I somehow managed to take what was supposed to have been a quick and simple stir fry and turn it into a two-day preparation. This meal is from the book Modern Spice, and the focus of this book is on updated, doable dishes that bring forth the great flavors of Indian cuisine without extreme effort. And, I completely ruined that concept when I went and made my own chutney. After calling around town in an attempt to locate prepared tamarind-date chutney, I learned it was available at one market. When I arrived at that market, there were several other chutneys from various brands and some wonderful, natural, preservative-free options. However, there was only one brand of tamarind-date chutney, and it was not so free of preservatives. A quick online search led me to a simple recipe for making my own, and so instead of purchasing a jar, I bought jaggery, tamarind paste, and dates. I exaggerated a bit when I said I stretched this into a two-day process because making the chutney takes about 15 minutes total, and the stir fry comes together in not much longer. I just made the chutney in advance so the meal itself would be an especially quick one. I’m happy to have my homemade chutney and plenty of it because it’s also used in recipes for peanut tikkis, tamarind-glazed honey shrimp, catfish curry, and the tamarita which is a tamarind-flavored margarita.
You can use brown sugar instead of jaggery, but since I was going to the trouble of making a homemade chutney, I wanted it to have the flavor of jaggery. That flavor is like molasses with a hint of smokiness. I bought enough that I can use some for cookies, and I can’t wait to taste them. Chunks of jaggery are very firm, and the best way to make them usable is to whack them with a hammer. I put a big chunk in a plastic bag, covered that with a towel so the plastic wouldn’t rip, and gave it a few wollops. It crumbled into a powdery pile after just a couple of hits. The jaggery was combined with pitted dates and water in a saucepan, and that was simmered for about eight minutes. Tamarind paste was added, it was blended until smooth, and then it went back into the saucepan with hot chile powder, ground ginger, garam masala, and salt. It simmered again until thick, and then I refrigerated it until the next day. Making the stir fry was as simple as can be. Chicken was cut into cubes, serrano chiles were halved, garlic was sliced, and shallots were chopped. The shallots, chiles, and garlic cooked for a bit in vegetable oil, and then the chicken was added. Once the chicken was cooked through, turmeric, red chile flakes, and salt were added, followed by the tamarind-date chutney. All the while, basmati rice was cooking.
I sliced a piece of serrano to use as garnish, but I should mention that those slices were not needed for any added spice. The halved serranos that cooked in the oil along with the red chile flakes gave the dish a very good level of heat which I enjoyed. The chutney was a nice, sweet, sour counterpoint to that heat giving the dish exciting, varied flavor. This is a meal that will be repeated often, and next time I’ll think to mix up some tamaritas while the rice starts cooking.