The gang had gathered one summer Sunday at Ashutosh’s house, eager for another edition of Veena Aunty’s fantastic lunches and the Parekhs’ warm hospitality. Fourteen of us gathered around the table for an afternoon of Gujju style gluttony. Khandvi, patra, khatta dhokla, fansi na ghughra, kaeri no ras, masala puri and spicy potato bhaji. Just as Veena Aunty served the khatta dhokla, she waddled back into the kitchen and sidled up to me secretively, handing me a tiny container of a dry chutney. “Aa shu che?” I was curious. “Bhavshe taney…but this is all I have left from the current batch so don’t advertise it to everyone or they will riot for it”.
Veena Aunty and I have always bonded over kitchen secrets and recipes so her recommendations have since held the promise of adventure. This was the first time I had tried this chutney and it was delicious! I had tried several different podis – dry powder chutneys varying in flavours across every region of south India. They are a coarse powder mixture made by grinding dry spices like dried red chillies, urad dal, chana dal, and sesame seeds. Podis are traditionally used as a dipping condiment with idlis and dosas. They have their own magic, especially when stirred into pure, warm ghee or gingelly oil but somehow they don’t have the zing that this chutney has. The South Indian chutneys I find, are earthier in flavour without that balance of sweet and sour.
This curry leaf chutney powder was also something I have never tasted in my mum’s kitchen so after quickly and ahem, discreetly polishing off my contraband chutney, I turned to pick Veena Auntys brain for the recipe. She told me step by step what went in it but by the end of our boisterous lunch, I had forgotten all but the taste of it.
Some time had passed since then but that taste remained ingrained on my palate and one lazy afternoon in Goa, I decided to attempt it by pure saporific memory. I could have just called her for the recipe, but did I just mention ‘lazy afternoon’?
So, I added my own two bits of inspiration and the results were just perfect for my palate that is engineered to a Gujarati- South Indian flavour. The gardener was sent off to raid the neighbour’s tree for a bushelful of fresh curry leaves and I was in business. This chutney is not only easy to make and store but is also so versatile that it can be used in an endless amount of recipes.
It works beautifully as a dipping sauce mixed with ghee for Gujarati snacks like dhokla and panki.
Mix it with thick creamy yoghurt and use it as a dip with lavash, crudites and tikkis.
Mix it in a little extra virgin olive oil and dress a crisp salad.
Temper some boiled yam, potatoes or sweet potatoes in oil and sprinkle a generous amount of the chutney for a fresh and fragrant dry curry dish.
Use it as a dry rub on chicken or fish and slap it on a hot grill. Really yummy.
And my latest, add a generous amount to coconut rice and let your eyes just roll back in your head with that that burst of absolutely, fresh, fragrant and unmistakable curry leaf flavour.
Like Tinkerbell’s pixie dust, this is my Magic Chutney.
6 packed cups fresh curry leaves
2-3 cups dry red chillies
1 cup daria dal (roasted Bengal gram)
1/4 cup white sesame seeds
3tbsp urad dal (split black gram)
2tbsp chana dal (split bengal gram)
1/2 tbsp citric acid crystals
Salt to taste.
- Wash the curry leaves and spread to dry on a sheet of paper. Make sure they are completely dry before use. Remove the pips on the red chillies, retaining the seeds. Use chillies that have more heat and less colour.
- In a non-stick pan, dry roast the urad dal, chana dal, sesame and daria dal for about 5-7 mins on low heat. Add the curry leaves and roast on low heat mixing and stirring frequently. After about 7-9 mins, the curry leaves should be semi crisp.
- Add the red chillies and roast in the same manner till both the curry leaves and chillies are crisp and dry. Let cool.
- Add the sugar, salt, citric acid. Using a mixer grinder, coarse grind the mixture adjusting the salt, sugar and citric acid balance since the final flavour depends on the seasonal intensity of the curry leaves and red chillies.
- Transfer to dry, airtight bottles and if stored in the fridge, it lasts for months.