Tomayto-tomahto, tamahtar-timahtar. What a vegetable! Yes, yes, I know, technically it is a fruit, a berry. And a berry good one it is . So good that even Kashmiris have begun to include it into their traditional recipes, tamatar-baingan being among my Dad’s favourites. But there’s no Kashmiri recipe today. Let’s do another one for ‘the left-side’, the side reserved on the Maharashtrian thali for pickles, relishes, and chutneys.
There is this tomato chutney I make that uses just a few ingredients. I watched Sanjeev Kapoor make it many years ago on his very popular show Khaana Khazaana. I didn’t note down the recipe but since the ingredient list was short I was able to make a very decent chutney when I tried it soon after. I have made it many times since but always going by ‘feel’ as most of us who have been cooking for a considerable time tend to do. When you do that, it becomes hard to write recipes down. This blog is becoming a repository where I must commit to measurable units. Already, I check here for a couple of my own recipes! So, today I measured as I went about adding the ingredients.
There is practically no oil in this chutney, just enough to pop the kalonji (nigella seeds). Kalonji, sometimes incorrectly described as onion seed, is a spice that is used sparingly in the Indian kitchen. The Bengalis use it more regularly as part of the panch phoran, a wonderful blend of five spices. Punjabis include it in their mango pickle where it provides the unique flavour, distinct from the mango pickles from south of the Vindhyas (link with phonetics!). Kalonji comes into its own in Paparia that I make during Divali. It finds its way into my North Indian karhi as well.
Use your own sense of ‘feel’ to change things around to your taste. This is a delightful relish – sweet and hot and tart, all at the same time. The subtle flavouring provided by the modest use of kalonji adds notes that linger on your tongue and stay in your memory. There’s no need to defer; you have all the ingredients in your pantry, and tomatoes are plentiful. I would think that the recipe should work with canned tomatoes as well, if you are out of fresh ones or want to reduce the preparation time. This is just the chutney to reawaken sagging appetites in the sweltering heat of the summer that is almost upon us.
Tamatar ki Chutney
Plump tomatoes, cut into eighths, enough to make 4 cups
¾ C white vinegar
1-2 dozen whole dry red chillies (to taste)
½ t refined peanut oil
½ (level) t kalonji (nigella seeds)
gur (jaggery) broken into 1-2″ chunks, enough to make 1 C
Soak the red chillies in white vinegar for 3-4 hours. Heat oil in a heavy bottom non-reactive pan. Add kalonji. Shake around till fragrant. Add the chopped tomatoes and salt. Cook on medium heat till soft, stirring occasionally. Add the vinegar with the chillies. Cook another 5-8 min. Add the jaggery and simmer. Adjust the sweetness and the salt. Simmer another 10 min. Cool and store in clean jars. It will thicken some as it cools. Store in the refrigerator indefinitely! But, my guess is, it is not going to be sitting there for long. The recipe can easily be halved or doubled.
Serve cold or at room temperature as an accompaniment to any meal, with paranthas, on sandwiches, as a dip…the possibilities are limitless.
I am sending this over to RP’s Workshop for JFI:Tomato. Jihva for Ingredients originated at Indira’s Mahanandi and features new ingredients every month. RP is guest hosting this month with the versatile tomato as her chosen ingredient.