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
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.