[This post is for Mandakini, through whom I finally discovered what I’d had at home all along–and for Kavita, who shares my interest in new ingredients and brought this to me much too long ago. With love and grateful thanks.]
I promised myself once that when I traveled, whether for work or for fun, I’d come home with at least one of two things: a song, or an ingredient–which of course implies a recipe.
Ingredients are generally easier than songs, but I’ve had my share of challenges and successes with both. I learned a Shona lullaby from a loud story-telling Nigerian-mimicking cabbie who drove us from Nelspruit to Ermelo in South Africa one early fall night. Up in the Himalayan foothills enroute to Sandakphu, a catchy Nepali song we all loved turned out to be about a love of alcohol–there was both song and ingredient. Pandan came home with me from Bali (more on that growing experiment later).
But in Manila, I’d have had to find my way to a wet market to get my hands on ube, or purple yams that are used so much in Filipino sweet-treat-making, impossible with my 9-5 teaching gig. And sometimes, I’ve had to travel far only to discover what’s been near all along: this time, to Delhi, to have bhang ki chutney or chutney made of hemp seeds in a friend’s home–to return to Pondicherry and to find the ingredient waiting for me there, the gift of another friend from one of her journeys, waiting patiently for my travels to return me to it.
I know what you’re thinking. Hemp? Isn’t that marijuana? But no, there are differences, and in any case it’s not the seeds that give you that sort of high.
So these got roasted, crushed, and added to the last batch of tomato chutney to be had from the spring’s abundance of tomatoes.
And that’s the recipe, in case you missed it: follow the basic recipe for tomato chutney or thokku given here, but instead of sesame, use a comparable quantity of roasted and ground hemp seeds. They lend a smoky sweet flavor to an already piquant chutney–and that’s just an irreplaceable combination. Not to mention, just the right sort of high to get on.