It's Reader Request week, and you've asked for more ingredient spotlights. Since so often our weekly cheese column already is a specific profile on an ingredient—that is, cheese—it might be appropriate to deflect just a bit. This week we're highlighting a favorite accompaniment for cheese, which deserves the spotlight to itself.
I'm not a big chutney person. I've always preferred straight-up jams, I guess, without the fanfare of aromatics and other savory components in a chutney. And anytime it comes alongside a dish in a restaurant, I tend to forgo it, mainly because I find the sour quality a bit off-putting. And if it's jarred? I'm an even greater skeptic.
Geeta proved me wrong. The first time I tasted this brand, nearly three years ago, I remember being blown away by the realization that something that I'd never taken to could somehow appear in a palatable—no, delectable—form. Geeta's line of products are pretty easy to find, too. I see them at Whole Foods, and even at my gourmet deli.
If you've yet to try the Geeta line of products, specifically the mango chutney, it's time. And it's time to try it with cheese.
Buying a jar of the stuff is one of the most unique—not to mention quick—ways of transforming a cheese into a course. Somehow, this chutney strikes a really delicate balance between sweet and spice, and doesn't taste sour or overly saturated with add-ins, like many others. Sure, you taste the aromatics: whole cumin and nigella seeds stud the jelly. The flavors are distinct: heady aroma of cloves and cinnamon meld with the tart, yet somehow simultaneously sweet, richness of mango. But it's more similar to jam than chutney, which is why it makes such a compelling sidekick for cheese.
Pairing a chutney with cheese makes pretty good logistical sense. Chutneys are sweet, but have a vital component of spice, which immediately elevate the condiment to something more savory. Great cheese pairings often capture exactly this: an intersection of the sweet and savory. It's as if this chutney forces the concept, successfully, in each bite.
Paired with cheese, Geeta's mango chutney has a transformative quality. The sugar content isn't overwhelming in the least, and you really taste the essence of mango. No other mango chutney compares; use this version to convert the next mango chutney hater in your life.
Serve the chutney with cheeses as you would honey, in a small vessel to smear on breads and crackers. Stick with slightly stronger-flavored cheeses with compelling texture, like toothsome farmhouse cheddars or aged goudas. While the chutney may overpower a mild, Pyrenees-style sheep milk cheese, it'd most certainly stand up to a fresh goat, with such searing, milky brightness.
When served alongside these stronger varieties of cheese (washed rinds or assertive mountain cheeses work well, too), the chutney can bring out pleasantly salty notes in the cheese. Paradoxically, the addition of a sweet chutney somehow plays up the savory-salty qualities of a cheese. Pretty impressive for something that comes in a jar.
Nora Singley used to be a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently a TV Chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
Related: Word of Mouth: Chutney