Indian chef, food writer, and television personality came to lunch yesterday and brought a new selection of her chutneys. Mridula sells her chutneys and pickles at farmers markets throughout UK, as well as Waitrose, and other deli/food halls. I love all chutneys and pickles, it is true: but i love Mridula’s even more: they are unique: based on her mothers recipes from her Himalayan childhood, made of the fruits and vegetables of the high mountains: pears, citrus, carrots, parsnips, berries, as well as the more tropical fresh things we associate with India such as mango and pineapple. And the spicing for each chutney is individual, as perfectly balanced as a musical tune, with wafts of ginger, mustard, fennel, cumin, cinnamon, nigella, asafetida; some have whole spices, some ground, some both; and some are blessed with the fragrance of garlic. sigh.
So when Mirdula brought her new seasons chutneys for me to taste, I designed our first course of lunch around them:
small bowls of cherry-cranberry chutney; blueberry and pineapple chutney (with its gorgeous hit of cumin); strawberry and chile chutney which i thought would be glorious on top of cream cheese and something crisp and grainy, like wasa brod. we had carrot and orange chutney, green chile and garlic pickle, and i whipped up a raita using my own homemade brinjal pickle (based on Mridula’s recipe) with greek yogurt, a dusting of cumin and sprinkling of cilantro. But the star of the chutney parade was the parsnip and onion chutney: thin strands of caramelized parsnip and onion, studded with raisins and golden with spice.
To go with our chutneys and raita, I served the carrot dish she also brought: served room temperature like a salad or antipasto, cooked carrot squares, sweet and juicy and just tender, cloaked in a spicy chile-flecked mixture of toasted, ground lentils and nigella seeds….i also serve my new found tomato-love dish of the past week: ginger-roasted tomatoes: an array of different types of tomatoes for a complexity of flavour, scattered with thai basil; also pan browned smoked kippers, and toasted pain poilane.
it was like frolicking through a spice garden, with the smokey salty fish the perfect foil to the array of spicy-sweet-tangy fruit and vegetable chutneys!
we followed with a main course of pasta al forno: penne with cream, truffle, tomatoes, peas, and a pecorino-breadcrumb crust. And a lemon-rosemary-garlic roasted chicken. Mridula loves my chicken!
After we had eaten and talked and sipped wine for about three hours we had dessert: fruit salad with rosewater (blood orange, banana, passion fruit, pear, kiwi, mango) and cardomom yogurt. dark strong black coffee in tiny cups and little squares of equally dark strong chocolate (81%).
i sent Mridula home with green tomatoes from my garden; she emailed later that she made chutney from them; i can hardly wait to taste it!