Saturday, 14 September 2013

tomato ginger jam: the western cousin of tamatar ki chutney

tomato ginger jam
sometimes on weekends baba would make tamatar ki chutney (tomato chutney). he would fry roughly chopped tomatoes in a karahi in a free pour of oil till they reduced to the consistency of a jam. we would eat it straight from the frying pan with its rim of saffron coloured oil, scooping it with tandoori roti that either mama or m would have bought from rana market. baba always garnished it with fine rounds of fresh green chilli. in june last year he made it for us on a hot, sticky sunday. he decorated it with hard boiled eggs, the yolks of which were rimmed light blue as he likes very hard boiled ones, along with the fresh green chillies.

in pakistan and the sub-continent at large, chutney is meant to be a condiment that brings interest to mild foods or a cooling element to spicy ones. the profile of chutney can be sweet like those made from mangoes or aloo bukhara’s or cooling like those with herbs like mint or coriander. the latter can be made spicy by including fresh chilli or sweet-sour with tamarind. it is uncommon for them to be eaten on their own but baba’s tamatar ki chutney was an exception.

one afternoon a year or so ago i found myself craving baba's chutney but sadly my vegetable drawer was bereft of tomatoes and green chillies. i did however have a tupperware of roasted cherry tomatoes. i placed these in a pan and fried them on high heat until their juices evaporated and the oil that they were roasted in seeped and separated. i toasted some red chilli flakes and folded those through.

i scooped the makeshift chutney with sourdough. 

it was of course not quite the same but it echoed the texture and appearance of baba’s chutney. it had never occurred to me that one could make jam from tomatoes but when i looked it up the first recipe i came across was mark bittman’s tomato jam on the wednesday chef. since then i have been making small batches of tomato jam. it is the western cousin of baba’s tomato chutney. the spices can be tweaked to make a desi version which is savoury and takes on cumin and dhara mirch whereas a batch to eat with cheese or avocado will have ginger and cinnamon and some sugar. 

i made a large jar this weekend for mama. we have been smearing it on crackers with cream cheese. she took a packed lunch of ploughman’s and tommie ginger jam to her book binding workshop and i slathered it on a labne sandwich. it is a versatile kind of jam that lends itself to adaptations and makes good company for all manner of cheeses, bread and eggs. try eating it with firm slices of ricotta that have been lightly fried or smashed avocado or spread inside a crepe omelette or with grilled cheese. 

{tomato ginger jam} 
adapted from mark bittman's recipe on wednesday chef

a generous glug of olive oil 
four large tomatoes (approximately seven hundred grams) 
one hundred and fifty grams golden sugar 
one teaspoon dried chilli flakes 
one teaspoon cumin 
a one inch piece of fresh ginger, made into a rough paste with mortar and pestle 
half a teaspoon salt 
half a teaspoon ground cinnamon 
two cloves 
the juice of a lemon 
one tablespoon tomato paste 

roughly chop the tomatoes. warm the olive oil in a lidded pan large enough to accommodate the chopped tomatoes in a thick layer. when the olive oil is warm add the chopped tomatoes. clamp the lid on it and turn the heat up to the highest setting. let the tomatoes cook for a few minutes. this allows the tomatoes to release their juices. 

now return the heat to medium-to-low and add the sugar along with the spices, lemon juice and tomato paste. allow the tomatoes to simmer stirring occasionally until the juices evaporate and the mixture concentrates to a jam like consistency. 

spoon the jam into a sterilised jar. keep refrigerated. the low content of sugar means that this jam does not keep for long. i would say about a week at the most.

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