This sweet and savoury chutney is like a dipping sauce and very much a must accompaniment with savoury snacks like spring rolls, samosas, chips, crackers etc. This particular sweet-tangy dip is popular in Northern and Western India.
Dates are powerhouse of essential vitamins and minerals and are a fantastic natural sweetener. Tamarind is called Indian date. The combination of dates and jaggery makes it iron-rich chutney.
I really love this chutney. The dates are the first thing you taste - sweet, full bodied and smooth - and then the sourer taste of the tamarind kicks in. The combination is stunning; I could almost eat it as-is, straight from the jar in the same way as I could enjoy a special jam. Knowing that the ingredients are individually very good for you only make this product more attractive. I can imagine all kinds of uses for this chutney, and although I tried it with several different dishes, there are many more I intend to explore in the future.
The first way I tried it was with a selection of battered items (chicken nuggets and whole mussels), potato fritters, small spare ribs, meat patties, and mini samosas. The chutney was served on side plates, one per person, and everyone got a small knife as well because although we were eating finger food the chutney was very thick so a little difficult to use as a dip. Because the food was fiddly, the accompanying vegetables were served as a separate course Continental style after the fried items were all finished. This served to clean our palates as well although the chutney flavour was so strong it lingered pleasantly long after the fried items were all gone.
The feedback from the family was that this was simply the best chutney they had ever tried. Everyone, from youngest (3) to oldest (82), was impressed; the jar was passed around so everybody could have a good look at it. The 82-year-old even said he would have it available next time he and his sons laid a hangi - as he said, it might not be a traditional Maori food, but it should be! His point was that it would go perfectly with hangi vegetables. I think the sweet-sour combination was the clincher; although the mixture does contain spices, it is the date and tamarind content that really stands out.
The following day, we travelled on southwards and stopped for a picnic lunch with friends. I was not sure how I felt about this as the weather was cold, but the spot they had selected was by the sea and well sheltered with picnic tables and a stand of trees to provide shelter from the wind. It was really quite pleasant now that the sun was out! Among other things, they had brought several kinds of cold meat - salami, ham, roast beef, chicken legs, and pate - so out came the chutney, and we all tried it with the various meats. Some made sandwiches while others just took a piece of meat and rolled it around a small amount of chutney. Again, everyone liked it - so much that by the time the picnic was finished, the jar was empty!
I had planned to use the contents with something else, but that was not to be. I have lots of ideas, but they will just have to wait until I get the chance to replace my empty jar!
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