Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lip - Smacking Dry Tomato Pickle

     I could eat any kind of pickle day or night but I don't since all pickles add considerably to my daily salt intake. Moderation is my mantra..... sigh. So I have a few faves, Amma's nimbu achar, an Aunt of mine makes a superb lemon peel chutney, vegetable pickle in masala and mustard oil, sour raw mango achar, green tamarind thokku, midi - mavinkai pickle in brine, just to name the ones that have me salivating right now. My favourite is this Tomato Pickle made from a borrowed and improved-upon recipe.

Ingredients:


Tomatoes (firm, a little under-ripe) - 1 kg

Salt - 5 tsp
Organic, Cold-pressed Oil (any kind) - 5 tsp
Turmeric Powder - 3 tsp
Fenugreek seeds - 3 tsp
Cinnamon stick - 1" piece
Cumin seeds (Jeera) - 1 tsp
Red Chilli Powder - 1 - 2 tsp
Cloves - 2 pcs
Asafoetida - a pinch
Garlic (optional) - 2-3 cloves

Before you even start planning to attempt this recipe - be sure of your weather forecast - you need direct bright sunshine giving heat for at least 3 days. If the weather becomes muggy and humidity increases, you might wind up with a fungal growth instead of nicely dried tomato. So the best season in Karnataka to do this is end of Jan through Feb, dry summer. In TN, it would probably be April - June. 


Method:


1] After washing and cleaning the tomatoes thoroughly, check to see they aren't bruised or damaged in any way - even a slight amount of rotting could result in spoilage.


2] You can use either naati (round) tomatoes or hybrid ones (oval in shape). The naati variety is sourer but also has more moisture. The hybrid has less water content. A way to balance the end flavour is to use half a kilo of each. 


3] Cut each tomato into half, remove the core (green stem end) and slice into thin slivers. Arrange the slivers (1 kilo worth) in 2 large steel plates. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the entire quantity. You can mix it in by hand but this is not really necessary. If you're using garlic, this too has to be sun-dried - chop the garlic finely and spread in a small separate plate.







4] Place these plates in a location which has good direct sunlight for at least 8 - 10 hours daily (unblocked by shadows). Bring the plates in as soon as the sun dips and store in a cool dry place. It will take at least 2 - 3 days of sun-drying for all moisture to evaporate. This dried tomato can now be pickled.


5] Remove all the dried tomato into a bowl, add the turmeric powder and mix it in so as to coat the whole quantity. If you're using the dried garlic, add it in now. Whip this in a blender for half a minute to achieve a rough paste texture.

6] In a small pan, roast the fenugreek (methi) seeds, cinnamon, cloves and cumin. Powder this spice mixture.


7] Heat the oil in a kadai on medium flame for 2 minutes, add in the tomato paste and stir well, ensuring the paste and oil blend thoroughly. Add the asafoetida, roasted spice and red chilli powders and mix well again.


8] Oil will not separate out since I have suggested only the bare minimum to preserve this pickle. Cook till you can smell that it's done - the tomato will have a cooked aroma and flavour.


9] Store your pickle in the coldest region of the fridge to preserve it for a longer time. It probably won't last beyond 2 weeks because you'll want to taste it every day!






      If you're stuck with monsoon weather but really want to make this, there's an instant version.......


     Just heat 3 tsp of oil in a kadai on a medium flame, add 1/2 tsp of mustard seeds, when it splutters, add in a pinch of asafoetida and 1 tsp of turmeric powder.You need only half a kilo of chopped tomatoes which has to be added in at this point. Mix well and cover to cook for 5 minutes. 




     Follow step 6 of the above dry recipe. Remove the lid, keep stirring so as to evaporate the water content of the tomatoes. Once the tomato pulp starts sticking to the pan, it is time to add in a tsp of salt along with the red chilli powder and roasted spice powder mix. 

     Blend well, the entire paste will thicken and leave on the flame for a couple of minutes. Again, oil will not separate out but the end product will look glossy. This instant pickle will last for a few days in the fridge. It is an ideal accompaniment for rotis, dosas and idlis.








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