“And my chutneys and kasaundies are, after all, connected to my nocturnal scribblings — by day amongst the pickle-vats, by night within these sheets, I spend my time at the great work of preserving. Memory, as well as fruit, is being saved from the corruption of the clocks.” — Saleem Sinai in Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
Writing the past and pickling fruits may well be acts of preservation, but once the finished product makes its appearance on a piece of paper or in a Kilner jar, it can be all too easily misplaced, lost, or forgotten.
In Britain, I’m a little disheartened to say, people give away jars of chutney like they give away colds: remorselessly. The dark underbelly to this supposedly “good-natured” phenomenon of chutney-exchange reveals a severe British debasement of chutney. Christmases, housewarmings and dinner parties will often be marked by the chutney attack, where to be gifted with a jar of chutney thinly veils a “last chance” tip-off from a passive aggressive friend.
This is how I see it: that little jar of homemade chutney, oblivious to its ill reputation, proudly takes its place amidst the towering Helmann’s mayonnaise and Heinz ketchup and the manufactured mint sauces and redcurrant jellies. Over time, its once gleaming silver lid begins to gather dust, and gradually, inch by inch, it makes its way to the back of the cupboard where it can hide its ongoing humiliation.
Dusty, downtrodden, and stripped of its dignity, chutney becomes a condiment relegated to cobwebbed corners and evaporated memories. For the average British citizen, the only reason to excavate the thoroughly defamed chutney is to reincarnate it as a gift for another, undeserving individual.
I want you Brits to rediscover your chutneys through the medium of a picnic. What better way to spice up your selection of meat, cheese and bread than to add that magical touch of syrupy-spiced delight?
I’ve decided to champion this mango chutney as the mystique to any picnique. On the 22nd of August I will be setting forth on my travels to the home of mangoes, India, and although it wasn’t a conscious decision, I’m sure my choice of chutney was down to the rumblings of my subconscious as well as my tummy.
8 mangoes, most under ripe but 2 or 3 ripe
8 cloves of garlic
2 thumbs of minced ginger
10 cardamon pods
10 whole cloves
2 x cinnamon sticks
1 tsp nutmeg
3 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp mustard seed
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
700g soft brown sugar
2 x medium onions, roughly chopped
400 ml malt vinegar
400 ml white wine vinegar
large tsp sea salt
1 tbsp nigella seeds
Peel and chop up the mangoes into 1 inch slices (or thereabouts). Put into a large pan, big enough to hold the finished product. Put a small pan on a medium heat, and dry roast the cardamon pods, mustard seeds and coriander seeds for a few minutes. Remove the cardamon pods and pop into a pestle and mortar with the garlic and the ginger. Grind to a paste. Add to the chutney pan along with the dry roasted mustard seeds and coriander seeds, ground nutmeg, whole cloves, turmeric, cumin, and cinnamon sticks. Add the sugar. Give a good stir, cover, and leave the mangoes to mull with the other flavours until the next morning.
Once they’ve had a night to infuse with all the other flavours, roughly chop the onion and add to the mix with the vinegars, salt and the nigella seeds. Bring to the boil and gently simmer for 2-3 hours stirring from time to time, until the only liquid left is a thick syrup. About half an hour before the chutney is ready, sterilise your chutney jars.
To sterilise jars, preheat the oven to 160 degrees celsius. Wash the jars and their lids in very hot, soapy water. Pop wet jars and lids upside down onto an oven tray, and slide into the oven. Leave for fifteen minutes. When your chutney is ready, ladle it (still hot) into the hot jars, screwing the lids on immediately.