Thursday, November 01, 2007

If You Can't Beet 'em ... & Your Thoughts On An Event - Grindless Gravies

Chips, as we call them in India (crisps to the rest of you), immediately bring to mind the potato, but of late, some enterprising stores here in India have taken to making and selling chips made from yam, sweet potato, carrot, beetroot, okra/ladies’ fingers, and even bittergourd, which is one of the most palatable ways of downing this vegetable.

All these different chips here have their own unique taste and idiosyncracies – the yam never fails to smell fishy (literally), the sweet potato is excellent but probably doesn’t lend itself well to chipping I see it so rarely, the beetroot takes on a shine, the carrot shows some black in its grain, the okra goes out of shape and the bittergourd, stiffened by the flour it’s dipped in, holds it.

We don’t often pulverize these same veggies into chutney, but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t, as I’ve been discovering slowly. In India, it’s mostly the 'watery’ vegetables such as eggplant/brinjal, gourds and greens that are used for chutney – easy to mash and influence, unlike the starchier, sturdier vegetables which will mash but also stick to the pestle or won’t submit with such ease.

It’s not impossible, though, to chutney-fy them as I have been discovering. I first chanced on a carrot chutney, probably my aunt’s invention/innovation – a tangy, orange affair to which curds and besan lent body, and this beetroot chutney, a friend’s grandmother’s, both in the last three or four years. I’ve always failed with the carrot chutney but the beetroot was a success even when I made it for the first time just recently.

In my previous post, I recounted the story of the lost opportunity in beetroot chutney, but a few of you wanted the recipe, saying it was news to you too, ergo the post.

But before that, I need your opinion on something: I’ve been planning a one-off event for months now, but between wondering how it can be at least a little different from the others going around and finally deciding on one, I am not sure if it will appeal to you all.

It will be called Grindless Gravies and the idea is to come up with a thick gravy WITHOUT resorting to the mixer or grinder or even to heavy-duty grinding by hand, if anyone does that anymore (or grating something long enough to allow it to become pulpy enough to add bulk)– the idea is to find ourselves recipes for fulfilling gravies without the elbow grease. So tell me if this idea appeals to you and help me formulate the terms and conditions and make sure there are no escape clauses and I will announce it formally.

Finally, on to the chutney recipe:

Beets, chopped, boiled until just tender: 2 cups
A lime-sized lump of soaked tamarind
Green chillies: 6, chopped (or less)

To temper:
Oil: 2 tsp + 1 tsp
Garlic: A few cloves, skinned, split
Mustard seeds: ¾ tsp
Urad dal/hulled, split black gram: 1 tsp
Curry leaves: A few
Cumin seed: ½ tsp

In one tsp of oil, fry the green chillies well. It just needs to wilt a bit so don’t worry if the oil’s absorbed all too quickly.

Temper the other two tsps of oil with the mustard, cumin, then the black gram (wait for it to brown slightly), garlic and the curry leaves.

To the beetroot, add salt, the green chillies, the tempering and the tamarind lump. Put this in a grinder and grind.

You can even do a second tempering with the same ingredients or some of them if you want more crunch in the chutney.

More chutneys here and here

Don’t forget to let me know about the event! You can even write to me at srablogATgmailDOTcom . I would appreciate any input: what to watch out for, what to add, what not to, what else I can do to make it interesting. Thanks!


  1. SRA : Nice post...Thanks for the chutney recipe...
    I liked the idea of 'Grindless gravies event' . ButI guess you need to finetune it a little bit like,say, when u said 'no heavy duty grinding' define what that is....You can limit this parameter by time....u can say hand grinding which should take no more than 5 minutes which is reasonable right.....And u have to be very clear on the kind of appliances that are barred ,say, any electrical devices etc...These are some of the inputs I thought abt this moment...hope it makes sense.....:-))

  2. thta beetroot chutney sure sounds good sra..and fishy why do they convert veggies to taste bad!! and as per grindless gravy...pretty good idea for a one time theme..make sure nobody uses a food mill to puree stuff to take the easy route ;)

  3. nice post and new and colorfull recipe

  4. Sra, that's a very nice way of chutney-fying the the colour...all the best with your plans...a bit of a brain freeze at the moment, what with my round up just out...will discuss later.

  5. yum yum... i have had carrot chutney but never beet. so thanx for the recipe sra.
    i like the event topic. gosh!!! u r giving good exercise to our brain if not elbow grease ;)

  6. Colorful looking chutney, I like the texture carrot gives to tomato chutney, I leave the onion out and add carrots instead, because in the absence of the small onions the onions here give it a slimy texture. Have to give beets a whirl.

  7. Hey Sra, now thats a cool chutney! I love beets, they are pretty and delicious at the same time and beet crisps are delightful! i like the event idea! and yam smells fishy to you, not true, not true :(. i like yam a lot ;). Bee and Jai posted some sweet potato chips and crisps a while ago. They recommended using microwave to soften the sweet potato a bit before slicing it.

  8. See I told you I haven't seen this chutney looks mighty good :D

    By no grinder/mixer you mean, not for making a onion paste or tomato puree either.

    Truthfully at home we do not make thick gravies for everyday meal that much. I am not fond of rich gravies with cream et al.

    But then I find making an onion paste over the weekend and then using it for gravies (light or otherwise) over the week is much easier and simpler than chopping onions and crying over it everyday.

    So if you say no grinder/mixer it actually would mean more work for me. same with some dry roasted masala or tomato puree which again is not everyday thingy, but done once it does make life easier

  9. I love this idea Sra... I am all in :)... I hate grinding because it is just another jar to wash... that too not dishwasher safe :( so I personally would love to get some grindless gravy ideas :)

  10. Sirisha, yes, I was wondering how to define the conditions - need to refine the whole thing - don't you think five minutes is too long? I don't want to bar electrical devices because the microwave and oven can come in handy, and I'm not looking for a quick dish, just something that won't have you peeping into the grinder repeatedly for that perfectly smooth paste. I rarely use coconut because of the grating and grinding it involves, same goes for poppy seed ... you get the drift.
    Rajitha, hey, that's a good idea - any other such appliances that make life easy for you people in the US? I never thought of a food mill.
    Sagari, thank you.
    Sunita, please do unfreeze and get back :)
    Sia, trust you to notice ;)
    Bee, thanks, hope it works.
    Indo, yes, I've come across recipes using carrot in tomato chutney.
    Musical, it does smell fishy, you know. First I thought it was something to do with recycled oil, but even when I made a stir-fry it smelt fishy. Dunno whether it's my luck or a natural thing - we don't really use this veggie at home.
    Sandeepa, no, no making puree, paste. What I mean is, if you want to use pre-pureed tomatoes, that's fine, or if you want to just squash them with your hand and use them fresh or out of a packet, that's fine, what I mean is no peeling, slicing, putting into mixer, grinding, agonising over the texture of the paste - that sort of thing. I'm a big failure with coconut and poppy seed tho' I like the smooth bulk it adds to gravies. And I don't like fattening gravies either, but if we can achieve thickness by adding some bland dal or flour or mashing some potato into the mix, that will meet the (evolving) criteria for this event.

  11. Rajita, just to qualify what I said, I don't mean that the event shouldn't make life difficult, quite the contrary in fact - just that it shouldn't have us scrambling to operate various appliances and worry about the outcome on a day when we'd rather do something else and not spend so much time in the kitchen.

  12. Hey Sra,
    Your answer opened my eyes, because you know why :D. We do not use poppy seeds in our gravies and coconut is not used for everday meals either. I guess we do not have thick gravies that much.

    But wyaaaaaaaaah I need my onion paste :(

  13. Hey, Sandeepa, by all means, use onion paste, just don't grind it right then, or if you have to, use your hand or your foot to give it one or two mighty thwacks!

  14. Sra, ET TU BRUTUS!!

    Beetroot chutney is yum, love it with Chapatis.

    My brain is frozen right now. I will have to open a 3rd blog to keep up with all these events!:D

    Will wait for the details when you announce it!:))

  15. hey sra..i know what u meant...i was just trying to be a smart-alec ;)...but i think it is a good concept which will make us think a little outside the box than just yanking the blender and letting it rip....

  16. good idea, sra! i do like gravies, but handling my heavy glass blender makes me think twice before i 'grind' ;) the use of readymade tomato paste etc works well for me. i guess u r saying pre-ground frozen purees are fine, or are you?

  17. Sig, that's a good point about the cleaning, sorry I missed you out in the replies earlier.
    Asha, I'm going to give you a rope. Will almost two months be fine?
    Rajitha, yeah, let's see what we all come up with.
    Richa, yes, I AM saying it's okay, pre- is fine. Just no hard physical work or worry over this and that.

  18. beetroot chutney looks delish! I like the idea of the event...we don't generally have thick gravies everyday, so this is going to be a little challenging for me :) what about coriander powder and things that are already powdered maybe a few days before making the actual dish ? will that be allowed...i am making life difficult, i know... ;)

  19. that does interesting. You should host the one-off event! the beetroot chutney looks delicious, gorgeous color!

  20. hey, the idea for the event is really good. very innovative. You've got me thinking already! :)

  21. very colorful chutney and the idea for the event is very different. will be looking out for the event details.

  22. I've never come across a beet I haven't liked. I've never had a chutney-fied version; that'll have to change now.

  23. I'd eat this just for the colour alone :)

  24. That was a nice research on crispies and chutneys!:) In coimbatore , A-1 chips they make good chips out of Okra and bitter gourd!
    Coming to chutneys, You give any vegetable to an andra lady, she will prepare a pachadi(chutney out of it!:)
    We do prepare a lot of gravies without grindind or using ground spices! I am game for it!:)
    Nice way to eat beetroots!:)THanks for the recipe!

  25. Sra, Na comments evi ? anyways writing it again. Pinkest chutney ever I have seen. Mee idea bagundi kani enno dishes undavu plus aa applicances vadakudadu ante koncham limited ga untai. ee event valla value add enti, may be camping ki vellinappudu paniki vastayi .

  26. Hi Sra, I have the recipe to send to you for the vermicelli cake but no email address to send it to :( :)

    Drop me a line at and I'll forward it to you.

  27. sra..thats a great idea..looks like I didnt'actually comment when you posted this...came back to check if you have announced but I see alias I have not commented...I am game..will be willing to grease the elbow if you....btw asha is so rocking with her comments....god I can stop laughing!

  28. Have tasted all those chips that you had mentioned..Though nothing appealed to me except for the usual banana and potato chips :)
    The beetroot chutney is interesting..This is new..

    Grindless gravies sounds interesting!

  29. Beautiful looking beets there, all ground up! I love the idea of less work in the kitchen... will be on the lookout for your event :)

  30. Tee, I've just posted the event, check it out! Do-able, right?
    Mandira, done. Thanks.
    Ramya, so will you be the first?
    Deepz, hope to see your entry.
    Susan, do let me know if you ever chutney-fy them!
    Cynthia, it is gorgeous, isn't it? I've replied to your e-mail, thanks.
    Latha, thanks for the comment. Hope to see your entry.
    Sreelu, mee comments ide modati sari choostunna. Event details post chesanu, see if they make sense to you. Meeku vachina doubts naku kooda vachinavi :)
    Srivalli, hope to see you participate. Asha sounded funny, I know, but Madame has been suggesting events as well ... I can't stop laughing myself.
    Rachel, hi, I quite like the beetroot and sweet potato chips.
    Latha, happy Deepavali!
    Linda, hope you'll come up with something - will it be one of your gorgeous Indian dishes?

  31. hmm...interesting idea about thick gravies...the only thick garvies I know that don't require a sice grinder at the least are made with cream. Do you want something like that or will the health conscious public throw me out?