If you’ve come across it at all, it’s probably been something along the lines of a mango chutney served on a fish or chicken dish at a restaurant. At least my experience with it in the US has been limited. But in the UK, chutney is as common as grape jelly.

So what is it exactly? It’s simply a condiment like salsa or relish that contains some mixture of spices, vegetables, and/or fruit. It’s traditionally Indian, which explains why it’s so popular in the UK since one of their largest immigrant groups is from India. As a matter of fact, India provides the second largest immigrant group after Ireland with a population of 729,000 in the 2011 census.

I’m a big fan of sweet and sour together, so I recently picked up a jar of fig and balsamic chutney at Marks & Spencers, and OMG is it good. But I felt I was doing it a disservice by simply slapping it on some cheese and crackers. So I looked up a few other uses for chutney and found this list on About.com.

1. The Classic: Chutney with Indian-style Curries

Simply spoon some chutney straight out of the jar and serve it alongside any curry recipe.

Chutney from Cornwall.

Chutney from Cornwall.

2. The Party Spread

Chutney plus cream cheese is a yummy combination. There are two ways to serve it: 1. Place a block of cream cheese on a plate and spoon the chutney of your choice over it. Serve with crackers and a small spreading knife. 2. Pulse the cream cheese and chutney together in a food processor or blender. If it seems too thick, add a splash of milk. For a lower fat but equally tasty version, you can make this chutney spread using labneh (yogurt cheese).

3. The Sandwich Booster

Mix equal parts chutney and mayonnaise together. Spread on bread and add the main sandwich ingredient of your choice (chutney goes especially well with ham and with cheese). [You should’ve seen my husband’s face when I told him about this one.]

4. With Grilled Cheese

You can make this combination either as an open-face sandwich or on crackers as an hors d’oeuvres. If making the open-face sandwich, lightly toast the bread first. Spread a layer of chutney on the toast or on crackers. Top with thin slices of cheese. A tangy cheese such as a sharp cheddar is a good choice. Broil the sandwich or crackers just until the cheese melts and starts to bubble. Serve hot.

5. With Lamb and Game Meats

Chutney pairs beautifully with the rich flavors of venison and lamb as well as duck and other richly flavored meats. Just serve a little on the side of the roasted meat or poultry, or if you prefer, spread a little of the chutney over the meat just before serving.

6. Tempura Dipping Sauce

Combine a tablespoon of chutney with 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger, 1 tablespoon mirin or other sweet white wine, and 1/4 cup chicken, fish or vegetable stock. Serve hot with tempura. You can either just mix the ingredients and heat them in a small saucepan for slightly chunky sauce, or first puree the ingredients in a blender before heating them.

7. Almost Instant Homemade Ketchup

If you compare the ingredients of ketchup to chutney you’ll notice that they have a lot in common: vinegar, sugar, spices, and fruit or veggies (you know that ketchup doesn’t have to be made out of tomatoes, right?). In fact, the only difference is that chutney is chunky and ketchup is smooth. So go ahead and puree your green tomato chutney, for example, and now you’ve got green tomato ketchup.

8. Glaze That

Puree chutney in a food processor. Dilute the resulting paste slightly with water. Use to glaze meats and poultry for roasting.

9. Chutney Dip

Combine equal parts chutney and salsa with a handful of fresh cilantro (coriander) or parsley in a blender or food processor. Pulse a few times – you don’t want it to be totally smooth, but rather to still have some texture. Adjust salt to taste. Serve with tortilla chips.

10. With Roasted Sweet Potatoes or Winter Squash

Preheat the oven to 400F/204C. Peel and seed the winter squash or scrub the sweet potatoes clean (no need to peel them). Chop the potatoes or squash into 1-inch chunks. Spread a sheet of parchment paper in a roasting pan. In a large bowl, combine the veggies with chutney, using about 1/4-cup chutney per 2 pounds of vegetables. Transfer to the roasting pan and spread into an even layer. Roast until the sweet potatoes or squash are tender, about 30 – 40 minutes.

And there you have it. So if you’re looking to “spice” things up in the kitchen, break out the chutney!

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