It’s wicked windy, with thunderstorms looming overhead right now, and on stormy days like this there’s nothing that comforts and warms the spirit quite like a hearty, umami rich meal. The first rainy day dish most likely to pop into your mind is probably something along the lines of tomato soup and grilled cheese, which is one of my favorites too. Today, however, I felt compelled to resurrect my old tomato chutney recipe, which is an old favorite of ours, that I’ve been cooking up for the past eight years or so. A spicy serving of this dish has always sent my spirits soaring, and on day number whatever during that-which-shall-not-be-named, I woke up needing a dose of tomato chutney in the worst way.
My first experience with tomato chutney was at an Indian restaurant called, Nirvana, on Rt 202 in Wilmington, DE. The chef loaded the chutney with huge chunks of garlic, speckled it with a generous amount of fresh cilantro, and if you ordered it spicy like I did, garnished it with a flaming amount of sliced Thai Bird Chilies. It’s a dish that I have yet to see on any other Indian menu, and is why I was motivated to deconstruct the dish over the years, as best I could, and remake it at home. Sadly, Nirvana closed its doors a few years ago so I can no longer enjoy it there anymore either. I’m so eternally grateful I took the time to bug the waitstaff about the chutney’s ingredients while I had the chance!
So, other than the tidbits of knowledge I was able to persuade the waitstaff to share with me over the year we regularly dined there, my recipe for this oh-so-elusive tomato chutney is built solely on taste memory, as I’ve found very limited recipes online for it, or elsewhere for that matter, and none of the ones I have found come close to Nirvana’s version anyway. The chutney is very versatile and a great accompaniment to creamy Dahls or grilled meats, but honestly I love it best simply spooned over warm garlic naan.
Please feel free to experiment with this recipe and make it your own though, just like I have, as it really is a delightfully warming and cheery dish. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
5 – 6 on-the-vine tomatoes, quartered
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp tomato paste
1/2 cup curry leaves
5 garlic cloves, skins removed, rough chopped
4 spring onions, trimmed, thinly sliced
2″ piece ginger root, skin removed, diced
2 black cardamom pods
1 Thai Bird chili, stem removed, thinly sliced, optional
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp Garam Masala
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp Penzey’s Curry Now powder, or curry powder of choice
1/8 tsp saffron threads, optional
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp EVOO
1 tab butter
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To a casserole dish, add the quartered tomatoes, garlic, and curry leaves. Toss with EVOO until well coated. Salt and pepper then transfer to the oven and roast about 20 – 30 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and fragrant. Remove from oven and discard the curry leaves. Set aside.
In a small Dutch oven over med flame, add the mustard and cumin seeds. Cover with the lid and keep covered until the mustard seeds stop popping. Next add in the tab of butter, cardamom pods, curry powder, Garam Masala, turmeric powder, ginger, spring onions, and Thai Bird chili, if using. Saute about 5 minutes until the onions and ginger are softened. Carefully pour in the roasted tomatoes, along with the garlic and all the rendered juices, the petite diced tomatoes, and tomato paste. Stir until well combined.
Reduce the flame to low and continue to simmer the chutney until most of the liquid has reduced, stirring frequently, about 45 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
To finish, remove and discard the cardamom pods then stir in the cilantro. Serve immediately with naan, Basmati rice, Dahl, or grilled meats. Garnish with additional fresh cilantro and Thai Bird chilies, if desired.