Tomato chutney

Jaya’s tomato chutney

Jaya is the cook at my parent’s home. Her hair has grown into a longish boy crop after her mottai at her kula deivam kovil. She comes in every morning and asks my mother for the day’s menu. They chat for a bit. She talks about her grandkids sometimes. She sits down on the floor with the “Arvamanai” to cut her vegetables. She takes her time. She arranges them into neat piles on a large plate and then moves to the stove to cook. She is an oil-guzzler. Her seppan-kezhangu roast (arbi/colocasia) is an absolute beauty – golden crisp, crunchy kezahngu with plenty of those irresistible fried masala streusel bits. I eat her seppan-kezhangu roast straight, not with rice or alongside anything, just straight. I realized that that kind of a beautiful roast requires that much of oil. At that moment I also learnt why sometimes the same recipe tasted so divine when my Ammama made it, when my mother made it but just didn’t seem as great when I tried it. Two things I often am guilty of doing – skimping on oil/ghee and not being patient enough for the onions to brown, for the tomatoes to turn mushy. It makes all the difference. I’ve hence decided that I either make the dish whole-heartedly using as much oil as it takes or not make it at all. Jaya also makes the most amazing tomato chutney – a deep red chutney, oil glistening around the edges dotted with mustard seeds and curry leaves. This tomato chutney is unlike your other chutnies. You’d fry your ingredients and then grind them to make your chutney. Not this one. It is done backwards. You grind your tomatoes and chillies and then cook the chutney. The chutney is such a fine balance of hot, tart and sweet flavours, that can come only when the chutney is slowly simmered in plenty of oil until the oil oozes out the sides. That is the sign of doneness. That is the point when hot, tart and sweet reach that lovely symphony. Make this chutney for your idli, dosai or poori and I promise you you’ll never make tomato chutney any other way.
kadalai paruppu chutney

Kadalai Paruppu chutney

If I pounce on the special music season supplementary pages from the day’s newspapers, skip the kutchery reviews, concert schedules and artiste interviews and turn to the last page to read the article on the canteen specials at sabhas, what will JKB (SindhuBhairavi movie) make of me? I worry sometimes. Does that make me a Gnyanasoonyam too? On trips to forests, Jagan looks for the tusker and I look out for the little shack that sells tea and Maggi. What does that make me? Apart from fat? I love road trips and early morning ones at that. I am excited and talkative. I am upbeat and positive. I continue this way until the breakfast stop at a highway hotel – fluffy idlis, fragrant ghee roast and crispy ulundhu vadais with sambar, an assortment of chutneys and piping hot filter coffee. I am contented and ready to sleep the rest of the journey but I am usually not allowed to. I love it that I get to eat breakfast at the table along with the rest of the family. And those freshly ground chutnies are my favourites – each piece dunked in a different chutney. I collect chutney recipes like I collect hmm.. biryani recipes, like others might collect shoes or stamps. I’ve never thought twice to walk up to someone and ask for their chutney recipe.    You cannot have too many chutney recipes. This Kadalai paruppu chutney however comes from my Maamiyaar’s repertoire. You can vary it a few different ways by switching the red chillies for fresh green chillies or throwing in one or two pods of garlic instead of ginger and so on and still make a great chutney every time irrespective of how you change it up. Scoop up this chutney with idlis, dosai or upma. Enjoy!   

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