I haven't done a garden update here on the blog in quite some time, while we got a squash a day harvest for a while, the surprise of the season has been Tomatoes. Yes, these are big, juicy and incredibly tasty tomatoes and have made me turn my back permanently on the waxy, store bought excuses. I am worried about the soon to be here winter months when my garden will hibernate:-(. But until then, I am cooking up all sorts of Tomato deliciousness in my kitchen.
It all started with 4 small saplings we planted in the middle of Spring, sun shine was abundant this summer (not sure where the gray, cloudy weather rumor spreads its wings:-)) and my tomato plants grew big and tall like the bean stalk in (well, what else but..) Jack and the bean stalk. I saw the plants bending and flexing on the ground with its own weight before BH & I could scurry around to build a support structure for them. We lifted them gently, placed them inside the support structures when we noticed small, yellow blooms which heralded the possibility of tomatoes some time in the future. So, we waited patiently and then forgot about them for a while with the Arangetram excitement and when we did remember to go back to the back yard and look, the plants were lugging huge tomatoes, some turning red but mostly green :-). I did and still have been making a whole lot of green tomato recipes (believe me they are all yummy and will be showcased here on the blog soon) and then started picking the red ones. I am not exaggerating when I say it really is raining tomatoes in my back yard and all of them looking so deliciously juicy and flavorful.
We are a family of 'saaru' lovers, saaru is a staple in my home and is comparable to 'Rasam', it is either sipped as a appetizer or mixed with rice and enjoyed. There are many different kinds of saaru but then, this post is not about the 'saaru', right? It will suffice to say, I made many, many saaru with the freshly harvested ripe tomatoes before my saaru crazy family was deploring me to put the ripe tomatoes in another recipe :-). So, best way to use pounds of ripe tomatoes? Make this wonderful tasting tokku that has multiple uses. It will make you 'tomato happy' for life :-).
Tokku is a common word used to describe a pachadi or chutney in Kannada, the difference being Tokkus almost always stay fresh for long while regular chutneys are for quick consumption. This makes Tokkus preferred accompaniments during travel. In addition to topping the usual suspects such as bread, roti, idli, dosa or crackers with Tokku, Nammamma also mixed spoon fulls of tokku (usually mango tokku) with cooked rice, seasoned it with asafoetida, mustard, chana dal and peanuts to make a quick, ready to eat or lunch box friendly rice variety. Try it and you will be hooked.
Tokku does not call for many or even exotic ingredients, one thing that helps is to make sure the star ingredient is fresh and tasty. Whether you are making mango tokku or tomato tokku, make sure you have good mangoes or tomatoes. The rest of the procedure is very simple but needs time and patience. After tokku is done, handling it is very similar to that of pickles - make sure you store it in a dry, airtight container, use only dry spoons to serve for the longevity of the tokku.
What do you need to make Tomato Tokku?
1 lb fresh, juicy tomatoes
2-2.5 Tblsp red chili powder (adjust based on spice tolerance)
1 Tblsp salt (adjust to taste)
1.5 Tsp fenugreek seeds
1/4 Tsp Asafoetida powder
1/2 cup oil
1 Tsp mustard
10-12 curry leaves
1-2 dry red chilies (optional)
1/2 Tsp crushed jaggery
How do you make Tomato Tokku?
- Wash, wipe and cut tomatoes in half.
- Remove the stalk end part and chop into small pieces.
- Heat oil in a heavy bottom, big pan (big enough to hold all tomatoes and let you stir them around easily).
- Add mustard seeds and dry red chilies, let mustard pop. Add asafoetida and curry leaves, toast for 15 seconds before adding chopped tomatoes in.
- Mix it in, add salt and red chili powder. Let the tomatoes cook on medium flame stirring occasionally so it doesn't get burnt at the bottom.
- In the mean time, dry roast fenugreek seeds on low to medium heat stirring frequently (about 5-7 minutes) until they turn a deep brown without burning the seeds, let cool and powder in a spice grinder.
- Tomatoes first break up and then turn mushy and most of the juice evaporates eventually, keep an eye on them and let them cook until oil starts to ooze from the sides of the vessel - takes about 2-2.5 hours depending on how juicy your tomatoes were to start with and the volume reduces by a third.
- Add the powdered fenugreek and jaggery, reduce heat and continue to cook for another 15-20 minutes.
- Switch off, let it cool completely before storing in dry, air tight containers. This tokku stays fresh for months if you make sure you keep it in a cool, dry place and also do not use any wet spoons or hands to serve.
- The tiny bot of jaggery helps bring out the tastes well, my recommendation is not to skip this ingredient.
- There is no baby sitting involved to make this tokku, though it takes time, you can set the timer to 15-20 minutes between stirrings and continue doing whatever else you need to be doing.
- Chopping tomatoes small will speed up the process.
- I do not peel the tomatoes for tokku as we like the texture it imparts, if you like grind and sieve tomatoes before you drop them in the seasoned oil.
- Tokku tastes best after some settling time as the tastes get time to mingle, let it cool down and stay put for half a day before you start to liberally use it as a spread or dip.