The simple tomato chutney performs a sour and spicy tango on your tongue in close embrace. Bold notes of tangy bruised tomatoes lead the way and the heat follows in a flourish. Ah, you cannot resist the beat!
Just like tango, tomato sauce has its fair share of variants as tomatoes are universally found and used. This variant — the simple tomato chutney is a South Indian staple and has its fair share of variants in turn. Made with just 7 ingredients (the other two are optional), and equal parts sour and spicy, this super easy spicy tomato sauce à la Indian is the perfect accompaniment to dosais and idlis, and makes for a tasty base for tomato rice, and scrambled eggs in spicy tomato sauce.
Cooked tomatoes are always better than raw ones, and I enjoy them most when they’re in this spicy tomato sauce à la Indian. The trick is to not let them cook long. Yes, you don’t want them cooked far too long as they’ll get that bland taste and the chilli will overpower everything else. This way, they retain there bright red colour, albeit the turmeric powder does dilute it a tad. Also, since you’re not going to add all of the ingredients together, you can prep the tomatoes and onions after you’ve started cooking, to cut down on the prep time. For example, when the oil heats, you can chop the tomatoes. See, how this is a dish that can be made quickly?!
This simple tomato chutney always takes me back to my childhood. This recipe is my father’s (who can make this with his eyes blindfolded!) and it’s a family favourite. The spicy aroma would waft into my bedroom, and I’d wake up happily. Breakfast would include dosas or idlis or chappatis with tomato chutney, and for lunch at school I’d be given tomato rice. My mother and father worked at making breakfast like a perfectly synchronised swimming team. I’d come back from school and demand for more dosais and idlis — that’d be my supper.
I know I made it a while ago, and I ate tomato rice a little over an hour ago, but writing about it now is making me crave more. Drool. It’s sort of like pickle (Indian pickle), you know. You can eat it plain too. Yes, the humble and simple tomato chutney is quite versatile. For breakfast you could eat it with any Indian flatbread or even tortillas, or dosais, or idlis, or rava idlis; or you could add egg to it and make it scrambled eggs in spicy tomato sauce. For lunch or dinner, you could eat it with finger millet dosas or chapattis, or you could add hot rice to it to make it tomato rice or thakkali saadam. And it stays out without spoiling the whole day.
Do let me know how your simple tomato chutney turned out! Use the hashtag #notjustspice on Insta or let me know on Facebook @notjustspice or you could comment below.
- 2 tablespoons groundnut or sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon split black gram optional
- 1 large onion, or 2 small-medium ones weighing about 160-170 g
- 1 sprig of curry leaves optional
- 5 medium tomatoes weighing about 450 g
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 3/4-1 teaspoon chilli powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
Heat oil over a medium flame in a pan.
Meanwhile, chop the onions.
When it’s hot, add the mustard seeds, and wait till they crackle.
Once they do, add the split black gram and wait for them to start turning brown.
Soon after, add the chopped onions, and fry them until they are light pink and just about start turning golden. Then add the curry leaves.
While the onions fry, you can chop the tomatoes.
Add the turmeric powder and the chilli powder and let them fry for 30 seconds.
Add the chopped tomatoes and salt, mix them in, and fry them till they’re slightly cooked — for about 10 minutes on medium flame. Don't add water, the tomatoes will give out their water, and they'll cook in it, and tomato chutney will slowly thicken.
Stand close to the stove — you don’t want the tomatoes to cook fully as they turn a little sweet then — the sugars start breaking down with the heat. When you press a piece of tomato with a wooden spoon, it mustn’t give way easily. You want them to retain their tangy bite, and stay pulpy.