Hey my dear reader! How are you doing? You know what I think…I think tomatoes are made in heaven! I mean I know it is a fancy thing to say, and tomatoes grow in their trees, so heaven must be in the air…but once in awhile when I start to love something or someone dearly, my mind fills up with beautiful imagination – a different world is created where the boundaries of reality and imagination exchange each other’s caps. Now the thing is I really like tomatoes…some of my favorite food items contains them in abundance, imagine a pizza without tomato sauce! Or a Chana Masala without them! Or Ghughni without the red ripe tomatoes in them? Or Bruschetta without tomatoes! Spaghetti without tomato sauce! Even Bloody Mary will be incomplete without them! Sounds dull right? Yes the world will be dull without tomatoes. As a kid I was a huge fan of tomato ketchup, I grew up licking it, pouring them on noodles until it was a bit too much, pouring them on puffed rice, samosas, puff pastry and what not! I remember as a little boy I used to have tomato ketchup just like that anytime really and when the big bottle was about to finish, no more drops will fall off, I used to pour a little water inside the bottle followed by some shakes so the water will turn into a lighter tomato ketchup and have it! Imagine this! Oh and where I will be without my glorious tomato chutney! Without the chutneys a big part of my childhood will lose its flavor, as if the sweet chutneys added their sweetness and flavor into my childhood and made it a sweet comfortable place.
So how can I not tell you about chutneys? Especially the ones I adore. Chutney is Indian in origin and as time passed by it spread its flavor across the seas, so much so that chutneys are now established part of British cuisine. However the chutneys in India are quite different than the ones you may find in Britain, especially in the use of malt vinegar used in British chutneys for long keeping, so it becomes more close to the idea of pickles. In India vinegar is not used in any chutney, also the fact that there are almost 2 categories of chutney-the sweet ones and the savory ones. Basically chutney is a relish made from fresh fruits or tomatoes or dried fruits like dates, raisins, kismis and figs, from sun-dried mango pulp cakes/aam-papd/aamsatto plus the spices used in them which vary along with the ingredients. Chutney is real comfort food; you can have it at the end of a meal which will only make the ending sweeter, isn't that nice! You can have it mixed with a little rice, with crisp fried papadums, with a crisp thin toast, even spread on a thin crust pizza base…and we have in hand a very delicious sweet pizza... yummy. You can even use it as the main ingredient of a dressing for a salad...Like I do when I make green mango chutney which I later use as a dressing on a simple salad and the salad bursts into a song as the chutney comes into play! Oh I think I am getting carried away. By getting carried away has its own rewards…we reach new shores where we have not been before.
I simply love sweet chutneys, they are my comfort deserts, bursting with flavors and they pamper me so much. I enjoy them on a wet monsoon day when everything around me is wet and I dig into the chutney with my boat of crisp fried papadums which is super yummy, or a summer evening with green mango chutney, some tamarind chutney, on winter days like this I am with date-aam-papad chutney, mix fruit chutney, some days I’m busy with deep red cherry chutneys… I am seducing my soul writing about chutneys so much...because I have such memories it is very easy for me to get myself there mentally as I write it. What I really hope that you, dear reader, if you have never tasted chutney before, now the time has come that you must and after that experience you will be a very happy person.
The fun part was in the elaborate way of eating chutney with my hands, more hands- very less spoon experience. I used to sit with a big bowl of tomato and green mango chutney with tiny spoon, I only used the spoon to lift a little amount of chutney into my palm , then lick it, dip my fingers into the chutney, lifting up chunks of tomato n mango out of the bowl, balancing them on my fingers tips on the way to my lips while some drops of the syrup of the chutney will fall all over me, and then next moment is chutney mediation moment, eyes closed, lips sealed with chutney…ummmm. It was such a fun where the experience of enjoying it became as fun as eating it. I used to eat it at times with my sister and my friend. Now it is still fun for chutneys stay chutneys all along the time and they make us happy just like yesterday.
I think chutneys are quiet romantic food, if someone has to make a sweet impression on someone or just to make someone happy, prepare a delicious chutney and you will see how far it goes. I hope it goes very far. Now there is a saying “ all is well that ends well”, now this I find to be true, wherever I go out to eat at a traditional place or I cook up a whole traditional meal ending with chutney, it becomes the most satisfying moment to end with a good chutney. There can be blunders in the course of the meal where some items didn't make you happy, while some blew my mind away with their flavors, but as the sweet chutney makes it entry…u la la…i forget about all the blunders, superb dishes are forgotten, all I remember is the chutney.
Aright so now straightaway I will give you the recipe for the sweet tomato chutney. Oh! By the way did I tell you that the word chutney has its source from the word “chaat” which is a verb and which means to lick, so you must lick.
The recipe: You will need
4-5 medium red ripe tomatoes
1 tsp of five spice (cumin, fennel, nigella seeds, black mustard, fenugreek seeds-use half the amount of fenugreek compared to amount of each individual other spice, like 1 unit each of cumin, fennel, nigella, black mustard n ½ unit of fenugreek seed.)
¼ the block of aam-papd/aamsatto block cut into ½ inch cubes.
A handful of dates halved or quartered.
½ cup of sugar (you may need more or less depending on the tartness of the tomatoes or how sweet you want your chutney to be)
1 ½ cup of water
Pinch of salt.
½ tsp of vegetable oil.
Around ½ tsp of tamarind paste or store brought tamarind chutney for a touch of sourness.
Begin by removing the eye of the tomatoes from their top part , then cut them into medium chunk along their length, say making 4-5 chunks out of one half of the tomatoes. Having done that place the sugar and the water together in a pan, then put the pan on low flame, stir in between until the sugar has completely dissolved , then increase the flame to medium and let it come to a simmer. While it comes to a simmer take another pan, on medium flame, heat the oil in the pan, then add the five spice in the pan, on low flame give it 30 seconds until the mustard seeds start to sputter, then add the tomatoes, toss them with the spices for a 2-3 minutes. Now transfer the whole batch of tomatoes along with the spices in the sugar syrup. Add the dates and half of the aam-papad cubes and then cover the pan and let it only simmer like that for about 15 minutes. Add a pinch of salt in between, check the sweetness, if you think it need more sugar according to your taste go for it. after about 15 /20 minutes it has reached the stage of being called a chutney, most of the water by now has reduced now, it is much more thicker now, the tomatoes are softer, part of the tomatoes has melted into the syrup. If you would want the chutney to be little thin stop at this part, if you want otherwise give it couple of minutes. Now add the tamarind pulp/chutney, mix well, and put the flame off. Add the rest half of the aam-papad, cover the pan and leave it for 5 minutes. Super simple isn't it! Now you can start licking. :) enjoy it with crisp friend papadums, crisp chips, crisp tortilla, crisp roti, on toasts, on graham crackers or just on their own. Bon appétitJ