Tomato pickle or chutney

Ammachi makes an amazing tomato chutney. It takes as much effort to make as a pickle, and finishes as fast as a chutney, so guess its a combination of the two! We found the recipe in a YWCA, Bangalore cook book that amma’s school principal, Acca Joseph gave her for her wedding (appropriate time to look at it, since yesterday was my parents wedding anniversary!). The ingredients were alright, but ammachi was not at all pleased with the quantities. So we did it her way.

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First the tomatos. We bought them from the pazhamudir nilayam in Annanagar, Chennai (dont know enough about these shops but at face value, they are a cooperative chain from Coimbatore). We used 4kgs of tomatos (no they did not cost rs2 per kg, and it is wrong that farmers are paid so low for their produce, see justchangeindia.com for more). These were ‘bangalore’ tomatos, so had a lot more flesh and less water, less sour than the local ‘nadan’ variety). Wash them well and cut off the top (white bit where apparently all the pesticide accumulates – not sure if this is correct, but it tastes uncooked if left in, so cut it off). Chop them into 6-8 pieces each, depending on how big they are.

Dry roast 100g of jeera (cumin seeds), 75g of mustard seed and 50g of uluva (fenugreek). Grind or powder them separately. Take a HUGE vessel (to minimise splash-age, and definitely wear an apron) and heat 1kg of gingili oil (nal enna, ellu enna, til, sesame oil). Drop in a few mustard seeds to check the temperature of the oil, if they splutter immediately, you’re ready. Put the tomatos into the hot oil carefully and enjoy the sizzle and splutter.

So far, ammachi has not really taken to the induction stove. The technology of having to push and press buttons on the stove is beyond her and today, she objected to my having dry roasted the 3 masalas in a cast iron cheenchati on the induction cooked. But with a sudden change of heart, she decided we could cook the tomatos faster if we used the induction as well! So we did, and it really did speed up the process!

Once the tomatos are semi-cooked, add 5 heaped tablespoons of salt and 100g of ginger and 200g of garlic (ground to a rough paste). Keep mixing with a long handled spoon (to keep the splashes away from your fingers). After this, add the 3 masala powders and keep mixing. Next put in 5 heaped tablespoons of red chilli powder (we used piriyan mulaku powder, which like Kashmiri chillies, are not too hot). Keep boiling for about an hour or more (it is 4kgs we are talking about, so it does take a while and patience is definitely a virtue! and maybe it’ll be faster on the induction stove, I dont know and its worth a try) and mixing to make sure the bottom doesntt stick to the pan or burn. Once it reduces to about half the amount, add 5 heaped tablespoons of sugar and 500ml of vinegar.

After this its trial and error by taste. The chutney should be a lovely black-red colour, the oil should be floating (and bubbling) on top, the tomatos should have formed a thick chutney-like consistency and the skins should have curled up completely. We got eight bottles of this – but since they are all of different sizes, I cant tell exactly how much you get from 4kgs of tomatos. A lot, and its enough to give around to friends and family as well!

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