can combine the flesh with nuts of all kinds and even vegetables and herbs in order to improve nutrition, and yet the coconut retains its distinct light sweet flavor.
For this particular recipe, I've combined carrots with coconut, both to create variety in flavor and also to enhance the nutrition of the dish. It met with approval at home, and so I share it here at the Great Vega'n Vegetarian Project. You'll need the following:
- one medium-sized carrot, peeled (unless very tender or home-grown) and finely grated
- half a cup of freshly grated coconut
- one green chilli (or more if you really like spice)
- an inch of ginger
- salt to taste (I used a quarter teaspoon)
- some tamarind pulp (maybe about quarter teaspoon, if you want to offset the carrot's sweetness)
- mustard seeds (a quarter teaspoon), split black gram (urad dal; a quarter teaspoon), curry leaves (four or five), and a teaspoon of oil for seasoning
Grate about half a cup of fresh coconut (use frozen only if fresh is not available). Place the coconut, the carrot, one green chilli, half an inch of fresh ginger, salt, and tamarind extract in the blender jar or food processor. I tend to add the salt later on out of fear that I might add too much or that I might on a busy day add the salt measure twice by mistake. Add a bit of water and blend the same. It is best if it is a bit thick in consistency. However, if it is difficult to blend in the jar, just add water bit by bit till the chutney forms a smooth paste.
Transfer to a serving dish. In a small seasoning pan, heat oil on low flame, add mustard seeds and allow them to crackle. Add urad dal and allow it to turn a golden color. Turn off the stove and dash in the curry leaves, stirring till they turn crisp. Then add it to the chutney and mix well.
This goes well with anything: dosas, idlis, bread and sandwiches, chapattis, as a side dish to rice etc. Go ahead; vary the ingredients as you see fit. Cooking is always about experimenting.