I was recently invited to an incredible decadent Indian dinner, hosted by a wonderfully warm family.
I had never seen such a novelty display of Indian food at someone's house. After all the oohs and aahs of each distinct flavorful dish and and after pushing the limits of the elasticity of my jeans, I was finally slowing down and wrapping up this fine Bengali dinner. I can honestly say, at the risk of offending both my mother and mother-in-law (both who are stellar cooks), that this meal was the best Indian meal I have ever had. Perhaps, it is because so many of the dishes were true to its region yet still new to my palate.
|Panch Phoran. Made of Cumin seeds, Nigella seeds, Fenugreek seeds, Mustard seed, and fennel seeds. Looks like you should put it in your birdfeeder.|
As I was wrapping up my meal, ferverously finishing what remained on my plate, I noticed a bowl filled with a ruby-tinted sauce in the middle of the table. "What's this?", I asked. She replied, "oh that's a strawberry chutney I made" I took a dollop of it on my plate and I was never the same again. I wanted to rewind my entire dinner and test all of the possible permutations of strawberry chutney with its potential partner.
The evening was so much more than a culinary journey. In the sliver of time I got to spend with the hostess, I saw all the threads of a woman I envy and aspire to be: a loving wife, a selfless mother, well-rooted to her culture, a humble entertainer, witty, charming, an exceedingly accomplished career executive, a pioneer, and a role model. Yet, these bountiful successes followed not one, but many of the most brutal obstacles that life will throw at you, and if you heard her story you would be even more inspired. But it is not my story to tell.
A garment of beautiful fabric cannot be woven without multiple needles nor without contrasting colors of thread. Some of us must weave with darker colors than others but still we make art of it. In a lifetime of weaving, should a thread break, with exclusively human strength, we find a way to stop, repair, and resume. No matter how painful, no matter how laborious. We turn it inside out, making sure the seams don't show, and tailor the fabric to our body, to our life, to our wounds. We suddenly remember that there are miles and miles of new thread right ahead of us, just waiting on a bobbin...waiting for a place in our loom, waiting for us to give ourselves the green light to go on. And then, we are stitched and serged and whole again, if not even stronger than before.
recipe by A. Mukherjee
I don't have her exact recipe but this should be pretty close. You've never had anything like it. The challenge will be try to find something to pair it with. I suggest pairing it with something understated and mild to so that the spotlight stays on the strawberry chutney.
2 lbs strawberries
2 teaspoons canola oil
1-1/2 teaspoon Panch Phoran
3 inches of dried red chilies
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 Tablespoons sugar
1. Remove the green stems from the strawberries. In a food processor, pulse several times to coarsely chop them into smaller pieces.
2. In a wide and shallow pan, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium high heat. Add the Panch Phoran and dried red chilies. Cook for about 2 minutes, constantly stirring.
3. Add the coarsely chopped strawberries and salt, and lower the heat to medium. The salt will quickly break down the strawberry into a chutney. Add sugar as it starts to break down. Stir often. Cook until desired consistency is achieved, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and serve at room temperature.