Growing up in India, fruit chutneys were almost always a regular part of our daily meals. We would have chutneys made with whatever fruit was in season - dates, mangoes, plums, tamarind, pineapple, tomatoes, gooseberry, olives, star fruits - all incredibly delicious and eagerly slurped up by us!
The key to the Bengali chutney is often the spice mix known as paanch (five) phoron (spice). Paanch phoron is made up of equal parts of nigella seeds, black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds and fennel seeds. Paanch phoron is readily available at Indian grocery stores, and if you have some of the pre-made mix, then just add 1/2 teaspoon of it in this dish.
In the part of India that I come from (West Bengal), meals are still served in a course-by-course manner and the chutneys would be served right after the meat dish and just before dessert. It is usually served with papads/poppadoms and the sensation of biting into a salty and crunchy papad dipped in a sweet and tangy chutney is something that you just have to experience for yourself! Enjoy!
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: Madhuja lives in Colorado and hated cooking while growing up, but loves it now!
WHAT: A traditional Bengali fruit chutney with a medley of grapes and five spices.
HOW: After toasting the spices in oil, the grapes simmer in sugar and lemon zest until the chutney reaches your desired thickness.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Madhuja recommends serving the chutney with poppadoms, but we think it'd be just as good with roasted lamb! —The Editors
In a non-stick sauce pan add the vegetable oil on medium heat. Add all the dry spices and the ginger and saute for about 1 minute. You don't want the spices to burn, so stir continuously.
Add the grapes, one cup of water, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and salt. Raise the heat to medium-high and let it boil for 15-20 minutes. Gently stir every now and then. I like my chutneys to be quite thick, so I let it boil for the entire 20 minutes. If you like yours more liquid-y, then you can stop earlier. The chutney will also thicken as it cools.
For an authentic Bengali experience, have the chutney with papads/poppadoms. Enjoy!