Thursday, 21 May 2015

aloo bukharay ki chutney

aloo bukharay ki chutney
there is a colony of jars in my kitchen. they come in assorted sizes with gingham patterned screw tops, clip tops and embossed glass surfaces. they are home to all manner of pickles and preserves, both sweet and savoury. i have been preserving in earnest since that first jar of diana henry’s fig and pomegranate molasses jam. there has been marmalade in tones of amber and caramel, strawberry jam with the fragrance of rose petals and maroon tomato jam to be had with cheese and eggs. to these i added the more familiar condiments of my childhood like achaar.

achaar, a popular sub-continental pickle is made from vegetables that have been rubbed with spices and left in the heat and sun to dry. once they have given up their moisture they are preserved in mustard oil. the lack of sun and heat presented some difficulty in london. i overcame this by dry rubbing coins of orange and purple carrots with toasted spices - cumin, fennel, fenugreek turmeric and salt. i placed the carrots with their spice coating in a large pot that sat in the oven. however, i lost my nerve after two days as the fenugreek was very pungent.

jarring the chutney
in fact the strong odour of fenugreek remained in the flat for several days after and reminded me of the pansari that phoopo would shop at. a pansari is akin to a wholesale store that stocks loose dry goods such as grains, pulses, atta and spices contained in steel drums and jute sacks. phoopo would run her hands over the grains and pulses before settling the price and quantity with the pansari. the spices with the most assertive smells dominated the shop of which fenugreek stands out in memory.

but to return to the achaar.

i heated the mustard oil until smoking hot. once the smoke lifted i added the carrots to the oil and cooked them for half an hour on a mere whisper of heat. the achaar was left to sit in a dark corner for ten days. a jar of it participated in a pickle competition (the lrb featured the pickle makers in a video), another found its way to my sister-in-laws and the remainder was eaten by o who had plenty of it with lentils and rice and chicken salaan. 

aloo bukharay ki chutney
i have since prevailed on the women in the family to share recipes that do not involve fenugreek. these include vinegar based pickles and this aloo bukharay ki chutney. aloo bukhara is a dried plum. the shrivelled flesh clings to an almond shaped kernel. it needs sugar to coax the sweetness in its flesh and a generous pinch of chilli to give it some heat. aloo bukharay ki chutney is very rarely home-made. in fact it is the very sweet store bought version that i remember. the only exception to this was stainless steel boats of it at a cousin's wedding in lahore. the plums in it were plumper, less sweet and nuttier with the addition of tiny teardrop like almonds. i think the latter were from the stones of the aloo bukhara itself. i ate one too many spoonfuls with chicken salaan, channa dhal and roghni naan. it is the memory of this that prompted me to make my own based very loosely on mama’s recipe.

{aloo bukharay ki chutney}

three hundred grams aloo bukhara*
three hundred ml hot water
one hundred and fifty grams sugar
quarter teaspoon salt
quarter teaspoon kashmiri chilli powder
two tablespoons char magaz (melon seeds) 

*note: aloo bukhara, kashmiri chilli powder and char magaz are available from south asian grocers.

wash the aloo bukhara in running warm water, rubbing the fruit gently. place in a heavy bottomed pan, pour over the hot water and leave to rest for half an hour. this allows the skin of the fruit of hydrate.

add the sugar, salt and chilli. stir through gently. place the pan on medium heat to allow the sugar to dissolve. stir gently. once the sugar has dissolved bring the contents of the pan to a boil. watch carefully and stir from time to time.

the chutney is ready once the liquid in the pan has thickened and become syrupy. the way to test for this is to place a little on a spoon and if it runs like thick honey it is ready. when it close to this stage the bubbles tend to be less furious.

roast the melon seeds. i usually do this with the help of my skillet of a heavy bottomed pan on the stove. this requires vigilance. i toast them on medium heat until they colour ever so lightly. they should smell nutty and fragrant. when ready stir through the chutney.

jar when hot.

serve with dhal, steamed basmati and refreshing kachumber salad.


  1. Need to try this soon. One question. Did you use dried allo bokhara or fresh allo bokhara?

    1. I use dried ones. I am sure it will be delicious with fresh ones too. But as far as I know this chutney is usually made with dried ones.