Chutneys are a delicious Indian condiment. The word “chutney” is actually a British term derived from the Hindi word “chatni”, meaning, “to crush”. They are very popular all over India and are quite simple to make.
Chutneys come in a wide range of bold and exciting flavors ranging from spicy to sweet, savory, tangy and even sour. They also vary in textures depending upon the ingredients used and their preparation. There are two main types of chutneys: fresh and preserved and they can either be wet or dry in nature. Regardless, fresh home made chutneys will always add an exotic Indian touch to any meal.
Out of all the bell pepper varieties, my favorite is the red bell pepper - not only for its lovely color but also for its sweet flavor. It’s a winning combination hands down. Roasting red bell peppers only enhances their deliciousness. You could also do a combination of roasted bell peppers such as red, yellow and orange bell peppers for this recipe if you prefer. These are also known as capsicums or Simla mirchi in India.
ROASTED RED PEPPER CHUTNEY:
2 large red bell peppers
2 shallots, sliced
½ inch piece of ginger, peeled & roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2-3 dry red chilies, to taste
¼ cup unsalted peanuts
1 tbsp chana dal (split Bengal gram dal)
1 tbsp urad dal (split & skinned)
1 tsp sesame seeds
¼ tsp turmeric (haldi)
1 tsp smoked paprika
salt & pepper, to taste
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp fenugreek seeds (methi seeds), crushed
pinch of asafetida (hing)
1-2 small green Thai chilies, slit in half lengthwise (optional)
3-4 fresh curry leaves
1 tsp tamarind concentrate or tamarind powder
½ cup freshly grated coconut (frozen is fine but thaw before use) OR 2-3 tbsp thick coconut milk
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely minced
2-3 tbsp oil (vegetable or canola oil)
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly brush the red bell peppers with a little bit of oil on all sides and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Keep a watchful eye on the peppers, turning them every so often after charring appears on all side. This may take about 15-20 minutes or so of baking until they are completely charred and collapsed. Now carefully remove the peppers from the oven and transfer into a glass bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap. This will allow the red bell peppers to steam allowing for quick removal of their charred skins.
After about 15-20 minutes, they should be cool enough to handle. Remove all of the charred skin and the inner core of seeds. Do not rinse with water! This will wash away all the lovely flavor as well. Rough chop the charred bell peppers into large pieces & set aside until needed. Alternatively, this may also be done using the oven broiler or even an outdoor grill, although the cooking times and temperatures will vary dependent upon the method used. The key is the charred flavor of the red bell pepper.
In a large skillet on medium high heat, add 2 tbsp of the oil. When hot, add the shallots. Stir fry the shallots on medium heat until soft and golden brown, this may take up to 6-8 minutes. Next add the garlic, ginger, dried red chilies and peanuts. Stir fry for just a few minutes until fragrant. Now add the chana dal, urad dal & sesame seeds. Keep stirring for an additional 3-4 minutes or until the dals have turned a light brown color. At this point, add the spices (turmeric, smoked paprika, salt & pepper). Mix well to combine all of the ingredients, let cook for another 4-5 minutes and then remove the pan from the heat. Set aside to cool.
Using a blender or a food processor, add the roasted red pepper along with the cooled shallot/ginger/garlic/dals/spices mixture. Also add the coconut & tamarind, blend into a coarse paste. Personally, I like a little texture in my chutney but by all means blend into a smooth paste if you prefer. Transfer to a serving bowl.
In a small skillet on high heat, add the remaining tbsp of oil. When hot, add the black mustard. Be careful as they will splatter, after 30 seconds - add the cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, asafetida, green chilies and curry leaves. After about 15-20 seconds, pour the hot oil mixture over the red bell pepper chutney & garnish with freshly chopped cilantro. Serve as a condiment or dip with your favorite dishes. This delicious chutney goes well with most anything!