Chetna Makan: Why chutneys and raita are so important to a dish

September 28, 2020 8:30:34 AM

Chetna Makan: Why chutneys and raita are so important to a dish

Chetna Makan has been on a mission to make us better understand the fact that everyday Indian food can be delicious, as well as good for us. First, she did it with Chetna’s Healthy Indian, and now her latest cookbook, Chetna’s Healthy Indian: Vegetarian, builds on that idea that Indian food is not simply the realm of the takeaway.

And in each of those recipe collections, the former Great British Bake Off contestant has dedicated whole chapters to raitas and chutneys; the side dishes and dips that bring additional hits of flavour, be it a coriander and mint chutney, or a mango and coconut raita (both feature in her new book).

“Chutneys and raita are such a key part [of a meal] because you could serve just one dish and a side with bread,” says Makan, “and then if you just put a raita or chutney with it, it completely changes the meal, because it adds that extra punch or kick. It livens the whole thing up.”

“It’s something I don’t think I can do without,” she continues, “it is so important. When we eat, my kids are so used to having some kind of yoghurt thing on the side.”

Whipping one up needn’t require serious endeavour, or a huge array of extra pots and pans either, she says. “I might not make a fancy raita all the time, but I might just add some cumin powder and salt to yoghurt, mix it up and serve it with the food,” explains Makan. “[It] makes that meal even more special, without much effort – that’s the key. It’s not like you’re putting in an hour making a chutney or raita, these things are just so quick to make, you really don’t have an excuse, you can just blitz it up and serve.”

How to make Makan’s aubergine raita…

“I’ve been told by friends that I should put this raita into jars and sell it in shops – they think it’s the best thing ever! You should definitely try it,” says Makan.”

Ingredients:

(Serves 4)

For the aubergine:

1 aubergine, cut into 2.5cm cubes
1/4tsp salt
1/4tsp freshly ground black pepper
1tbsp sunflower oil

For the yogurt:

300g natural yogurt
50ml water
1/2tsp salt
1/2tsp sugar

For the tadka:

1tsp sunflower oil
1tsp panch poran (Indian 5 spice)
10 fresh curry leaves
2 green chillies, finely chopped

Chetna Makan’s aubergine raita (Nassima Rothacker/PA)

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F), Gas Mark 6. Put the aubergine cubes into a bowl with the salt, pepper and oil and mix well. Spread the cubes on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, turning them halfway through cooking.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the yogurt, water, salt and sugar. Once the aubergines are done, stir them into the yogurt.

3. To make the tadka, heat the oil in a small pan and add the panch poran. After a few seconds, when it starts to sizzle, add the curry leaves and green chillies and cook just a few seconds more. Pour the tadka over the raita and serve.

Chetna’s Healthy Indian: Vegetarian by Chetna Makan, photography by Nassima Rothacker, is published by Mitchell Beazley, priced £20 (octopusbooks.co.uk). Available now.

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