Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fresh Red Cabbage Chutney for Curries: Beautiful and easy

This easy side dish for curries and rice is patterned after one that was served, and allegedly created, at a family-run Indian vegetarian restaurant I used to frequent in Atlanta. It would have been called something like "gobi chatney."

Chutneys are any number of fresh or cooked condiments to accompany Indian snacks and meals. Americans usually think just of the bottled "Major Grey's" chutney from England. That sweet, gingery bottled mango mixture, as tasty as it may be, is Anglo-Indian -- a 19th Century fusion enjoyed by British colonialists back home from India or out in the other colonies. While Major Grey's is not really Indian, Indian merchants are not adverse to making it to sell to the foreigners.

The restaurant, "Chaat Pati," made their chutney with green cabbage. Having some red cabbage to use up recently, I tried recreating what I remembered in red rather than green. It seemed to work well. The flavor and texture were pretty much what I recalled. The rich red color, which develops once the lime juice is added, was a bonus.

The recipe needs about a quarter of a medium head of red cabbage, minus the core. Cabbage is easily sliced, then briefly chopped on a cutting board with a chef's knife. The total preparation time for the batch of chutney was less than ten minutes.

Fresh Red Cabbage Chutney

1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped red cabbage
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

Slice cabbage as for coleslaw. Chop coarsely on board. Place in large glass measuring cup or bowl. Mix in the salt.

In a small pan, heat oil to medium hot. Remove from heat and stir in cumin seeds. When they stop spluttering, stir in cayenne. Immediately add seasoned oil to the cabbage, using some cabbage to help scrape out the pan.

Mix well. Stir in lime juice and let cool, stirring occasionally.

The chutney is ready in half an hour. Serve in a small dish to be spooned onto dinner plates at the edge of the rice.

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