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Tamarind Chutney
This rather thin chutney makes up in sweet-sour-spicy flavor what it lacks in body

1/4 pound dried tamarind pulp (not tamarind concentrate)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 1/4 cups hot water
6 tablespoons sugar (preferably jaggery or light brown)
1 or 2 hot green chilies, seeded, if desired, and minced
1 teaspoon whole cumin
1 teaspoon ground garam masala
ground cayenne pepper to taste, if desired
salt to taste

1. Soak the tamarind and ginger in the hot water in a small saucepan for 30 minutes. Drain. Squeeze the pulp firmly between your fingers to extract and discard as much liquid as possible. Add the sugar and chilies to the pulp in the pan, bring the mixture to a boil, and cook at a bare simmer, stirring, for 15 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and purée until smooth. Return tamarind chutney to the pan.
2. Toast the cumin in a small skillet over moderately high heat until very aromatic, about 2 minutes. Transfer the cumin to a bowl and let cool completely. Grind to a fine powder in a coffee or spice grinder.
3. Stir the ground cumin and the garam masala into the tamarind chutney. Add the cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Cook over the lowest possible heat, stirring, for 5 minutes. Strain the mixture through a coarse sieve, pressing hard on the solids with a rubber spatula. Thin the sauce with water to reach the desired consistency (you may need 1/2 cup). Chill before serving.

Chutney conjures up images of a thick concoction, but it doesn't have to be that way. This rather thin chutney makes up in sweet-sour-spicy flavor what it lacks in body. It is a very popular dipping sauce in Indian restaurants in America today. To make it, you need to find tamarind, which is carried in specialty food shops and in Asian and Hispanic markets. Tamarind comes in several forms; the type we've used for this recipe is a compressed block of dried tamarind, with seeds. It's similar in flavor to prunes, but is much more sour. Tamarind chutney is traditionally served in India with fried foods and with kebabs. Makes 1 1/4 cups