|HOT SPICED PLUM CHUTNEY|
Chutney, relish, pickle, achar... whatever you call it, a preserved condiment is a good partner to have when it comes to eating.
Of course, not all preserves are made alike. Some are sweet, others are hot, and some are sweet and hot. There are also sour preserves and salty ones too.
I keep quite a few varieties on hand. Some can be kept in the store cupboard, others have to be refrigerated. I've recently been enjoying some kumquat pickles my mother made and salted fish achar from a home-based business, both of which I've been having with my rice and curry dishes.
But chutneys, relishes, pickles and achar don't always have to play sidekick: How about a tamarind and date chutney baked into a cake or a sour masala jam of chillies, pineapple and cucumber which can hold its own against meats? And a good mango achar takes centre stage in a grilled cheese and chutney sandwich or sabich, an eggplant sandwich with hard-boiled eggs.
Recently, I got a bag of purple plums and ate most of it fresh. But I got down to the last three and thought I would turn them into a hot and sweet spiced chutney. After pitting the plums, they weighed close to 250g, which made hardly enough chutney to fill a Chinese soup bowl. But I tend to forget what I have in the fridge so if I have too much, it might just go to waste if I didn't finish it. Anyway, the chutney doesn't take long to make (though it needs to sit at least a day before eating), so I can always make more.
I don't have a precise recipe for this plum chutney. The ingredients are all to taste, but here's a rough guide.
Hot Spiced Plum Chutney
Makes ¾ cup
250g purple plums (about 3 medium)
½ tbsp neutral-flavoured oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 small red onion, diced
2 tbsp sambal oelek (red chilli paste)
100ml (scant ½ cup) white vinegar (white wine or rice)
1½ tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp each ground cinnamon, ground allspice and asafoetida
Salt to taste
Pit the plums and chop them up into medium-sized chunks.
Heat the oil in a saucepan and toss in the mustard seeds. Stir them around until they start to pop.
Add diced onion and sauté till translucent.
Add sambal oelek (chilli paste) and sauté briefly. Add brown vinegar, sugar and 2 tablespoons of water. Bring to the boil, then add the chopped plums. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat until fruit is soft. Use a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon to break up some of the fruit. Stir occasionally until the mixture has thickened. Add more water if it looks dry.
Stir in the cayenne pepper and spices. Add salt to taste. Simmer a while longer. Spoon into clean air-tight bottles and store in the refrigerator. Best left a day before consuming.