Tuesday, October 24, 2006

How To Make a Wonderful Spicy Tomato Chutney

Quick, Before the End of Tomato Season!

photograph picture how to make recipe for spicy indian style tomato chutney

Several weeks ago I made a recipe for tomato chutney from Atul Kochhar's Indian Essence Cookbook. It was a hit. I have had friends begging and even offering me money for more. After my first batch, smart arse that I am, I decided Kochhar had the recipe completely wrong and that I would show him how it would better be done. So I made a version where I started by deskinning the tomatoes in advance, greatly reduced the sugar to almost zero (this is meant to be a sweet chutney, folks), turned up the heat and lessened the vinegar. (I had decided his chutney was too sloppy). My second batch wasn't as good as the first, so on my third attempt I split the difference between his and mine for a chutney I am pretty happy with the results of.

This chutney is first and foremost sweet, before it kicks you from behind with some chili heat and delivers the taste of some whole spices that are mysterious enough to add some intrigue. The mustard seeds, fennel, cumin and onion seeds you'll be using in this recipe fill the kitchen with their aromatic scents as you simmer the chutney for over an hour. The result is sloppy - there is no way around that unless you want to reduce your mixture so much that you'll be disappointed by the loss of volume. The more of this condiment you have, the happier you'll be.

photograph picture how to make recipe for spicy indian style tomato chutney

So about that sugar; you will have to note that I am using late season dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes which by their very nature are incredibly sweet. So I have almost halved the amount of sugar from the original recipe. If you are trying this out with less sweet tomatoes, you might want to consider increasing the amount of sugar again to compensate.

The following recipe makes enough to fill about 8 jars. It is easily halved.

8 tablespoons of vegetable oil
2 tsp mustard seeds (brown or black)
2 tsp onion seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
4 dried red chilis
1 tsp red chilli powder
2 cups raw organic cane sugar*
2 1/2 cups white distilled vinegar
4 1/2 lbs sweet dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes
salt to taste

8 x sterilized 8 oz canning jars

- Measure all of the ingredients out first and core the tomatoes.
- Gently heat the oil in a large high-sided pan (the spices will spit)
- Add all of the seeds, the chilis and powder to the oil.
- Cook one or two minutes until the seeds start to pop.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the vinegar and sugar stirring until dissolved.
- Add all of the tomatoes, bring to a simmer for an hour.
- After an hour, whilst the chutney is simmering away, pick out as many skins as you - can with a pair of tongs. The skins should, at this time, be separating themselves away from the tomatoes and floating to the top almost like discarded condoms.
Continue cooking until the tomatoes have evenly broken down. Total cooking time about 1.5 hours.
- Pick out the 4 x whole chilis and discard.
- Transfer the chutney to the jars according to the manafacturer's instructions. Keep for up to two months. Refrigerate and consume within 2 weeks after opening.

You may now lick the spoon (but be careful not to burn your tongue!)

PS - On this occasion I didn't actually can my chutney correctly, darn it. I only found the Weck instructions after I thought I had proceeded correctly, which I hadn't because I am an idiot with a memory like a sieve. So, looks like I might have to give this batch away sharpish, or maybe even freeze it, and make yet a.n.other batch this coming weekend, to stockpile me into the winter.

Weck Canning Jars
available in San Francisco at Sur La Table
Early Girl Tomatoes from Dirty Girl
*Rapunzel Organic Cane Sugar
Heinz White Distilled Vinegar

2005: Mystery Question
2004: There once was an ugly duckling - Sushi Terrine for IMBB

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How To Make a Wonderful Spicy Tomato Chutney


  • At 24/10/06 10:20, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dry-farmed tomatoes, especially Early Girls, have thicker skins than other tomatoes, which is why some people (not me!) like them less. I think you did the right thing to remove the skins, but on other tomatoes, like traditionally grown heirlooms, it wouldn't be necessary.

    When I remove the skins, I blanch the tomatoes first for 30 seconds, then let them cool for a bit. It's easy then to just squeeze their innards straight into the cooking pot.

    Your recipe looks delicious, Sam!

  • At 24/10/06 11:12, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This looks good Sam

  • At 24/10/06 12:01, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sam, it looks from the pile that you have too many jars. I can provide my address and you can ship one jar (juste un !)


  • At 24/10/06 12:32, Blogger wheresmymind said…

    When does tomato season end?? I would've thought for sure it was already over *shrug*

  • At 24/10/06 12:59, Blogger Sam said…

    Hi Tana - Actually - skinning the tomatoes does not work so well for this recipe as removing the skins from the pot of chutney after it has been cooking for an hour. Removing skins from 4.5 lbs of tomatoes is a gruesome task. I found the early girls were temperemantal and some came away from their skins easily and some did not, thereby wasting too much tomato.
    I think I got mor of the tomatoes good ness by removing the skins after cooking - and they mostly float to the top so it isn't difficult. Kochhar didnt mention the skins at all, but I think it is nice to remove them

    mum - have you any tomatoes left?

    Bea - I might take you up on that if I manage to can the next batch correctly

    WMM - I believe we have three more weeks of Early Girls here. That is what the farm stand led me to believe 3 weeks ago when they told me there were six weeks left in the season.

    They are so good right now - I quarter them and then grill them. Woosh they are scrumptious beyond scrumptious.

  • At 24/10/06 13:19, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Not enough to try this recipe

  • At 24/10/06 13:35, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That chutney (that I learnt from my mother) was the first post in my food blog !!(see that post:
    http://chatpatfood.blogspot.com/2006/08/easy-tomato-chutney.html). It is a speciality of Bengal, an eastern state of India; the combo five whole spices is called 'panch-phoran'. My recipe is slightly different (adds raisins and dates; no vinegar; green fresh chillies instead of red dried chillies).

  • At 24/10/06 14:00, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Sam! In my excitement to meet my favorite chutney, I forgot to tell how delicious it all looks here. And I am definitely going to try this version. I do not bother skin the tomatoes (but removing it after cooking is a good idea), but definitely slice them into quarters.

  • At 24/10/06 17:12, Blogger Farmgirl Susan said…

    Love the photo collage. Gorgeous.

  • At 24/10/06 18:10, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

    Yeah, to what everybody said above.
    (I can't believe I'm the only one so far to comment on this: Condoms??? Yeesh. You're a salty dame, Sam. I'd say I wouldn't want to try your chutney, but I'm afraid it may be too late.)

  • At 24/10/06 19:38, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Sam,

    Great pics! Is it true that you need to be careful when reducing the sugar in these recipes too much? I am new to preserving myself, but I've heard that you need to be careful when dropping teh sgar and/or vinegar content of these types of recipes as these are the ingredients that actually keep the nasty bacteria at bay.

    Does anyone know anything about this?

  • At 24/10/06 23:18, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    ..and down south we are just beginning to get summer tomatoes.

  • At 25/10/06 07:05, Blogger krista said…

    This looks yummy!

  • At 25/10/06 07:29, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I used to work at a restaurant that served the most head-spinning tomato chutney on top of chicken tagine, and I've been wondering how I could make it at home. This recipe looks terrific! Thank you!

  • At 25/10/06 07:37, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Love the way you put those photos together. I am a chutney-fanatic and this one sounds wonderful. Lucky you all on the west coast to still have tomatoes.

  • At 25/10/06 08:49, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I like tomato chutney with roasted garlic and creamy blue cheese.
    A chef gave me an alternative recipe a few years back of watermelon rine chutney made with brown sugar and balsamic vinegar.
    You eat your watermelon and then use the rine.
    No waste like in the old days.
    I was going to write about it on 'Serge the Concierge' but summer is really over. It will have to wait until next year (if I can dig up the recipe)


  • At 25/10/06 11:28, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is a great recipe! I love to add a little chiffonade of mint on top of my chutney, depending what I am putting it on, which is usually everything, just for a twist.
    Rebecca Katz

  • At 25/10/06 11:54, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sounds yummy - wonder if it as good as mum's.

  • At 25/10/06 12:54, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    embee probably better my brother was not impressed with my green tomato chutney but then he did not let it mature; that's why you haven't got to try it yet.

  • At 25/10/06 16:12, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i volunteer to help w/your urgent need to dispatch these perishable ones!!!! i loved this tomato chutney - a whole lot of my favorite things in one luscious mouthful. perhaps i can retrieve one for myself when i come up next? or i'll send a big SASE?! seriously?! xxd

  • At 25/10/06 17:27, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

    OK, one more. I am so excited about the possibility of canning (late) summer's bounty, after your post and Pim's tomato confit. So I think I am going to try, especially with those gorgeous jars. Super thanks for the link to the hows and whys of processing.

  • At 26/10/06 12:11, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I LOVE those jars, Sam!

  • At 28/10/06 10:57, Blogger Cate said…

    The tomato chutney looks fabulous, Sam! Haven't had any in ages, but now I'm craving it. Beautiful picture too.

  • At 28/10/06 16:14, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    hey sam - just finished shopping for the spices to make this beautiful looking chutney - except I couldn't find onion seeds anywhere - do you mean nigella perchance? thanks!

  • At 29/10/06 08:33, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    hey Lynn - I a bit confused about the difference between onion seeds and nigella. I have both - and they looks and taste exactly the same to me. Maybe one is labelled incorrectly? I don't know? So I am pretty sure you can just go ahead and use Nigella without ruining the chutney!

    it's something I need to look into more.

  • At 31/10/06 12:37, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Onion seeds are also known as nigella as well as kalonji -- which is what they were called in the Indian grocery store where I shopped.

    Btw, made this last week and it's incredibly delicious!

  • At 3/11/06 10:52, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    thanks sam - i used the nigella seeds and the chutney turned out wonderfully - I also substituted sciabica's jalapeno flavored olive oil in place of regular oil + dried whole chillis. at first i thought i'd made a huge mistake when i was tasting from the pan as it was soooo spicy, but once i tasted the cooled down leftovers i found it was just perfect for my timid taste buds! another first for me was the "proper" way to can (my mum never went to these lengths for jams/preserves in england!) - woohoo!

    thanks also to anonymous for confirming about onion seeds/nigella/kalonji - something i now won't be forgetting in a hurry.

    happy eating --lynn

  • At 7/9/08 17:57, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Sam,

    This looks wonderful! I wonder if you could also add caramelized onions without creating a mess of the recipe?

  • At 14/10/08 06:02, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    thank's great recipe!

  • At 18/8/09 10:55, Blogger Unknown said…

    Hey Sam, no need to warn your readers about the dangers of spoon-licking when you use images like 'discarded condoms'! I doubt that the appetite of the lustiest among us is stimulated by that idea...

  • At 22/8/09 17:37, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I made this last year, and everyone raved about it!! My sheep broke into my garden and ate all of my tomatoes, so I had to make a trip to the farmers market for toms. just so I could make this again! Thanks!

  • At 28/10/09 20:43, Anonymous nightswimmer said…

    Just made this tonight, with the very last of the garden tomatoes. I let it cook down until it was jammy. It tastes great hot -- I can't wait to try it cold tomorrow!


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