Sunana's Spicy Mint chutney

Mint chutney is one of the first dishes I ever learned how to make as a young girl.  Mostly because, well, it doesn't require any cooking.  Back in Maple Heights, Ohio we had planted a handful of mint one summer.  But as anyone who has mint knows, once you plant a couple plants, Mint takes over like a pushy neighbor, and suddenly you have a huge swath of mint. 

We had a lot of mint so my mother would sit me down in the living room with a paper grocery bag full of mint and task me with picking the leaves off of the stems.  The stems can be bitter, and fibrous, leaving long strands in your mouth, which is unpleasant, so it's best not to include them in your chutney.

Mint chutney is so common now that it can be found bottled in grocery stores and in small pouches within frozen samosa packages at the grocery store now-a-days.  But this mint chutney, the one I invented, is unique and wonderful.  No one is making it like this and it is creamy and light, tart and spicy and will be a hit on any table.  It is wonderful smeared on bread in sandwiches and even better when chips or papads or samosas or pakoras are dipped in it.

My mother told me that back in the old days, a fresh chutney was made of all the leftover fresh vegetables that were not used in a dish.  Perhaps a 1/2 a tomato, a handful of cilantro, a small piece of ginger and a garlic clove, all would be placed in a morter & pestle and smashed together with a dash of salt and voilą -- you now have chutney. 

Sunana's Spicy Mint Chutney

  1. A bunch of fresh Mint, all leaves removed from stalks, washed well.  When I say a 'bunch' I do not mean those small plastic containers you can buy for $4 at the grocery store.  If no bunches of mint are available, this amount will suffice, but an excellent mint chutney has a lot of fresh mint in it, meaning the leaves will easily fill a 1 cup measuring bowl.
  2. A healthy bunch of cilantro, again with the leaves removed from the stems. This too should fill a 1 cup measuring bowl.
  3. the fresh juice of 2 lemons or limes.  I prefer lemons in mint chutney but some people prefer limes to lemons, so whatever floats your boat.
  4. 1 large sweet onion.  You can use red onions or spanish onions, or even no onions at all, but I find the sweet onions, like Vidalia onions or Walla Walla onions are wonderful in this chutney.  The sweetness of these onions compliments the tartness of the lemons and together they are a symphony of deliciousness. Peel & Chop the onion roughly as it will be going into the blender, so no need to be precise or finicky with your cutting.
  5. (optional) 4 fresh garlic cloves
  6. (optional) 2 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and cut up in smallish pieces.
  7. 1 large California Hass Avocado.  or 2 small avocados.  these should be firm like a banana not an apple and when cut in half, make sure NOT to include any brown if there is any brown on the inside of the avocado.  This ingredient is also purely optional, and is what makes my chutney recipe unique and creamy.  Avocados are not native to India, so its not traditionally used in anything.  But I found in my experiments, that avocado really adds a beautiful creamy consistency to this chutney and thickness, making it a dip, as opposed to a condiment.  Please note however, avocado tends to brown after a while, so if you will not be using all of your chutney in 3-4 days, its best to freeze the leftovers so as to maintain the integrity of the beautiful green color, otherwise, it will tend to change color after a week if left in the refrigerator.
  8. 1/2 cup fresh roasted peanuts (also optional)
  9. 1/2 teaspoon black salt (kala namak).  This is an Indian salt that is pink in color and smells like sulfur. It has a wonderful, unique flavor and is excellent in this chutney, however if you don't have this salt, sea salt, table salt or kosher salt all work.  Start with a 1/2 teaspoon and add more to taste, after including the other ingredients
  10. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  11. 1 small fresh green serrano chile, (as big as your index finger) coarsely chopped including seeds.  Use more or less pepper according to your heat tolerance.
  12. 1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin seeds
  13. 1/2 teaspoon sugar. (Equal or Splenda is OK too, but I would use just 1/2 a packet.  This is not a sweet chutney but the sugar cuts the tartness without overpowering the spicyness.  
  14. 1 teaspoon oil to roast cumin seeds

First you will need a good blender.  A food processor is fine to use as well, but a strong blender works best.  If your blender is not excellent, if you find it gets stuck or things just sit on the bottom and don't blend and get macerated and the ingredients must be stabbed with a fork or wooden spoon, you don't have a good blender.  I suggest investing in one.  They are very inexpensive these days, and if you are fond of Indian cooking, you will use it very often.  But, if you must, a food processor will work.

In the blender, first put your chopped up sweet onion and juice one lemon (hold the seeds, they are bitter and not nice if they get in your mouth) into the blender.  Blend until the onion becomes liquid.  Add leaves of cilantro and mint and 1/2 teaspoon of table salt and blend again.  Now your mixture should be nice and green and liquidy.  If it is not liquidy, add a 1/4 cup of water. 

Now add the garlic cloves (again, optional.  Not everyone loves garlic as much as I do, so if you don;t love garlic, it is perfectly OK to not include it.) and the ginger, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon black salt and serrano chili and 1/2 cup fresh roasted peanuts.  Blend again.

In a small frying pan, fry the 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds for a couple of minutes on medium heat in your teaspoon of oil.  They will become golden brown and fragrant.  Once this happens, include the whole oil & cumin seed mixture into the blender & blend.

Finally, cut your avocado in half and spoon out the creamy flesh of the avocado.  Put this flesh into the blender, and blend again.  Taste chutney.  It should be sour and spicy and salty. If it is not, add a dash more or salt, or the juice of another lemon, or half lemon and a bit more chili if it is not spicy enough for you. If it has gotten too spicy, you can always add a little Greek yogurt or sour cream if the chili you used is exceptionally spicy, or if you just want your chutney to be a little creamier.

Serve with samosas or pakoras or chips and refrigerate or freeze leftovers.