Green cilantro chutney is the ubiquitous dipping sauce in India. As it is made from mostly herbs, some thickening needs to be added. In Gujarat and Maharashtra, this may be locally grown coconut or peanuts, whereas in the north it could be an inexpensive onion or more expensive nuts such as almonds, which are an influence from Mughal cooking.
Dhaniye Ki Chutney (Cilantro and Peanut Chutney)
Makes about 1 cup
- 2 good handfuls of fresh cilantro, stalks and leaves, washed and roughly chopped
- ½-inch piece of fresh ginger, scraped and chopped
- 2 fresh green chiles, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons roasted unsalted peanuts or fresh, grated coconut
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- A good squeeze of lemon juice
Put the cilantro in a blender with the ginger, chiles, and peanuts or coconut. Blitz to a fine paste with 3 to 4 tablespoons of cold water, then add the sugar. Season with salt, add the lemon juice and mix well. The final texture should be thick and creamy. Serve with onion fritters (recipe to follow).
Any leftover chutney will keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Onion Bhajias (Onion Fritters)
Often called onion bhaji outside India, this is a very popular Indian snack all over the world. However, the round, heavy balls sold commercially in the West are a world apart from the delicate, crisp, irregularly shaped ones made at home.
Homemade bhajias are fritters of sweet, cooked onions held together by a salty, spiced batter unlike the ones you buy in a Western take-out, which taste mostly of flour. In India, an onion “bhaji” would mean a stir-fry of onions rather than the fritter! Fried snacks are often flavored with a digestive spice called ajowan. It has the scent of oregano and is sharp in taste. If you can’t find it, substitute it with cumin seeds, which are also known for their digestive properties.
- ½ teaspoon medium-hot red chile powder
- A pinch of ajowan seeds
- ½ cup chickpea flour
- 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
- Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
Combine the chile powder, salt to season, ajowan seeds, and chickpea flour in a bowl. Add enough water to make a thick, custardlike batter. Fold in some of the onions, evenly coating them with the spice and salt mixture. It is best to add a small batch of onions to the batter at a time, as this ensures that the salt in the batter does not draw out the juices of the onion sitting in it and make the batter runny.
Heat enough oil in a deep skillet to hold a single layer of fritters over high heat. Test the temperature of the oil by dropping in a slice of onion the oil should sizzle. Fry the mixture in batches, dropping in as many teaspoonfuls as the pan will hold, with enough room to flip the fritters over. Fry for 3 to 4 minutes until golden, flip them over and cook for an additional couple of minutes to cook them evenly. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
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Reprinted with permission from The Indian Cooking Course by Monisha Bharadwaj, copyright © 2016. Published by Kyle Books. Photography copyright © Gareth Morgans