Spices can make miracles and a mixture of Indian spices can transform an ordinary vegetable into a highly palatable side-dish, a cheap meat cut into a fantastic curry and a big bag of cheap, watery tomatoes into a luscious chutney. I learnt the latter last year, when, having bought a bag of rather bland looking tomatoes, I tried to transform them into the ketchup according to my favourite, Jeffrey Steingarten’s recipe. The result was very disappointing and so far from the one obtained with high quality tomatoes, I decided to look for a different preserving idea.
After some research I managed to save the remaining couple of kilos with an Indian chutney recipe, which really acted as a magic wand. The result is complex, slightly sour, slightly sweet, with an intense tomato flavour and a hot kick from the chili peppers. I don’t remember where I have found it or if I have modified it (I suppose I did), but needless to say, this chutney is simply breathtaking if made with aromatic and ripe tomatoes. As usually the chili amount depends on everyone’s preference and on the chili variety. I use it as a sauce with deep-fried chicken (Chicken Karaage is a good example), with toasted sandwiches, with sausages…
Special equipment: a food mill (a sieve and a spoon may be used instead, but it takes much longer)
Preparation: 2 hours
1 kg tomatoes
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons nigella (onion seeds)
3 dried, crushed chili peppers
1 teaspoon powdered chili
100 g sugar (preferably cane sugar)
300 ml apple vinegar (4,5 %)
1 tablespoon salt
Chop roughly the tomatoes.
Put them in a pan, cover, cook over high heat 5-10 minutes, stirring until the chunks give off their juice.
Sieve the tomatoes or put them through a food mill.
Heat the oil in a pan, fry the spices a couple of minutes, add the vinegar and the sugar and let it simmer, stirring, for 10 minutes until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the sieved tomato juice and the salt.
Cook over moderate heat until it the chutney has the required consistency (I like it similar to the ketchup consistency).
Taste and add more chili/vinegar/salt or sugar. Let it simmer 10 more minutes.
/At this point you can (after the chutney has cooled down) either freeze it, or keep it in the fridge for a couple of weeks, or process it in the jars, as described below, and store it in your pantry for at least a year!/
Pour the chutney, still hot, into sterilised jars. Cover with lids. Leave the jars to cool.
Place the cool jars into a big pan, bottom lined with an old kitchen towel folded in two (this will prevent the jars from breaking), cover up with hot – but not boiling- water to the level just below the lid. Bring to boil and keep on a very low heat, in simmering water, for around 20 minutes.
Stick on self-adhesive labels, write the name of the chutney and don’t forget to mark the date.
NOTE: For the readers who live in the USA, the USDA-approved canning method is different. You can find it described here http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/uga/using_bw_canners.html.