Accompaniments like chutneys, raitas and dips not only add a touch of perkiness to the main dishes but also complete the snack or meal. These tasty titbits have two functions: to tease the palate with their sharp contrasts of sweet, sour, hot and salty flavours and to balance the meal with added vitamins and minerals. Accompaniments not only add more texture and visual delight to the meal, but also provide nutrients that balance out the meal to advantage.
Chutney is a spicy condiment consisting of vegetables/fruits, spices and/or herbs. Chutneys, both fresh and cooked, are piquant, palate teasing relishes that serve as accents to other dishes. From the simplest Indian lunch of rice, vegetables and yogurt to the lavish spread of 108 preparations, a meal is often considered incomplete without a dab of chutney or pickle to liven it up. Heat intensity ranges from fiery to pleasantly nippy; texture varies from thinnish sauces to jam like conserves; and taste spans spicy to mild.
According to Ayurveda, fruit is one of the most purest foods we can eat. Fruits enhance ojas, the finest by-product of digestion, considered in Ayurveda to be that which sustains life itself. Fresh fruit chutneys add flavour to the meal and help add a number of tastes, sometimes all six tastes that are recommended by Ayurveda to be included in every main meal. Spicy chutneys bring balance to mild dishes and sweet chutneys bring balance to spicy dishes. For contemporary times, fresh fruit chutneys (traditionally a part of an Ayurvedic meal) are recommended. They are delicious and help add nutritive value to the meal and also improve digestion. Modern nutrition also praises fruits for their vitamin and mineral content (especially Vitamins C and A), which makes them natural antioxidants that help protect the body from free radical damage.
In some cases, chutneys play more than a supporting role, for they can be essential to the character of the dish. For example, South Indian dosas and idlis are practically never served without some type of fresh coconut chutney, and North Indian dahi bhallas are inevitably served with a spoonful of sweet and sour tamarind chutney. Indian snacks are incomplete without chutneys so expect them with idli, dosa, vada, uttappa, samosas, cutlets, tikkis, kebabs and what have you. The sweeter chutneys also make interesting bread spreads and are delicious served with cheese. They are excellent with paranthas and rotis too.
The raw chutneys are best consumed fresh but can be stored in the refrigerator for two to three days. Cooked chutneys, keep well; covered and refrigerated, they can be used for a week or so. Sweet chutneys such as mango and apricot are generally cooked to the consistency of jam to avoid fermentation of the product during long storage. If vinegar is being used, rest assured it is a good preservative and the chutneys can be preserved for months.
Let's look at natural yogurt. It is used for marinating meats - it tenderises them - as a tart, creamy flavouring and as an ingredient for sauces. Rich in protein, yogurt is easy to digest, far easier than milk. Yogurt when turned into raitas also make a wholesome supplement to the meal. With its cooling temperament, yogurt also counteracts the heat of spicy rich curries. Yogurt that has been tempered or to which vegetables and spices have been added makes a very interesting accompaniment to any Indian meal.
The more tempting ones are mint flavoured raita to which boiled potatoes have been added. Or the pale, green pleasant combination of cucumber with yogurt sometimes perked up with a tempering of mustard seeds. This makes an excellent snack that can be stored in the refrigerator and then taken out whenever someone comes in complaining of being tired, hot and hungry. It is very simple, just grate a peeled cucumber and squeeze out the excess water. Whisk the yogurt and add the cucumber and seasonings such as salt, pepper and roasted cumin powder.
Dips can be cool and creamy or fiery hot, they are simply designed to enliven eating! You can design them depending on every one’s tastes and preferences, that could be super rich or low fat, or masaledar or subtle. A dip or two with chips or crudités, either served hot or cold, is irresistible stuff at parties, and complement any style. So these are not only universally popular because they are tasty and easy to make and serve, but also because most of the dip recipes can be prepared much in advance and refrigerated. Remove just before service time.
Dips are very versatile and not only with chips would they be a hit at parties but also used to brighten up plain dishes (you can include salsas and relishes here) and grilled foods. Supermarket shelves boast of a lot of ready made dips and some of them are quite daring in the flavours but the best and most economical ones come from your own kitchen.
Buying readymade could prove to be expensive (considering a dip is just a part of your starters in a party menu!) plus the fear is always there that if it is not tasty it will not circulate well. So why bother buying commercial brands when it is so simple and quick and far more tastier to make them at home yourself.
Mostly dip recipes do not involve cooking as they are dependent on fruits and vegetables all perked up with herbs and/or garlic and chillies. No-cook, speedy dips are excellent even for hungry children or unexpected guests.
Whatever type of dip you make, make sure that the accompaniment is right in flavour and texture. In whatever manner you choose to serve the dips, they are sure to add a sparkle to your meals.