An Indian meal without chutney in some form or the other is incomplete. This accompaniment crossed over and become so popular in England, that many people take it as an English invention. It originated in North India and the word ‘chutney’ is taken from ‘chatni’ that in turn is derived from the word ‘chatna’ which means a lip-smacking sound made when you eat something tangy and tasty.
Indian Chatni is made from fresh green herbs, chillies and spices, an acid base, tamarind juice and in some versions sugar or jiggery is also used to give it a typical salty-sugary taste. Sometimes, fruits like raw mangoes are also used to prepare them. Learn how to cook Aaam ki Launji (a typical Indian chatni).
In South India it is made up of freshly ground coconut and has an Indian tadka of cumin and red pepper. Basically chutney means something which is so delectable that you would not be able to resist the temptation of licking it after every morsel.
In India preparation of chutneys is similar to pickles and the history of this simple spiced delicacy dates back to 500 BC. The idea behind chutney was originally the method of preserving food that was first adopted by the Indians to preserve the surplus food and vegetables. This method first reached Rome and subsequently to Britain where the veggies and fruits are preserved when they are cooked in vinegar and sugar.
This preserve took a tasty turn when the British began to flavour this preserve with spices and began to store it in bottles to be taken along with food in a small quantity. Chutney began to lose its charm when people started using glasshouse produces and refrigerated vegetables. It was this time when the chutney was relegated to the military use. It was in 1780s that the chutney began to reappear and began to be used as a popular appetizer. India began to export these to the European countries like France and England.
Chutney is an inseparable part of an Indian meal but it is equally famous in Britain. The British love this Indian preserve and one of most famous Britain chutney called ‘Major Grey’ is sold in India as well. A British officer named Major Grey is said to have developed this chutney. This formula was then given to a British food manufacturer called Crosse and Blackwell. It was in the 19th century when India began to develop Major Grey as per the taste of the westerners and began to ship it to Europe.
The British chutney makes use of a lot of fruits and hence it is more of a jam or preserve. All the chutneys contain either fruits or vegetables. In one of the British Chutney called ‘Elendil Mentions’ you will find pickled vegetables. An annual herb like dill and cucumbers are also used in some of the variants.
Chutneys served in India are thinner and much more savoury as the basic purpose of serving chutneys here is to elevate the overall taste of the meal. These chutneys normally make use of herbs like fresh mint or fresh coriander and sometimes nuts or lentils too. The two types differ primarily in their texture. Indian chutneys are normally pureed or blended and they are water based not viscous or jam like. A typical Indian chutney is made on stone grinder rather than a mixer grinder, so much so that even in today’s modern times when every Indian household has a mixer-grinder they still prefer to make their chutneys on batan (in vernacular sil-batta) or in some places or some chutneys in a mortar & pestle.