Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cranberry-Date Chutney

This Thanksgiving, I tried to incorporate some typical North American ingredients into the menu. These are foods that I have tasted only after living here in the United States, and have grown to love. The chocolate pecan pie on the menu was studded with pecans and dripping with maple syrup. The third North American ingredient was cranberries. I've been hooked onto dried sweetened cranberries for a few years (as a munchable snack), but cooked with fresh seasonal cranberries for the first time- making this date and cranberry chutney. Date and tamarind chutney, with its irresistible interplay of sweet and sour flavors, is a perennial favorite in our home, and it seemed quite natural to swap out tamarind in my usual recipe and try a version with tart cranberries.
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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

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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.
Dalenap


Have a great week ahead, everyone!

31 comments:

  1. Oooh, that chutney looks delicious! I love making cranberry chutney in place of the usual sweet cranberry sauce. I much prefer the tart taste, with a little bit of heat. It's so nice that you are exploring traditional American food products from different regions of the country.

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  2. is dale adorable or what..soo sweet!! and i have made the same mistake nupur..getting phyllo instead of puff pastry for aloo puff..tasted good...but too painful!! the chutney looks fab :)

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  3. You are soooooooo right on your observations about cooking cranberry! i feel the same way each time i make the cranberry pickle. The idea for chutney is really yummy! Oh, and Dale is looking so sweet, as ever :).

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  4. Lovely cutney Nupur!!! Well incorporated 2 ingredients.. its looks Deliciosssssssss!! Puffs & that.. perfect.. Talking of Papdi chaat & all u make me feel hungry again :-(

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  5. The cranberry chutney sounds so yummy. I love snacking on dried cranberries too. Over the years, I have found quite a few Indian recipes using cranberries. Right now,I have a bottle of precious cranberry pickle that a dear friend of ours gave me.
    Updates on Dale are always heart warming. Looks like the turkey got to him. Sweet dreams Dale !
    Regards,
    Namita.

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  6. I made green bean casserole once. I don't see it in the commercials anymore. Lovely recipe Nupur and Dalu rocks.

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  7. Nupur!

    This sounds delicious - a perfect sweet-tart combination. And even better because of the seasonal aspeect of cranberries :) Can't wait to try it!

    I *love* that pic of Dale - tell him Vodka says *woof*!

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  8. that looks so yummy. and i wish i had bowls like that. those white ones are just so perfect!

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  9. Cranberries n christmas!! I just love both and what an amazing chutney!!

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  10. Lydia, oh, now that you mention is, I do realize that these North American ingredients are from different regions of the country!

    Rajitha, yes, sleeping babies and sleeping dogs do look sweet, mostly because it means they are out of your way for a little while ;) I am much relieved to know that you also made this mistake and thought phyllo dough was painful!! You live, you learn, right? :D

    Musical, cranberry pickle sounds delicious!! Have you posted it? Looked on your blog but could not find it. This chutney was made in minutes :) and Dale is waving his paw at you, saying hello :D

    Seema, yes, the two things went together very well! I know what you mean, papdi chaat makes me drool any time of day or night :D

    Namita, another mention of cranberry pickle...I am drooling! Now that I have "discovered" fresh cranberries, I shall have to try all kinds of recipes with them!
    Yup, Dale eats and sleeps. For him, it is Thanksgiving every day of the year :D

    Suganya, green bean casserole is on my to-try list, but not the "traditional" version with canned beans and canned soup!! Dalu says hi!

    KayKat, The good news about Vodka is making us sooo happy here!! Dale was looking very worried for a while but says "arf" to Vodka and wishes him well!
    The chutney is totally worth a try :)

    Nags, I know...they are the only cute little bowls I have, so I use them for every post :D

    Padmaja, yes, this is a very festive-looking chutney indeed!

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  11. Delicious looking chutney, Nupur! And nothing like the sight of sweet sleepy animals soaking up the sunshine on a near-winter's day :)

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  12. Nupur, Date Cranberry chutney sounds delicious, Looked at the puffs and thought you were making a healthy version of the puffs :)

    I am going to try the chutney with Bhel Puri. Yay!

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  13. Cranberries and dates - a combination I still have to try. I can only imagine how good that chutney tastes. Nice one Nupur!

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  14. This is a great combo. I also add tomatoes to it. Have one in my blog with tomato+cranberry+date. But my mine is not blended. Your blended version looks better.

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  15. brilliant! i kept wondering about ways to sweeten it, sure, dates it is!!! will try this soon :)

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  16. Awww. Dale looks so comfy, just want to cuddle up with him!!!
    The chutney looks so wonderful!!! I have never tried using cranberries in anything! must try this!!!

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  17. superb!!! love that combo yaar...chutney is colorful...i bet u enjyd having it....gud entry...

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  18. Nupur: looks like that phyllo really got on your nerves!! The easy way out of all that brushing of oil/butter and the whole thing crumbling to bits is to use oil spray - quick and painless, and it uses up much less fat. Spectrum is a good brand, or you can use one of those spray-pump gizmos that you fill up with oil. andAnd the saving grace about phyllo is that it has FAR less fat than puff pastry. Puff pastry is divine, of course, but simply oozing with butter!
    A smart salute from me to Dale, the Sovereign of Sweetness!
    Kamini.

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  19. Oh does that chutney sound good! I love cranberries and can't wait to try your take on this traditional Thanksgiving treat! I can only recall having worked with phyllo once, but I clearly remember the way it dried up into a fragile, crumbly mess! Those mashed sweet potatoes in your previous post sound wonderful also... what a meal!

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  20. Oh I just love Cranberries and the chutney looks amazing Nupur!

    ~ Siri

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  21. This cranberry date chutney sounds really good.

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  22. Linda, thanks! Yes, seeing these sleepy pets makes me wish that I could laze around at home and do the same :D

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  23. Indosungod, I wonder how there can ever be a healthy version of puffs...with all that fat separating the layers! Maybe for those who consider anything that is baked to be healthy :) For me, puffs will be a guilty once-in-a-while treat. Ooh, the thought of bhel puri is making me hungry :D

    Meeta, yes, dates are a wonderful substitute for the usual sugar in cranberry chutney.

    Latha, thanks!!

    Sandeepa, I thought I needed to blend this because I wanted to break down the skin of the dates. Tomato sounds like a delicious addition!

    Richa, I know you love dates anyway :D

    Manasi, I know...but he is so "khadus", if you cuddle up next to him, he walks away in a huff and finds a new spot!
    Try cranberries if you can find them...they are so delicious!

    Remya, glad you like it :)

    Kamini, hmm...oil spray is a wonderful idea! You are so right about phyllo dough...that you can control the type and amount of fat unlike with puff pastry. I have bought puff pastry only once before and it was way too buttery even for me :D
    Dale just woke up from his nap just to say hello to you!

    Cathy, fragile and crumbly...yes! Glad you like my non-traditional Thanksgiving meal :)

    Siri, thanks, my dear!

    Kevin, glad you like it :)

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  24. Nurpur, I think you have a winner here. This is a great idea.

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  25. The dates cranberry chutney looks in a awesome colour..!!
    Dale's photo looks beautiful!

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  26. hi nupur, as i am sitting here in a whole new lab and feeling a little low (v. common for me with every move!), i decided to check out your blog. it instantly took me back to warm SD where i spent many hours of lab time with my friends drooling over your blog. i havent left a comment here in a long time, but just wanted to say thanks for providing the little link to a very favourite place of mine :) love, shoots

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  27. This recipe sounds so tasty. Thank you for sharing!

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  28. hey Nupur, i tried the chutney and it tumed out yummm :) Thanks!
    the taste is so close to the imli chutney, i had it with mock samosa :)

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  29. Dear Nupur,
    you do have the best recipes and u write about them in the most endearing way! I've only recently discovered ur blog, but have been on a mission since, to make as many recipes from it as I can - coz they all look so good! I tried ur spicy cauliflower soup and pizza dough and both were wonderful. I'm on a sort of pantry-cleaning run as well, so had some old, frozen cranberries (don't know how long they've been sitting there) and tried this cranberry-date chutney - was yummy with samosas (also sitting in my freezer ;-). Had to add some tamarind to increase the tartness (prob coz the crannys were old) but otherwise was so very good. Thanks so much. I'll be a regular lurker on this site, hereafter :-)
    Prashanti

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  30. Richa, I am so glad you tried it :) You are always so prompt with feedback!

    Prashanti, thank you so very much for your sweet words- I am afraid you are being too kind!
    I am delighted to know that the cauli soup and the pizza dough both worked well. And that you got a chance to try this chutney too! I appreciate your feedback and encouragement and wish you lots of good eats ahead :)

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