My dad recently unearthed a recipe from his childhood – for chutney. It’s an industrial recipe for a brand called Mrs. Balls, one that both my parents remember having when they were growing up. There are a lot of things that get left behind when you move and this brand was one of them. My parents used to import it every few years, along with their favorite candy bars, paying exorbitant prices for what was essentially drugstore candy and grocery store staples.
It’s funny how important things like familiar brands end up being when you live far away from where you grew up. You think about leaving people and places but I not about how hard it is to leave behind the foods that make the grocery store familiar. It’s been years since my dad had Mrs Balls chutney and I don’t think he’s ever going to make a batch of the recipe. It makes 18 jars at once, more than anyone really needs. Even if he does attempt it one day, it will probably only be the once. That doesn’t really seem to be the point. The point is just that it’s still out there.
Even with all the nostalgia around this chutney, it’s not as if it was a central ingredient in my parents’ cooking. It was pretty much used in one dish – a chutney chicken recipe from Myrna Rosen, the South African Jewish equivalent of Julia Child. When we had Mrs. Balls chutney it went into that dish. And when we didn’t have that particular brand, well, my mom made the chicken anyway. It was still a taste of home even if the taste was slightly different.
Adapted from The Myrna Rosen Cookbook
2 lbs chicken thighs or legs (dark meat works better in this recipe)
½ cup chutney (of your choice, I like major grey’s flavor)
2 tbs dijon mustard
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp curry powder
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350 and arrange the chicken pieces in a 9 by 13 baking dish – either use glass or line it with foil because the sauce is sticky. In a small bowl combine the chutney, mustard, cinnamon, curry, and salt. Mix to combine, then pour it over the chicken, and toss it around so the pieces are coated.
Cover the dish with foil and bake the chicken for 30 minutes covered. Then remove the foil and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes. The skin doesn’t necessarily get crispy but it does make it a little closer to crisp and is delicious and chutney-y. That’s probably not a word but the chicken is good hot from the oven or cold from the fridge. Just eat it within a week.