Green toma­toes in­spire a chut­ney for all sea­sons

Hen­nie Fisher ex­plains why green tomato chut­ney has a spe­cial place in his heart and recipe book

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WHILE vis­it­ing a friend in New Zealand I ex­pressed my in­ter­est in heir­loom veg­eta­bles, and wish­ing to fuel my en­thu­si­asm, my friend plonked me down in front of an on­line seed cat­a­logue and gave me carte blanche to shop to my heart’s con­tent. Some weeks later I re­ceived a pack­age filled with the most fan­tas­tic col­lec­tion of un­usual veg­etable seeds: yel­low wa­ter­melon, black, pur­ple, yel­low and deep cerise toma­toes, and white aubergines among oth­ers.

Of course, the prob­lem with such seeds is that they ul­ti­mately only sur­vive and thrive in the cli­mates they have evolved and adapted to. Af­ter the ini­tial de­light of watch­ing my seeds ger­mi­nate, and then mon­i­tor­ing nu­mer­ous trays filled with ex­otic ado­les­cent tomato plants, I was forced to farm them out to larger gar­dens, sun­nier en­vi­rons and the at­ten­tions of other gar­den­ers.

My re­tired folks, with lots of time on their hands, were able to get their plants to pro­duce some fruit and had mar­ginal suc­cess in terms of fruit ripen­ing. How­ever, their toma­toes never re­ally achieved any depth of colour, mostly just go­ing from green to rot­ten. I was even­tu­ally forced to take bas­ket-loads off their hands and had to find ways to process green, semiripe toma­toes.

Not be­ing com­pletely au fait with the typ­i­cal mealie mealdipped fried green tomato of the Amer­i­can South, but hav­ing much of an affin­ity for chut­ney the de­ci­sion was eas­ily made for me. Tomato chut­neys made of ripe toma­toes of­ten strad­dle the bor­der be­tween a sheba (tomato and onion rel­ish, most of­ten served warm with meat and starch) and a tomato sauce, whereas green tomato chut­ney can firmly stand on its own as a condi­ment.

In­dia Cook­book is a com­pila- tion of In­dian recipes by Pushpesh Pant (pub­lished by Phaidon) and while def­i­ni­tions of what chut­ney is dif­fer, this book es­sen­tially de­scribes it as the In­dian word for sauce (chat­ney). There are nu­mer­ous va­ri­eties of chut­neys, rang­ing from wet to dry and very fine to chunky and coarse.

In SA, the aver­age con­sumer will prob­a­bly think of a “blat­jang” when you ask them what they con­note to the word chut­ney, which is usu­ally sweet and of­ten made with apri­cots. But in other cul­tures chut­neys could be made with a mor­tar and pes­tle and spices of­ten be­ing added in a par­tic­u­lar or­der.

Chut­ney re­mains a firm favourite in our South African cui­sine. Ex­pand­ing on the “lo­cal is lekker” theme, two ad­di­tional notes be­fore I give you an easy, win­ning recipe for a green tomato chut­ney: with win­ter ap­proach­ing there is noth­ing bet­ter (and eas­ier) than pair­ing a board of lo­cal cheeses, bread, meat or bil­tong and a home-made chut­ney with a good lo­cal for­ti­fied wine such as the Bads­berg Red Jerepigo. Made from 100% Pino­tage and hav­ing gar­nered four stars from the 2013 John Plat­ter wine guide and both a Gold Ver­i­tas and a Michelangelo Sil­ver award last year, noth­ing could demon­strate the afore­men­tioned more aptly.

Al­ter­na­tively, con­firm for your­self the per­fect match of chut­ney, cold meats and wines at the an­nual Feast of Shi­raz & Char­cu­terie at the Hartenberg Wine Es­tate this Satur­day.

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