Tamarind (Imli) Chutney or Sauce or Ketchup
Imli Chatni (Traditional)
This is a sweet and sour chutney. Once made, it can last in the fridge for a good few months and freezes well. It can be served with various savoury snacks, chaats (spicy snacks), samosas, dahi vadas and pakoras, just like tomato sauce/HP Sauce are used in the West.
The word Chutney comes from original Hindi word Ëœchatni and means something that makes you smack you lips, makes your tongue and mouth come alive'! The word Chat/Chaat or Chatna mean to lick and 'chutney' means something you lick...you get the drift!
400 gm. or 1 packet of dry tamarind, with stones/skins intact. This gives better results than the ready-extracted tamarind juice/sauce sold in bottles*
1 litre hot water. The amount of water needed depends on the quality of tamarind. Some varieties have more pulp than others and need more water to extract it.
1 tsp. cooking oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
A large pinch of asafoetida powder
6-7 tsp. salt, try kala namak or black salt, which gives a much nicer flavour
100 gm. jaggery or brown sugar or Muscovado sugar
1 tsp. chilli powder, adjust to taste
2 tsp. roasted cumin, coarsely ground**
1-2 tsp. Garam Masala
5-6 Chuaras (Chu-aa-raas) or dry dates, de-stoned and thinly sliced. These are hard dates, different from soft dates that you buy in supermarkets
*You can buy tamarind extract at some Indian and oriental shops which has only salt added. This is not as good as freshly extracted pulp, but is okay
**Dry roast 1 tsp. cumin seeds on a griddle and grind them roughly, using a rolling pin or mortar and pestle. A cook blitz in the coffee grinder will also work.
Break up the tamarind block. Soak in enough hot water to cover it well and leave for one hour or longer. If you have less time, heat it for a few minutes in a microwave on full for 2-3 minutes, or heat on stove. This will soften up the dry tamarind. It should be squishy.
Mash and squeeze the pulp, to separate the stones and skins. I do this with gloved hands as it is quite acidic.
Strain it through a large metal colander or sieve. After the first straining, add a little warm water to the remaining pulp and squeeze every last bit of pulp out. Now you should have a thick, smooth pulp.
Discard stones and skins/husk/fibre.
Heat oil in a pan.
Add cumin seeds and asafoetida powder. When seeds splutter, add tamarind pulp and all other ingredients. Add dry dates/chuaraas here, if used.
Allow it to boil briskly, stirring from time to time.
Add salt, Jaggery/sugar and chillies according to your taste. Tamarind varies in sweetness/tartness and can be very sharp sometimes, when it may need a lot more extra sugar. Adjust by tasting it.
Add garam masala, stir and take it off the heat.
Allow to cool.
You can blend it at this stage, if you don't like pieces of dates floating in it.
Pour in airtight bottles or jam jars or empty tomato ketchup type of plastic bottles. It lasts well in the fridge for a few months. Jars can also be kept in a freezer indefinitely.
Some Far-eastern tamarind is rather sweet and needs far less sugar and salt.