Chutneys are somewhere between side dishes and condiments. They are meant to add a punch to the meal. In a pinch a chutney can sometimes serve as a snack food, too. That is the case with this particular star fruit chutney. We first made it because we were intrigued by the star fruit itself. When you bring this fruit home from the store, you need to pare off the tough edges over the five “wings,” and discard them. Cut off the flat ends as well. Then slice the fruit to make thin stars.
This recipe comes from Mangoes and Curry Leaves by Alford and Duguid, page 34. You can use a similar amount of vegetable oil in place of the mustard oil, and you may use any color mustard seed as a substitute. Look under the tab “Where Do You Get This Stuff?” for information about black cumin. The star fruit are found in the grocery stores on a seasonal basis.
1 medium-large or 2 small green or yellow star fruit (½ to ¾ pound)
2 tbsp mustard oil
¼ tsp black mustard seeds
¼ tsp black cumin (nigella) seeds
¼ tsp cumin seeds
Generous ½ cup chopped shallots
2 green cayenne chilies, seeds and pith removed, thinly sliced
¾ tsp salt, or to taste
1 or 2 lime wedges (optional)
Using a paring knife, trim the very finest rough edges of the five “wings” of the star fruit and discard. Trim off a narrow slice at each end of the fruit, then slice the fruit crosswise into thinner-than-1/4-inch-thick slices. Save 1 or 2 whole star slices for garnish, if you wish, and chop the remaining slices into bite-size pieces. Set aside.
In a wok or in a heavy skillet, heat the mustard oil over medium heat until hot. Toss in the mustard seeds, and when they start to sputter, add the black cumin and regular cumin seeds. Stir briefly, then add the shallots and chilies and stir-fry until the shallots are tender and starting to change color, about 5 minutes.
Add the chopped star fruit and salt and cook, stirring and turning to coat the fruit with the flavorings and to expose it to the heat. For about 4 to 5 minutes, until the fruit is softening. Turn the chutney out onto a plate and taste for seasoning and for tartness; if the fruit tastes sweet rather than a little tart, squeeze on some fresh lime juice before serving.
Serves 6 to 8 as a chutney, 4 as a salad.