Sweet and spicy peach chutney

Shallots, ginger, cumin, a pinch of local chili powder and the warming, sweet combination of cardamom, cinnamon and star anise are the key components of this summer peach chutney. It's sweet, spicy and full of flavor to spice up any boring weeknight meal or weekend BBQ. 

 Spring naan flatbread

It’s true that many Indian dishes are complex, given the variety of spices and ingredients that are needed to build up various powerful and delicious flavor combinations — but they don’t have to be time consuming. Crazy concept? I know.

At least that’s what I learned from Sylvia Charles, founder of Spice Mama, a purveyor of wonderful sauces, chutneys and curries to whip up an amazing tasting meal in a flash. Sylvia recently visited my kitchen to make this summer peach chutney and chat about cooking Indian food with all that California has to offer. 

Sylvia grew up in Florida, with two Indian parents from the southern Indian state of Andra Pradesh. Throughout her childhood, Sylvia grew accustomed to eating complex and wonderfully spiced meals cooked by her mother and aunties. She took that sophisticated eastern palate to college, where Sylvia's mom would ship her jars of her sauces and chutneys to spread over bagels or add to noodles and eggs. As she grew up and started her own family, Sylvia tried to recreated a lot of these sauces and dishes herself. She realized that by incorporating all things local she could get some amazing dishes that where similar, but unique to her geography. She also learned that making sauces or spice blends in advance made it a breeze to whip up a full-flavored weeknight dinner in a flash.

For this peach chutney, Sylvia uses shallots as opposed to regular onions and a local chili powder from a nearby farm. Shallots, she argues, are milder and lend sweeter notes to the chutney. The local chili powder is tastier than most ground chilis she could find at Indian grocers. 

This dish is highly adaptable to any schedule or meal. You can cook it for 15 minutes for a chunkier texture, or keep it on the stove over a low flame for 45 minutes to get more of jammy chutney. To eat it, you can spoon it over grilled chicken or baked fish or simply put a dollop over you eggs in the morning. 

 Spring naan flatbread
 Spring naan flatbread

COOKING NOTES

For a chunkier texture, cook the chutney for only 15 to 20 minutes once the peaches are added. For a jammier texture, cook on a very low flame for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

MAKES ABOUT 8 SERVINGS

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
¾ shallot, sliced into thin rounds
½ tablespoon minced ginger
3 dates, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 pods green cardamom
1 star anise
½ small cinnamon stick
2 to 3 teaspoons Espelette chili powder
¼ teaspoon salt
4 peaches, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice wine vinegar

In a medium saucepan over medium low heat, warm the grapeseed oil until hot. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until the shallots are deeply browned and caramelized, 8 to 10 minutes.

  1. Add the ginger and dates and cook, stirring, for another 5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cardamom, star anise and cinnamon stick. Cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add chili powder, salt and peaches. Give it a good stir, then add the rice wine vinegar. Cover and cook until softened and the peaches start to break down, 15 to 20 minutes. It should be still chunky, but soft and spreadable.