Thursday, 16 January 2014

baba's tomato chutney with hard boiled eggs

baba's tamatar ki chutney with ublay huay unday
baba would make his tamartar ki chutney on lazy sunday afternoons. it would often appear at a time that was too late for lunch and too early for dinner, upsetting the balance of the day’s meals. but it did not matter because it is a firm yusuf family favourite. the tomato chutney has an element of umami with bright sparks of heat lent by thin rounds of fresh green chilli and coarse black pepper. the protein in the hard-boiled along with the velvet yolk is a soothing counterpoint to the sharper flavours of the chutney.

baba would cook this in a karahi that has been in my parent’s kitchen since the past decade. its bottom is black with consistent use over a naked gas burner, and its insides are well seasoned like that of a much used skillet. he would boil eggs simultaneously and since he prefers them very well done, the yolk would always be rimmed with a blue-black halo. this is my only point of departure from his recipe because i like firm whites and yolks that are velvet like. a hard long boil makes the white rubbery and the yolk dry. 

for the many years that i have l lived abroad, i have chosen not to make this chutney. i eat it at least once on my annual visit to islamabad. for all its simplicity there is something special about sharing this meal with my parents and sibling. this break in tradition comes not from homesickness but from accepting the changes in our spatial existence. i will always want baba to make a karahi of this when i visit, but i also want o to draw pleasure from my family’s recipes.

tamatar ki chutney
o and i do not eat it the way we do back home where we all gather around the dining table eating communally from the karahi. we use yesterday’s tandoori roti refreshed with a spray of water and toasted till crisp as cutlery. in addition we will be joined by zubeida and chewbecca (the feline members of our family). they sit on the ground wearing hopeful and expectant expressions to illustrate their desire to be included in the experience. they both like roti but chewbacca prefers his with a lacquer of the spicy oil from the karahi. this is where the flavour is concentrated; in the saffron rim of oil that seeps from the tomatoes after they have been fried in it. it is mama’s favourite and she uses the thicker edges of roti to soak it up.

this recipe arrived in my inbox last november. it was dictated to mama who obliged with the typing of it, noting baba’s comments where appropriate. i have maintained the integrity of these because i think they add to the spirit of the recipe (although it does not necessarily follow that i agree with them).

{baba's tamatar chutney aur ublay huay unday}
[tomato chutney with hardboiled eggs]

one kg tomatoes, preferably roma 
four tablespoons of sunflower oil + more if needed
two scant teaspoons salt
a scant teaspoon black peppercorns
a splash of water
a one inch piece of ginger
a fresh green chilli, preferably thai bird
a whole coriander leaf (optional)
two hardboiled eggs

half and chop the tomatoes into slices that look like orange segments. if your tomatoes are large aim to have five to six segments. if they are small four segments will suffice.

place a karahi or wok on medium to high-heat with the tomatoes in it. dry fry the tomatoes. they should soften and release all their moisture. allow some of the moisture to dry out with the heat before adding the oil and salt. baba says to not be stingy with the oil. i am certain that he would add more than i did. you may well be more daring than me and add more. this will only double the pleasure. 

continue to fry the tomatoes until all the moisture evaporates, the oil separates from the tomatoes and the contents of the pan looks like a very thick set jam. you will need to be patience as this takes a little time, roughly fifteen to twenty minutes.

in the meantime julienne the ginger and cut the chilli into very fine, thin rounds. be sure to stir the chutney from time to time to prevent it from sticking. pound the whole peppercorns in a mortar and pestle till roughly crushed. add half of the coarse pepper to the chutney reserving the remaining for garnishing.

the chutney is ready when it seeps oil and is a jam like consistency. if it is very thick you can add a splash or two of water to loosen it. i like mine fairly thick. you can add a coriander leaf but baba stipulates it must be whole and solo as its function is merely to pretty up the dish. i dispensed with this cosmetic uplift primarily because i had no coriander at home. this fresh herb is a staple in pakistani kitchens but here in london i only buy it when i am cooking pakistani or south-east asian dishes. 

halve the hardboiled eggs and place them on the chutney. scatter the julienned ginger, chilli and remaining pepper over the top. serve it with hot naan, barberry or pita bread. baba says to use roti or naan that is at least a day old.


  1. Mehrunnisa! this is so beautifully written! Im dreaming of velvet yolk and chutney laced with pepper and ginger!
    Your blog is wonderful .....My maternal grandparents were from Pakistan but moved to delhi....I find so many similarities in mannerisms , eating habits and cooking styles....I am going to be a regular reader...thanks for sharing!

    1. aditi, thanks for the kind words. this is a super easy recipe and i do hope you try it. it is a firm family favourite. my paternal grand parents used to live in delhi before partition. they lived on pritviraj road. and my maternal grand father grew up in amritsar. what a small world!

  2. I love that your father cooks - mine loves his khana, but doesn't know how to do much more than heat it up in the microwave :) Lovely, delicious recipe xo