Bengalis can be a curious lot especially when they sit down for a wedding meal. Very often you will find them probe the server about the next dish on the menu. And once the last item from the main course is served, you will hear them whisper: “chutney aache toh?” which translates to: is there chutney? The chutney in question here is the Tomato Aamshotto Khejurer Chutney, a Bengali favourite, and part of all celebratory meals including the bhog served during Durga Pujo. A tomato-based sweet chutney prepared with dates, dried mango chunks or aam papad and raisins in a delicate paanch phoron tempering, this one is always served at the end of a meal along with fried papad. It’s a combination only Bengalis can praise for hours.
For the uninitiated, Bengalis prefer to eat their meal in courses. It begins with a fry or a dry vegetable dish followed by daal, fish curry and ends with something sweet. Typically, it is the tomato chutney, which acts as a palate cleanser. Interestingly, the same chutney is prepared with slight variations. On a regular day, the chutney in most homes will have dates and raisins or sometimes without the former. But, on special occasions, say a birthday meal or a home puja it will invariably have raisins, dates as well as aam papad. The sweet factor added by the dates and aamshotto depends on how grand the occasion is. The paanch phoron tempering offers the chutney a subtle flavour, which in some way balances the sweet and tart notes of the dates and dried mango chunks. Many recipes finish off with a sprinkle of bhaja moshla, an aromatic spice blend consisting of dry roasted cumin and red chillies.
Recipe for Tomato Aamshotto Khejurer Chutney
4 ripe tomotoes, chopped
1 tsp paanch phoron
1/2 cup sugar
10 - 12 dates, de-seeded and soaked in water
1/2 cup aamshotto or sweet mango papad, sliced into small pieces
A few raisins, soaked in water
A pinch of salt
A pinch of turmeric powder
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp bhaja moshla* (optional)
*To make this, dry roast red chillies and cumin and then grind into powder.
1. Heat some oil in a wok and add the paanch phoron. Let it splutter.
2. Add the chopped tomatoes at this point. Put the turmeric powder and salt and cover it with a lid.
3. Once the tomatoes have softened, add the sugar.
4. Once the water has evaporated and the tomatoes have thickened in texture, add the dates, aamshotto and raisins.
5. Mix well. Now sprinkle the bhaja moshla and turn off the gas.
6. Serve once it has cooled down completely.
Picture Courtesy: Rituparna Roy
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