My last memory of making this chutney was from about 5 years ago, before I decided to pack my bags to whiz around half the globe to go live with wallabies and have tea parties with huntsman spiders. Back then, amidst the alps and the rivers of chocolate, when I was slowly but steadily cooking myself into a frenzy and coming to the realisation that hobbies really couldn’t get much better than this. One of my favourite places to eat, and I know I’m not alone, is a delightful vegetarian restaurant called Tibits, in the heart of Bern, situated enticingly in front of the train station. Possibly to target starved vegetarians on their way to work, on their way back from work, or everyone else who likes delicious food. The food is presented buffet-style (drool), ranging from curries and stir-frys to salads and delicious crusty bread rolls, and a tiny section of chutneys and condiments. I hold my head high without shame when I say that at least 1/5th of my plate would be dedicated to that date chutney they had there. Date chutney rocks. And so naturally I had to have the recipe.
Have you ever heard of Hiltl? It holds a record for being the oldest continuously open veggie restaurant in the world. Where will you find it? In Zürich. It is the mother of Tibits as well as of a few wonderful cookbooks, in which you will find said chutney. If you find yourself in Switzerland at the moment, do yourself a favour and go have some food at one of their establishments. If not, then all I can do is offer you my version of their recipe, which really, is still a pretty good deal.
If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas for using this chutney, let me help. Number one, serve it with zucchini and onion fritters and some coriander yoghurt. That recipe will follow shortly, promise. It’s delicious with pretty much every other Indian dish, especially with dhal and poppadoms, or spread into a toastie with some melty cheese. Get the idea? good.
Adapted from one of the Hiltl cookbooks
Makes about 1 ½ cups
1 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 cm fresh ginger, finely grated
1 tsp ground cumin
big pinch chili flakes
2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp tamarind puree (if you only have concentrate, start with ¼ tsp and adjust to taste)
100g dates, finely chopped
2 Tbsp tomato paste
½ tsp salt
Fry the onion in the oil until softened and starting to caramelize. Add the ginger, cumin and chili flakes, and stir for about one minute. Add the sugar, tamarind puree, dates, tomato paste and salt, and top up with the water. Give everything a good stir and let it bubble away for about 5 minutes, or until the dates have broken down and the mixture has thickened. Remove from the heat and let it cool for a bit, before transferring to a jar.
Will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.