Tomatoes are a staple in the Indian kitchen and are used in a huge variety of ways. This simple recipe celebrates their vibrant, tangy flavour and it brightens up simple dishes instantly. My mother used to whip this up for breakfasts and served it with dosas, chapattis or idlis - instantly transforming the meal to something very special. The base is chopped tomatoes, cooked with some onion and garlic, spiced with chillies and the natural tang of the tomatoes is enhanced with a little tamarind.
As luck would have it, my mother's currently visiting, and at our recent one year celebration she made this chutney as a giveaway for our guests. It received rave reviews and I received many images of the glass jars we packed them in wiped clean. Serve this chutney as a dip, spread it on bread or serve with eggs - its endlessly versatile and keep well in the fridge for about a week. This recipe makes about two heaped cups.
For the chutney
4 large red tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1/2 red chilli, chopped (optional, to taste)
1 small lime-sized ball tamarind pulp
Salt to taste (about 3/4 teaspoon)
For the tempering
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
10 fresh or dried curry leaves
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/8th teaspoon asafoetida
Heat 2 1/2 tablespoons sunflower oil in a medium-sized non-stick pan on medium heat. Once warmed, add the garlic and fry, stirring, for about 20 seconds. Add the onions and fry until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir together. Raise the heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally. After a couple of minutes, add the chopped chilli and stir well. Add the tamarind to the pan about 5 minutes later and stir well to combine. The tomatoes should be breaking down by now, to become a thick mass, still retaining their colour. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once all the water has disappeared, add salt to taste and stir well. Taste to check if more salt or tamarind are required, give the mixture a last stir and then remove from the heat. Transfer into a serving bowl.
Give the pan a rinse to remove any remaining bits, dry and return to the stove. Add 1 tablespoon sunflower oil and raise the heat to high. Add the asafoetida and once the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and the curry leaves. Stir gently and wait for the mustard seeds to start popping. Once this happens, remove the pan from the heat and pour the tempering over the chutney. Stir through well and serve immediately or allow to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container and refrigerate.
Makes about 2 heaped cups
Prep time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 15 minutes
Images: Vatsala Murthy & Monika Schneider