Monday, August 5, 2013

Green tomato chutney - a North Karnataka specialty fit for a hot Summer

While many Indian food blogs have moved on from summer recipes to talking about incessant Monsoon rains, cool temperatures, I am still savoring my share of summer which has been extra kind this year and we are enjoying week after week of sunshine. With that bright energy flourishes my vegetable garden and I take every opportunity to pick a handful of fresh veggies and drop them in my dishes, yumm!. I know, I can get pretty boring to most of you talking about the weather or gloating about my garden, so I thought I will do something else for a change today :-).

I think, the younger bro and I had some of the most wonderful summer vacations and adventures during our elementary school period. I remember us getting packed up and off to some place. If we didn't go anywhere, there was enough to keep us busy in the huge back yard and visiting cousins. We never had a grand parents' village or home to go to, as the grand parents had passed on by the time we were in school. I vaguely remember my paternal grandma who used to carry me around - imagine a plump, heavy baby riding on a frail old lady - that very much describes us :-). Apparently my ajji took me with her on all her visits in the neighborhood. My sister says that is how I got initiated into the world of exaggerating and story telling as I accompanied ajji to her sessions with her friends :-). What is life if you can't find the positive things in it to savor and enjoy? Part of savoring is weaving the details, remembering the teeny tiny pieces that make up the big picture...and the picture is as rich as you see it..So, don't forget to tuck away a few strands of memories into your own personal pensieve so you can retrieve and relive them whenever you want.

Of the few 'village living' experiences from childhood, one that is very close to heart is the lone summer I spent giving company to Akka in the far away, dry, scorching heat of a tiny village in Raichur (a district in North Karnataka). Akka had just graduated medical school and it was part of her rural posting experience. Thinking back, I wonder how anxious my parents should have been to send her off to an unknown place like that, the family took turns to make sure some one older & wiser was with her during her entire tenure. And when the school closed for summer, in addition to nammamma who was already there, the 2 little monkeys were packed and sent off on a bus. There were so many firsts to that trip including riding a bus through the night and was pretty exhilarating to a pre teen. After a very loud and buoyant welcome by many people who had gathered at the bus stand to receive us, we were marched off towards home with major pomp as though we were some heroes returning from a voyage or something :-). Brother & I knew immediately we were in for a different summer experience than any we had had so far.
The mornings always started early with one or more families making bhakris or the jower rotis. If you  haven't witnessed this magical 'pat a roti', go visit one of the Kamat restaurants in Bengaluru that serves jower bhakris. They let customers stand by the kitchen and watch the ladies make the bhakris. A twirl, a twist, a pat repeated in sequence is all it takes to make a perfectly round, no tear bhakri which then goes on the hot griddle sprinkled with water on top and roasted before the hot bhakri with a dollop of butter falls into your plate.

My favorite memories from that summer include the really hot weather made almost unbearable with frequent power cuts rendering the ceiling fans useless, plump rats running all over the huge bunglow making us kids run screaming & screeching louder than the rats, and my amma going down a narrow, winding stairs to fetch potable water. It was different in many ways for us city bred kids but I would love to go back there to experience it all one more time.

Tomatoes hiding behind the leaves
Picked tomatoes in the basket
The village hospital was the only source of medical aid for many communities around and entire families used to come in bullock carts and camp out in the hospital premises until all their health needs from small to big were addressed or they had to go back home to attend to chores :-). So they came prepared to cook and eat for a couple of days. Me & younger bro have tasted many a bits of delicious bhakris and extremely spicy red chili chutney or other chutney with it. Nammamma wouldn't have approved if she knew but for us kids it was a novelty watching the process of patting the bhakris and getting to taste the delicious stuff :-). This was my first exposure to the very different tasting North Karnataka food and over the course of Summer we were treated to some really delicious food. Since climate is dry and drought is not unheard of, you do not find very many green vegetables, but when has lack of ingredients stopped any good cook from dishing out yummy stuff, right? Over the years I have had many friends from the region and have always enjoyed their food. 

While today's post has nothing to do with bhakri or the red chili chutney, it has everything to do with a green, spicy chutney from North Karnataka. One of my friends gave me this chutney last Summer and I enjoyed it every bit and then I got another box full of the chutney a couple of weeks back and she mentioned that her dad who is visiting here made it. It was much more flavorful than the last time and she attributed the difference to the addition of sesame seeds which apparently the authentic chutney has. Thank you A & dad for re introducing me to the forgotten flavor. I was waiting for my tomatoes to reach a decent size before I could pick them without feeling guilty and here I am with a fresh, green tomato chutney North Karnataka style. 

What do you need to make Green Tomato chutney? 
2 large firm green tomatoes (should make 2.5 cups when chopped)
1/4 onion - chopped thin
2 Tblsp raw peanuts
1 Tblsp white sesame seeds
4-5 green chilies (adjust to taste)
4-5 sprigs cilantro
3 Tsp oil - divided use
3/4 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
4 stalks of spring onion (optional)

How do you make Green tomato chutney? 
  • Peel and slice the onion, wash, pat dry and chop the tomatoes. Slit the green chilies, Discard the roots and chop the spring onion finely.
  • Dry roast the peanuts until crisp, keep aside. Alternatively you can use store bought dry roasted peanuts, adjust salt in the recipe depending on whether you use salted or unsalted peanuts.
  • In the same pan, roast sesame seeds for a minute until it slightly changes color and starts to pop. Keep aside. 
  • Add 2 Tsp oil to the same pan, add slit green chilies and let them roast for 20-30 seconds or until blisters form on their skin (make sure you cut or slit the chilies so they don't pop)
  • Add thinly sliced onions and fry for a minute. 
  • Add the chopped green tomatoes, salt and cover and fry for 6-8 minutes on medium heat. Stir occasionally and continue until tomatoes break down and becomes mushy.
  • Add the cleaned cilantro sprigs, give it a mix with the hot mush in the pan, take it out and let cool.
  • Keep aside to cool. 
  • Add a Tsp of oil in the pan, add the finely chopped spring onions and fry for just a minute and half until the pieces crisp up a little. Keep separately until ready to use. 
  • Once cool, take all the ingredients to a blender and blend into a smooth paste without adding water. Start by pulsing and then go to grind mode to be easy on your blender motor. 
  • Take the chutney in a bowl, add the roasted spring onion on top. Serve with dosa(e), idli, rotti or rice.
  • Spring onion as garnish is probably a family favorite as my friend mentioned it when we were discussing the recipe. The chutney tastes great even without it. 
  • Peanuts add body to the chutney but be careful not to go overboard with it or you will end up with peanut chutney :-)
  • I have not added any tamarind in this recipe since the green tomatoes were tart. If you prefer, you can add a small piece of tamarind. 
  • Remember this is a thick chutney scooped up like a dip, do not dilute the consistency unless you prefer it that way. 


NamsVeni Pothas said...

wonderfull recipe of the green tomato chetney. i saw once in Kamat hotel the ladies preparing Bhakris

LG said...

Slurrp! yummy ri, omme maadbeku, bahala dina aythu tindu :)

Priya Suresh said...

Such a wonderful chutney with green tomatoes,quite different and delicious..Never tried chutney with green tomatoes.

Anonymous said...

Mouth watering stuff & very Well explained. Food lovers should definitely try it out and for those who do not cook-try JavariFoods-North Karnataka Foods Online and get speciality and home made food items from North Karnataka.