Friday, January 14, 2011

Banana and Date Chutney

In the world of food there are things which sound unappealing such as chicken feet, sauerkraut and wheat grass. Then there are those foods that look unappealing and well ugly like chicken feet, oatmeal and the end result of the latest recipe I will be sharing, date and banana chutney.

This may sound silly but I don’t like eating my curries with chutneys and the reason why I made this chutney was because I wanted it for my peanut butter sandwiches! A long time ago my mum came home with a date and banana chutney and all I ate it with was peanut butter. I would mix the two together and use it as a dip for vegetables or a spread on toast. I also once tried it with cheese, it wasn’t that bad. But that was almost a year ago and I haven’t found that chutney since.
Then recently I was looking through a very old cook book which was divided into different cultures. There were recipes for American, Spanish, Italian, French, Chinese and Indian meals. I had to laugh when I was flipping through the Chinese recipes because in some recipes MSG was listed as an optional seasoning.
Anyway, in the accompaniments section for the Indian recipes was Banana and Date Chutney! With luck my mum and I went to the grocery store today and there was a 4kg bag of bananas going out for only $2!
This recipe is a winner! I was sceptical when I was making it because the smell of bananas cooking in vinegar isn’t that appealing. Then when I added molasses and it turned into a big brown gloop, well it was highly off putting. But then I stuck my spoon in, had my peanut butter by my side and I was ecstatic! Not only because I had created my favourite chutney but also because I had made my first chutney, actually, my first preserved anything.
Feel free to mix around with the flavours and ratio of spices in the chutney. I’m sure cinnamon would work incredibly well as would a little bit of heat or fresh ginger. In my version however I did change one thing by using use date molasses. Date molasses can be found at any good Greek or Lebanese food store, maybe even health stores? If you have seen carob, grape or pomegranate molasses than there should be a stock of date molasses somewhere near you!
And if you are wondering about what date molasses is like, well it’s nothing like normal molasses. It is runnier and does not have any liquorice and aniseed smell or flavour. It’s much sweeter and unfortunately I don’t think it provides the nutrients which normal molasses does provide. Still, that shouldn’t stop you from trying it if you can find it. We still use butter after all!
Date and Banana Chutney (Taken from Super cook’s Classic Dishes of the World, 1997)
Makes about 1 ½ kg (6 medium jars worth)
6 large Bananas, sliced
4 red onions, cut into eighths
250g pitted dates
1 ¼ cup white vinegar
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground ginger
125g crystallised (candied) ginger
½ tsp salt
250ml (1 cup) molasses (I used half molasses, half date molasses)

First, put the onions in a food processor and finely chop, but not to a pulp. If you don’t have a food processor than chop by hand (using a food processor however saves time). Remove the onions and place in a heavy based saucepan.
Place the dates in the food processor (or chop by hand) and finely chop. Put into the saucepan with the onions, banana and vinegar.
Cook the mixture for 15 minutes at a medium high heat, stirring occasionally, or until the onion is cooked.
While you are waiting chop the crystallised ginger in the food processor or by hand into fine pieces. (It will be sticky)
Stir in the spices, crystallised ginger, salt and molasses and cook at a moderate heat for 20 – 30 minutes, depending on how thick you like it.
Remove from the heat and spoon the chutney into clean, warmed preserving jars. Cover with vinegar resistant paper (optional, I didn’t do it... maybe I should have?), label and store in a cool dark place.

If you wish to make a peanut butter sandwich with your chutney, I use cucumber, carrot, lettuce, fresh garlic rubbed on the bread and corriander when I make mine. But please don’t just do what I do, the chutney has many other good uses!

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