For many a year, persimmons seemed out of reach. They were confined to a beautiful calligraphy called Six Persimmons (a 13th-century Chinese painting by the monk, Muqi Fachang), creations from a distant land where I could only imagine how they might taste or look like in real life.
The first occasion I had to relish one was in Japan, where they grow as plentiful as apples in our own orchard. They arrived in copious amounts in the temple kitchen, having been skilfully snapped off the nearby persimmon trees with a long stick fashioned with a rough split at the end. There were so many – and I didn’t wish to see any of them go to waste – that besides just slicing them for afternoon tea, we began making persimmon jam, putting them into rice puddings and even using them as a filling for little cakes. (Outside the temple, I’ve even seen them stuffed like prawn cocktails!)
One other wonderful thing about persimmons is the riper they are, the better they get. In fact, they can become so soft, sweet and syrupy inside, just cutting it in half and scooping the flesh out with a spoon is like eating a sumptuous dessert!
To our immense joy and surprise, they suddenly began appearing on the city market stalls and even showing up in our local supermarket going by their Japanese name “Kaki“. Amazing. Where had they been hiding all this time?
Now we are on a persimmon adventure – while they are in season, am wondering how many other things can we make with them. Hence this little idea for chutney. Toasted mustard seeds are heavenly and give this one its sweet and nutty accents.
150 g (1 medium) yellow onion
500 g (about 2 large or 4 small) persimmons
2 cloves garlic
1 small red chilli, mild
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
¼ cup white sugar
½ cup white vinegar
¼ cup sultanas
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cardamom
¼ teaspoon coriander
Salt to taste
Oil for frying
- Peel and small-dice the onion.
- Clean the persimmons and remove the leafy crown. Cut into thick slices. Take out the pits if there are any, then medium-dice.
- Peel and mince the garlic.
- Mince the red chilli.
- In a stew pot over medium flame heat a little oil then add the onions and sauté until they begin to caramelize.
- Add the garlic and chillies and continue to sauté until they release their fragrance.
- Stir in the persimmons and sauté for a few more minutes.
- Pour in the sugar, vinegar, sultanas, turmeric, cardamom, coriander, and cayenne. Bring to a boil, turn down the flame and leave to simmer gently for 10 minutes.
- As the chutney simmers, set a frying pan with a lid over a low-medium flame. Heat up a little oil, stir in the mustard seeds, then cover. The mustard seeds will start to pop and splatter as they toast. When the popping noise reduces, remove from the flame, take off the lid, and stir them through the chutney.
- Serve alongside rice and curry dishes.
TIP: if you find your persimmons are a little astringent, which can happen from time to time (depending on the variety), leave them to soak in warm water for 24 hours (40º C / 104º F) and they should be sweet within two days. Another technique is to store them at room temperature in a plastic bag for 2-4 days with bananas, pears or apples. (Ethylene gas coming from these fruits cures the persimmons.)