I like a simple grilled cheese sandwich as much as the next guy. The combination of crisp buttered bread with rich cheese is a nostalgic indulgence. Even better — a grilled cheese to which I’ve added extra crunch, tartness and spice.
My previous go-to in this regard is my Grilled Kimcheese, in which I layer spicy kimchi with sharp cheddar and sliced Asian pear — or, lately, green apple. And I love the simple combination in a classic grilled cheese with Major Grey’s mango chutney. The latter “toastie,” made with Indian chutney, is beloved in the United Kingdom, and chutney-cheese sandwiches are also a popular street food in Mumbai. So I wasn’t surprised to see an intriguing take on the idea in a cookbook from London’s Gunpowder restaurant, whose owners are from India.
The recipe suggests you make a chutney based on mint, cilantro and grated fresh coconut, adding the spark of fresh chile, lime and ginger, and earthy depth from cumin. You mix some of it with grated cheese, sauteed bell pepper and onion, before assembling and pan-frying the sandwiches, and serve with more chutney on the side.
The chutney is so good on its own you might be tempted to double or triple that part of the recipe. I wouldn’t blame you. Nor would I blame you for going into this venture vowing that you’ll try to control your caloric intake and eat just half a sandwich. But I bet you’ll want the whole thing.
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4 to 8 servings
When you use particularly large bread slices, as we did in testing, you might easily be satisfied with half a sandwich.
Adapted from “Gunpowder: Explosive Flavors From Modern India,” by Harneet Baweja, Devina Seth and Nirmal Save (Kyle Books, 2018).
For the chutney
½ cup lightly packed mint leaves, finely chopped
½ cup lightly packed cilantro leaves, finely chopped
½ cup grated fresh coconut (see NOTES)
1 serrano chile pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped (see NOTES)
2 teaspoons cumin seed, toasted
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
For the sandwiches
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
⅓ cup seeded, finely chopped green bell pepper
⅓ cup seeded, finely chopped red bell pepper
½ cup finely chopped red onion
3½ ounces mild cheddar cheese, grated
7 ounces part-skim mozzarella, grated
¼ teaspoon chili powder
8 thick slices of bread
For the chutney: Stir together the mint, cilantro, coconut, serrano, cumin, lime juice, ginger and salt in a medium bowl. Taste, and add more salt, as needed
For the sandwiches: Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large saute pan, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat. Add the peppers and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and stir in the cheddar, mozzarella, chili powder and half the mint-cilantro chutney.
Use the remaining butter to lightly butter one side of each of the bread slices. Turn 4 of the slices buttered side down on your work surface and pile the cheese mix on their unbuttered sides. Cover with the remaining bread, buttered sides out, to make 4 sandwiches.
Wipe out the skillet you used for the pepper mixture, put it over medium heat and add the sandwiches. Toast until they are golden on each side and the cheese has melted, 2 to 4 minutes per side.
Serve hot, with the remaining chutney.
NOTES: To remove flesh from a fresh, unshelled coconut, wrap the fruit in a clean dish towel. Set it in a metal bowl and bash it with a hammer or rolling pin until it cracks. Lift the coconut, and the dish towel should strain out all the juice (into a receptacle if you want to drink it now or later). Use a round-edged knife to pry the flesh from the coconut shell. Grate the flesh using a box grater or the grating attachment on your food processor. You will have more coconut than you need for this recipe; refrigerate the ungrated flesh in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or grate it all, squeeze out the extra liquid, and freeze for up to four months.
For a spicier chutney, include some or all of the seeds from the serrano pepper.
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