Last year my daughter’s school celebrated Kindness Week. It was not just for the children but parents too, as we were meant to step out of our usual social circles and say hello to someone else. I happily thought of Ranjani, who I was already getting to know. We bonded because we walked the same way home from school and our daughters were in the same class. It didn’t take long to realise that we both loved cooking, so we talked about that whenever other topics ran out.
Soon Ranjani started giving me all kinds of delicious food – sweets, curries, breads, snacks. I gave her a few bits and pieces in return, and once a big bag of lemons that she made into pickle, but it was hard to match her generosity.
She and her husband come from different cities in Southern India. Her husband moved to Australia first, and she’s only lived in Melbourne since their arranged marriage less than a decade ago. Ranjani told me that all her friends are her husband’s friends and until the year I met her, which was the year her eldest daughter Aashini started school, she didn’t feel confident leaving the house by herself. It all blew my mind a little, what exists just a few blocks away.
Ranjani’s kitchen was an outpost of Southern India with dosa batter at the ready in her fridge and homemade pappadum-style crackers set to dry in her hot courtyard over summer. After school it wasn’t a snack followed by dinner for her girls, but a proper meal, followed by a lighter, supper-style meal before bed. When my daughter went over to their house for a play, Ranjani asked if I thought dosa would be okay for lunch, and I said yes so fast! Greta already liked dosa so I knew it would be perfect.
Aashini had already come to our house for a play and we’d had toasted sandwiches. (Greta gave me the tip that Aashini’s school lunch was always a cold toasted mint chutney sandwich, so I knew sandwiches would go down well.) I made our favourite toasties with kasoundi and it turned out Aashini loved them, partly because she recognised the mustard seeds.
Now Ranjani and her family have moved away and we won’t see them as often. But we’re both making each others’ sandwiches! She’s using kasoundi; I’m using mint chutney.
It was Greta who wanted me to make the chutney sandwiches as she’s always eating mint straight from our garden and she loved the sandwiches when she tasted them at Aashini’s house. Ranjani showed me the jar of Indian spread that she buys, but instead I’ve made my own fresh concoction. The sandwiches are simple but have a refreshing and bitey flavour – perfect with cucumber or other raw vegetables on the side.
2 cups packed mint leaves
½ bunch coriander, roughly chopped
slice of ginger, roughly chopped
2–3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
¼ teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
½ cup natural yoghurt
Combine the ingredients other than the yoghurt in a small food processor or blender. Blend until finely chopped, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times if necessary. Then add the yoghurt and blend again. Taste and adjust with extra sugar and salt if needed.
The main way I’ve been using this is to make toasted sandwiches, i.e. mint chutney and cheese inside bread, toasted. It also goes well in a wrap. And of course you can serve it with Indian fried snacks or fritters or as part of an Indian meal with grilled chicken or lamb (i.e. skewers, tandoori, or even just lamb chops rubbed with a few spices), rice or flatbread and a salad or curry. The chutney keeps in a container in the fridge for at least a week.