Nothing reminds me more of home and my mom’s cooking than making a pacchadi (chutney). Wait, let me back up a little.
In India, almost every state has its own specific type of food. What most people think of as Indian food like Butter Chicken or Chole or Saag Paneer, these are not from the south of India. I am from the state of Andhra Pradesh (south east of India) and typical Andhra food is usually vegetarian, complex in flavour and extremely delicious.
While on the topic of Indian food, there is no such thing as ‘curry’. I am often asked how to make Indian curry.. well, it doesn’t exist. I am not even sure what it means to be honest! Indian food that you get in a restaurant in the US is most likely north indian food.. typically made with onion-ginger-garlic (indian mirepoix) and tomatoes and some kind of meat or paneer (cheese) and lots of cream. Needless to say, we rarely go out to eat Indian food (unless it is kabobs or delicious street fare).
Here is a quick and easy version of tomato chutney. Every family in India has their own recipe for making chutneys.. and this is ours. We do not add garlic, though it does taste delicious with garlic!
Find some nice, slightly under ripe Roma tomatoes. Sadly tomatoes here, even if they are organic blah blah.. lack the flavour of Indian tomatoes.. but we will make do. Wash them and chop them up. I used 8 tomatoes.
Add chopped tomatoes to a large pot. We use what is called a Kadhai. Take the seeds and ‘strings’ out of some dried tamarind (about a lime size piece). Add to the pot. Tamarind is very sour. I remember making tamarind ‘lollipops’ when I was a kid. Mmm.
Add a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of sugar to the pot. I had run out of sugar.. my neighbour came to the rescue at tea time but in the meanwhile I used Jaggery (Gud) instead. . It looks like this. It is unrefined cane sugar. You just take some slivers of the cube and put it in the pot.
Stir everything in the pot and cook on a medium heat for 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently. It will slowly get to a loose jam consistency.
Once it reaches a nice thick consistency, transfer to a blender. Now its time to make the POPU, or TADKA as they call it in the North. Or to temper the chutney.
Here are the main players. This is the simple version. You can add dried red chillies too. Garlic. Fenugreek etc. I use the following:
Black mustard seeds, Asafoetida, spicy green chillies, curry leaves and vegetable oil. Warning : asafoetida is a strange smell to get used to but it is an essential flavour. It’s smell does not stay in the chutney.
Cut the green chillies in half.
In a small pot, add some vegetable oil. Heat on a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add mustard seeds. Do not wear your finest silks because those mustard seeds are going to start opening up and jumping around. Whee. Once the mustard seeds start popping, add a pinch of asafoetida, the green chillies and the curry leaves.
Take off the heat and add the tempering to the tomatoes in the blender.
When blending hot things, be very very careful. Or wait till everything cools down. I like a nice smooth consistency so I use the blender, but you don’t have to. Just add the tempering, check for salt and you are done.
Now the sad part is, once I blended the chutney, it was dinnertime. The daal was ready. The rice was ready. The aloos were ready. I forgot to take a photo of the final product. Just trust me when I say it was so delicious. So good. I was glad it was spicy. I didn’t have to share with the kids. ha. I will take a picture next time.