Cranberries are a delight to cook with. At first glance, these berries looked so firm that I imagined it might take a while to cook them. Not so. Within minutes of being heated up, the ruby-like berries collapse into a fragrant pulp. The color, aroma and taste of the cooking cranberries strongly reminded me of fresh kokum, that incredible fruit from the Konkan coast of Western India (but I have made fresh kokum sarbat many times growing up and do know that it looks nothing like cranberries, being a lot larger in size and containing a pit).
I spiked the chutney with crushed cumin and red pepper flakes to add some savory flair. The natural pectin in cranberries helped this chutney set to a perfect thickness, especially since I made it the day before and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. The dates I used were sweet enough that it needed no extra sugar. This chutney- a nutritious combination of antioxidant-rich cranberries and fiber-rich dates is a keeper! I can't wait to serve it with dhokla and on papdi chaat...
Cranberry Date Chutney
1. In a small saucepan, combine 1 C fresh cranberries (rinsed, with the mushy ones picked out and discarded), 1 C chopped, seeded dates, 1 C water and salt to taste. If you like sweeter chutney, you could add some jaggery or raw sugar at this point.
2. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 12-15 minutes, covered, until berries are soft and mushy. Some of the cranberries exploded with a small pop, so watch out!
3. Turn off the heat, then stir in 1/2 t toasted, crushed cumin seeds and a hefty pinch of red pepper flakes (or to taste).
4. Blend to a puree, then taste. Adjust the balance of flavors if necessary.
I served this bright sweet-tart chutney with some spicy vegetable puffs. It was an attempt to replicate those gloriously flaky veggie puffs from bakeries in India- I wolfed these down in vast numbers as a college student. The idea was to make a tasty filling of vegetables held together with cooked potato and to stuff it into readymade pastry dough (ultra-thin sheets of dough separated by some fat like butter or oil) and bake the puffs to a golden finish- quick and easy. What threw a metaphorical spanner in the works was the fact that I forgot that puff pastry and phyllo dough, as sold in stores, are not the same thing. Sure, both consist of paper-thin sheets of dough, but puff pastry is already layered with buttered, ready to be rolled out and filled. Phyllo dough is sold in sheets which need to be brushed painstakingly with butter/oil as they are folded and filled (while being kept covered and damp or they go brittle and unusable on your a**). Well, I came home with phyllo dough, and did not enjoy working with it too much. I suppose on some day when I was taking it on as a luxurious culinary project, it might have been different. On Thanksgiving day, with a bustling kitchen and guests arriving soon- not so much fun. In the end, I made it through and produced a platter of a couple dozen crispy puffs, and grudgingly agreed that, yes, they tasted great. Especially with this delicious chutney!
I'm sending this chutney over to Chandrika for the AFAM: Dates event.
This is a common scene from our home. One minute, Dale is playing with his rope toy. The next, he is fast asleep; his dark fur warming in the morning sunshine. He is the Shah of Slumber, the Sultan of Snooze.
Have a great week ahead, everyone!