Inspired by the chapter on curry leaves in Ratna Rajaiah’s fascinating book How the Banana Goes to Heaven, I recently resolved to eat curry leaves as much and as raw as I possibly can. The prospect wasn’t enticing, let me say up front. Though I like curry leaves, I find their taste overpowering and use them sparingly even in tadka. I would have to steel myself to eat curry leaves raw, or so I thought.
How wrong I was.
A tentative stab at making curry leaves and peanut chutney turned out to be hugely successful. Peanuts balance out the bitterness of curry leaves, making this chutney not only palatable but also delicious.
- Curry leaves (fresh) – 1 packed cup when plucked
- Peanuts – 1 cup
- Dry red chillies – 3
- Tamarind – 1 lemon-sized ball
- Onion – 1
- Salt – to taste
- Mustard seeds – 1/2 teaspoon
- Oil (preferably sesame oil) – 2 teaspoons
Soak tamarind in half a cup of water for 20 minutes. Extract the juice and pulp, discard the seeds.
Dry roast peanuts on low flame till the skin is brown (about 10-15 minutes). Let cool to room temperature. Rub gently to make the skin crumble and fall off.
Dry roast red chillies till they give off an aroma. This takes a few seconds only and needs to be watched carefully (a little while too long and the red chillies get burnt). Let cool to room temperature.
Slice the onion into thin strips. Heat 1.5 teaspoons of oil in a pan. When hot add the onion strips and sauté on medium-high flame. Take it off the heat when the onions are golden-brown. Let cool to room temperature.
Wash and pat dry curry leaves. Make sure that the curry leaves you’re using are absolutely fresh – discard any leaves that are beginning to discolor or shrivel up.
Note: This looks like a lot of steps but actually most can be done in parallel.
Put curry leaves in a grinder. [Keep a few aside for the tempering.] Grind.
Next add these to the grinder: dry red chillies, peanuts, friend onions and tamarind extract. Grind.
Add salt to taste and a couple of teaspoons of water if you want a thinner consistency. Grind.
Heat a few drops of oil in a tadka ladle. When smoking hot, crackle mustard seeds in oil, drop in a few curry leaves and as soon as they sizzle and turn crisp, take the ladle off the heat and pour over the curry leaves and peanut chutney.
Mix the tempering well with the chutney. Let it stand for at least an hour to let the flavours blend.
I gorged on my curry leaves and peanut chutney tonight on the side with boiled rice, ghee and salt.