This dip is taken from the book Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan. It has a number of exquisite recipes and if you are a vegetarian or would like to expand your repertoire of Indian foods, particularly Southern Indian foods, this book is for you. This chutney is made by sauteing onions with spices and then grinding the onions with cilantro/coriander leaves for freshness. A feature of south Indian cooking, the use of lentils as spices is really well showcased here. This dip is lovely with any flat bread or pita chips or as a side with any Indian meal. And it could not be simpler to make.
2 tbs. oil
2 large sweet onions (or any yellow onions of your choice), diced in the food processor
2 tsp brown mustard seeds
3 dried cayenne peppers (omit if this is too hot for you)
1 green hot pepper , e.g, thai bird pepper or serrano (optional)
4 tsp washed urad dal
1/2 tsp asafetida/hing
1 marble sized dollop of tamarind concentrate
salt to taste
1/2-3/4 cup coriander leaves and tender stems (rinsed)
The original recipe requires 3 steps. In the first step you infuse your cooking oil with spices and set these aside (tempering). Then you saute you onions. Finally, you grind everything together with coriander. I did this in 2 shots with perfectly delicious results. So here goes. Heat oil in a cast iron or other heavy-bottomed pan. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds, the red and green chilies if using, the hing and the lentils. Turn down the flame and continue to cook till the lentils are roasted and pick up a red/roasted look (2-3 min). Now add the onions and saute till they are soft and golden-brown. Now add the tamarind paste and mix thoroughly with the onions. Add salt. Allow the onions to cool, then transfer to a food processor or blender. Add the cilantro to the food processor and blend the chutney till fairly smooth. Adjust the salt if needed. The lentils will remain partially unprocessed and will provide a contrast to the otherwise smooth chutney. Serve as you would any dip, with pita chips or naan or as a side at an Indian or middle eastern meal.