Plum chutney happened on a day when a dear friend dropped off a big bag of plums from the tree in her backyard! One look at them and I had visions of a tangy, spicy, sweet and savory chutney that I just had to make out of them. I tried to make the recipe balanced with all 6 tastes in Ayurveda – sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. My focus was also on enhancing the digestibility of the dish using certain digestive spices. I think the inspiration for this dish was definitely the South Indian thoheyal/chutney, with the choice of herbs and spices tending more towards the ones used in South Indian cuisines. This is a very versatile accompaniment to various types of foods – idlis, dosas, yogurt rice, even wraps and sandwiches as a relish etc.
Ingredients (makes approximately 16 oz of chutney):
- Plums (red or yellow) – approximately 20-25 medium sized ones
- Oil (sesame or any other) (1 tbsp)
- Mustard seeds (1/2 tbsp)
- Split black gram lentil (urad dhal) (1 tbsp)
- Cumin (jeera) seeds (1/2 tbsp)
- Dried red chillies (3-4 or per your taste)
- Curry leaves (7-8 leaves or more if you have fresh leaves available)
- Asafetida (hing) powder (1/2 tsp)
- Fenugreek (methi) powder (1/2 tsp)
- Turmeric (haldi) powder (1 tsp)
- Sugar or jaggery (depends on the tartness of the plums – I used almost 4 tbsp)
- Salt (to taste)
- Wash the plums well.
- Chop them into small pieces.
- Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When they crackle, add the split black gram (urad) dhal. When it starts changing color, add the cumin seeds and red chillies. Ensure that the dhal and chillies don’t get too dark.
- Add the turmeric, asafetida and fenugreek powder and curry leaves.
- At this stage, add the chopped plums and salt. Cook covered till the plums are done.
- Add jaggery at this stage. The dish is ready when the plums have completely cooked and released their juices.
- You can serve this as is, but I like to grind this to make sure that all the spices’ flavors get completely infused into the chutney. You may use cumin powder, chilli powder in lieu of the actual seeds and choose to not grind them if you so wish.
Sweet (jaggery/sugar, urad dhal, plums), sour (plums), salty (salt), pungent (chillies, mustard seeds, cumin), bitter (fenugreek powder, curry leaves), astringent (asafetida).
This can be considered tridoshic. It contains all 6 tastes in balanced proportion. It is worth reminding ourselves again that predominance of certain tastes will be helpful for certain doshas e.g. pittas should favor sweet, bitter, astringent. That means add more sugar and liberal fenugreek, asafetida and curry leaves (within limits since our need for bitter and astringent tastes is comparatively lower than all other tastes). Similarly vatas should favor sweet, sour and salty, but ensure that the tastes still remain somewhat balanced in nature. Lastly, kaphas should favor pungent, bitter and astringent. That was a doshic perspective with respect to taste.
From an ingredients’ properties perspective, depending on the tartness and sweetness of the plums, the doshic influence could vary. If the plums are very sour/tart, the dish could turn out to be pitta and kapha aggravating and vata pacifying. If the plums are sweet, this dish would be more kapha aggravating and pitta and vata pacifying. If more chillies and mustard seeds are used, the chutney can become pitta aggravating. Even though excessive sugar would make the chutney more kapha’ish, this dish doesn’t have other kapha properties like cold, heavy, dull etc., so the dish won’t really be kapha aggravating. The addition of asafetida and cumin enhances the digestibility and hence makes it suitable for vatas from the digestive fire (agni) perspective.
Can be made sattvic, if pungent, sour and salty tastes are a bit subdued and ingredients used are fresh. This can easily end up as a rajasic dish, if tastes are imbalanced and pungent, sour and salty tastes are overdone. If stale ingredients are used, this can be tamasic. Now the shelf life of chutneys is slightly more than regular food items like lentils, curries, breads etc. So, you can use this for a couple days or even maybe a week (under refrigeration) and the tamasic qualities will slowly increase, but it should be fine, since the quantity ingested won’t be too much. Also, this is better than the preservative and oil laden store bought pickles that we would otherwise consume, in lieu of this chutney :).
Warm, moist, sharp, mobile, liquid.