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A little Indian recipe of my own concoction - dates, raisins, onions, balsamic vinegar and port are simmered to make a luscious brown chutney.
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Here is our mise en place for the chutney - balsamic vinegar, cast iron pot with the onions, raisins soaked in port, pitted dates, olive oil, a big piece of cinammon bark and some more port..

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When the onions are soft and brown (or brownish, like in my picture), add half a cup of sugar.

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Mix and cook for a few minutes on high heat to caramelize the sugar.

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Make sure you don't burn it as it would become bitter and you'd need to start again.

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Deglaze with about half a cup balsamic vinegar.

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Let the balsamic vinegar boil down on high heat ...

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... then add the raisins and port.

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Flavor with dried serrano chilies, 3 cloves and 2 bay leaves.

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Add the cinammon stick...

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...then the dates.

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Check how much liquid is in the pot ...

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... and pour some more port until everything is covered.

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Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to lowest setting, cover and simmer until everything but the cinammon is soft, about one hour. Check from time to time that there is enough liquid.

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Put in airtight jars you have boiled in water to sterilize and store in the fridge.

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Here I ate this with my Weekend Tandoorist plate.

Published 29/08/2008
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30 Comments

I love your artsy photos teaching us to cook flavorful things. I've never seen dates still on their branches, or even with pits. The dates in most of my stores come in boxes, pre-pitted. And they're much darker too, probably older.
  • #2
  • Comment by Rick
  • on: 28/08/2008
Francois, you know that Indian food is something I can not resist and that chutneys are a particular favorite of mine. I'll be cooking this recipe soon!

This trip on the towboat I've made your watermelon curry twice, as well as a batch of mango chutney. My colleagues this trip are reluctant to try foods so far out of their comfort zone, so there has been more for me!

I've been wondering for some time when will you start a photography blog? Or at the least, an in depth look at your methods for achieving such wonderful results in your photographic work.

All the best,
Rick...
  • #3
  • Comment by Paul Mckena
  • on: 28/08/2008
More chillis please !

Please tell us how an indian mama gets by without aged Port

Paul
  • #4
  • Comment by Tina
  • on: 29/08/2008
I'm absolutely drooling that looks so good!  I live in Canada, and we're rapidly approaching fall which means that rich flavourful dishes are what I crave.  I can't wait to try this!  

I bet that it was just excellent with your tandoor delectables, but what else would you recommend serving it with?
  • #5
  • Comment by Stefan
  • on: 30/08/2008
Shreela, I don't know where you live, but fresh dates have their season as all fruits. In northern Africa they are harvested from now till end October and that is the time you can get them here in Europe. They are bright yellow and have a sour sweet taste. If they dry they get darker and sweeter and lose their sour taste. FX used a not totally dried kind It should be easy to get them on a well sorted market at one of the "Arab" stalls. If you have a Mediterranean grocery in your neigborhood - give it a try!

S      
  • #6
  • Comment by Paulina
  • on: 30/08/2008
I love indian food, spetially sweet chutneys!
I'll be cooking it as soon as possible.
By the way, "the taste" in your photos is so, so good!
  • #7
  • Comment by Shu
  • on: 30/08/2008
Only on FXcuisine can you see food waste proudly displayed in a beautiful picture!
  • #8
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 02/09/2008
Shu, I remembered that, like me, you like looking at peelings, scrapings and all the parts from food that we cut and peel and discard, and I put these pictures knowing that I was not alone! Glad you liked them.
  • #9
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 02/09/2008
Paulina, this was a nice chutney, but you can do it in any number of ways too. Hope you like it!
  • #10
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 02/09/2008
Stefan, I was invited at the first night of Ramadan yesterday in Istanbul and had extraordinary fresh dates, still very soft, a real delight.
  • #11
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 02/09/2008
Tina, you could serve this with grilled meats or blue cheese or plain naans!
  • #12
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 02/09/2008
Paul, you can certainly use a lot chillis in there. The port and balsamic vinegar are not commonly seen in India although I like to think that an Indian chef abroad might look at this with some interest - who knows?
  • #13
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 02/09/2008
Rick, glad to hear you liked the watermelon curry! I'm not surprised your colleagues didn't care too much for that one, it's really unusual. Let me know if you have another recipe in pictures for the second article about the Towboat Gourmet (you!). I am planning an article about food photography, but you should know that it's mainly about the light, you don't really need a fancy camera, if you get the light right you get great pictures. You need a large light (a light shooting through a white umbrella or piece of white cloth should get you good mileage). Cheers and keep safe with all these floods!
  • #14
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 02/09/2008
Ah Shreela, you owe it to yourself to track down some proper dates, it's a world of difference, so luscious, honey-like, soft, fruits from heaven!
  • #15
  • Comment by Rick
  • on: 14/09/2008
I finally got around to making this delicious chutney yesterday. The finished product was great! I love Port and the sweet taste of it was very interesting in the dish. Since you said the ingredients were approximate, and I didnt' have any Serrano chilies on hand, I used Japones peppers instead, and I used 10 of them. I think next time I will omit the sugar, since the dates, raisins and port are sweet enough on their
  • #16
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 15/09/2008
Rick, I am very flattered that you would try this recipe of my own "invention" and happy to see it worked for you! I still have many pictures of you on the boat to publish but need one recipe to focus it on, in case you cook anything else that you manage to photograph, let me know, the article will be forthcoming soon after! Cheers
  • #17
  • Comment by Catherine
  • on: 22/09/2008
I love dates! I will have to try this sometime, if I can get my hands on some fresh dates. They're a rarity around here.

Do you think this would work as well with caramelized onions?
  • #18
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 22/09/2008
Catherine, glad you like my recipe! If you read carefully, there is already a huge amount of onions to be caramelized, so yet, it works fine with them. If you mean can you omit the dates, you certainly can, and that will yield an onion jam like they serve in Morocco with couscous.
  • #19
  • Comment by Catherine
  • on: 22/09/2008
Hi FX, sorry for the misunderstanding--I tend to caramelize my onions much darker, so I thought you just softened yours up a bit, I didn't realize that they were caramelized.
  • #20
  • Comment by Angela
  • on: 25/09/2008
Francois, this looks delightful. I love these flavors. I'm dying to know: what kind of light are you using for these photographs? Studio?
  • #21
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 28/09/2008
Angela, for this photo as for most on this website, I use a Hedler C12 1000Watts tungsten light shooting through a translucent umbrella, everything hangs from the ceiling. You can do the same in a more compact format by using an off-camera flash like a Nikon SB-800 and shoot through an umbrella, place this on flash swivel on top a little light stand. Look on www.strobist.com for some idea about how you can do this. Don't ever use on-camera flash, shoot RAW and work on the light. The camera doesn't do that much of a difference for web publishing, people reify the camera like if it were some talisman, but you can do similar pictures with a small compact camera provided you get the lights right. Good luck!
  • #22
  • Comment by Deborah Stratmann
  • on: 30/09/2008
My question relates to Shreela's above. We have lovely fresh dates in the Farmer's market right now and I want to make your chutney ( its sounds yummy). What I can purchase is rather hard, yellow dates on the stem. Your dates appear to have turned soft and browned. I am thinking that I must let the harder dates ripen out a bit, yes?

dws
  • #23
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 30/09/2008
Deborah, I am not much of a date expert, in fact I'm happy to even get a date. But, as I understand it, the fresher they are, the juicier. We get bone-dry dates here and they are quite old. In any case for the chutney you can use both of them as they'll cook for ages, whereas for eating them I'd recommend the ones that look like they are dripping honey.
  • #24
  • Comment by Bad Credit Cuisine
  • on: 04/10/2008
Hmm, They have a date festival in Palm Springs Ca each year that is just fabulous and there are a so many different types of dates that could be used with recipee that could spin the flavors in one direction or another.. Yumm! I cant wait, I work with People with Really Bad Credit and I like to prepare them something during counseling sessions, sometimes even the aroma is enough to pull someone out of a depressive spiral of thought! Thanks again!
  • #25
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 06/10/2008
Bad Credit, do they grow dates near Palm Springs? If they don't, this year they certainly will grow debts, a bumper crop of Really Bad Credit!
  • #26
  • Comment by matt
  • on: 10/02/2009
Looks splendid. What's that meat you're eating with it?
  • FX's answer→ Matt, there is a link in the article about the meat from another article, The Weekend Tandoorist.

  • #28
  • Comment by Rob Coninx
  • on: 26/03/2010
Hi FX,

You have just become my new hero with this website. I discovered it when I started a search for a Blanc Manger recipe. It turned out great and made me very curious for other recipes on your www. I think they are fantastic recipes and what is most important perhaps for try outs: nice pictures and clear instructions. I wish I knew these tricks of the trade myself as I'm more and more discovering that I should have become cook or pastry chef in stead of process development engineer. Food recipes are more interesting than manufacturing recipes of capacitors and displays.... If you ever can use a temporarily volunteer to help you out for free, let me know!
Good luck with the cooking and expanding your library. Kind regards, Rob.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks a lot Rob,
    Yes cooking is fun - when you do it for fun. I think people who cook for a living might find it rather boring after a while, whatever passion they say they have! We call it the law of diminishing returns - the more you do one thing, the less one more hour of it makes fun.

  • #30
  • Comment by Sandi
  • on: 26/06/2011
This recipe is the best ever and is one everyone loves.  Thank you for sharing it with us.

Sandi

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