It’s mid-July again and gardeners know what happens. There comes a day when the tomatoes all begin to ripen together. After what seems like months of waiting and peeking at them eagerly every day, they all decide it’s time to change color. Reds, orange, yellow and rust brown, the plants are covered with ripening fruit.
Neighbours eagerly accept them for a day or two with delight. Then, they begin to demur and mutter something about still having some form the previous day. We’ve all been there; those of us who plant and raise tomatoes each year. It’s become an annual tradition for me with my daughter. We go to the nursery and select several varieties and grow them in pots on the back porch. Ther’s nothing like watching her pick her own cherry tomatoes and enjoying them.
This year I was nudged by several friends to make thokku, a spicy thick tomato chutney. Here is my first attempt. I have tried to imagine how my grandmother would have made this thokku and “replicate” what came to me. It was a lovely morning I spent talking with her in my head. She’s been no more some 15 years now but her spirit pervades my kitchen. For a delicious variation, see the recipe from my friend Akila (A-kay) which is also included in this blog.
Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot and add the mustard seeds when the oil is hot and as they splutter, add the asafoetida, green chillies (split down the middle so they don’t explode), curry leaves, spice powders (turmeric,chili and fenugreek).
Mince the ginger and fresh herbs and add them and stir.
Add the chopped tomatoes. Include any green tomatoes or follow this recipe with entirely green tomatoes
Stir the tomatoes and add salt to taste ( approx 1 tbs)
Soak the tamarind fruit (if you prefer, you could use a tsp of pulp from a jar or skip entirely) and grind it in a blender with a ripe tomato and pour it in .
Add the jaggery
Stir occasionally and bring to a boil.
Lower the heat and allow the tomatoes to cook and reduce to a thick paste-like consistency, This will take 40 minutes to an hour. Stir occasionally to prevent scalding or burning
When the mixture thickens the oil will begin to separate from the tomatoes. Turn off the heat, allow to cool before storing in glass jars,
When completely cooled you can cover the jars and refrigerate