Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tomato thokku

Enter the pickle season an average Indian family would get very busy. Women would toss the men several times to the bazaar to get all the needed ingredients. Women would keep daily cooking to the minimum to focus all their energies on making pickles. Younger children or grandchildren would be entrusted with the task of shooing away unwanted visitors like crows, sparrows and pigeons.

While tomato pickling can start as early as February depending on the harvest, the typical vadu maanga, lemon and other stuff would have to wait till end March or early April. Neighbours, close family and friends would always get their share of the home creation. If living far away, their quota would be dutifully packed and despatched with the first visitor (a.k.a ‘bakra’) to/from that land. I am sure many of us would have lovely memories of their grandmothers or mothers meticulously making the pickles with all the care and diligence for their loved ones. I can vividly remember the tall porcelain offwhite-brown coloured jars my grandmother used to store these lovely stuff!

Pulling myself back to this recipe, this tomato thokku calls for pickling of tomatoes on the stove – basically cooking them for a long time so that they lose a lot of their moisture, thus obtaining the characteristic flavour of pickles. This close pickle cousin is fairly versatile – goes well with roti, rice, idli, dosa or even as a breadspread. It stays in the fridge for about two weeks. It is a nice thing to make on a lazy Sunday evening and run the entire week with. The only thing about this thokku is that, it takes in a frighteningly large quantity of tomatoes to yield a disproportionately small measure of the end product. However, for me, it is certainly worth all the effort since it is K’s all time favourite dish!

  • Tomatoes : 1 kg (local Indian tomatoes are better since they are tangier)
  • Salt – to taste
  • Chilli powder – 1 tsp or more or less to taste
  • Dhaniya powder – 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
  • LG / Hing: ½ tsp or more if you prefer it more LG-ier
  • Sesame oil: 4 – 5 tbsp
  • For the tempering:
  • Mustard: 1 tsp
  • Chana dhall – 1 tsp
  • Urad dhall – 1 tsp
  • Jeera – ½ tsp
  • Red chillies (broken): 2 No
  • Curry leaves: Few


  • Chop tomatoes finely
  • Take a kadai. Heat oil and finish off with the tempering.
  • Add the tomatoes. Initially, it is fine to cook on a high flame since water would rapidly evaporate.

  • At later stages of cooking, it is better to maintain a low temperature to prevent sticking and scraping. Also, an occasional stir is enough in the initial phase, while towards the end more vigorous tossing is needed.
  • Add all the powders – salt, red chilli powder, dhaniya powder, LG and turmeric powder; and keep cooking.
  • There would be a stage when the oil separates (like a pickle). This would be very visible. Do take care not to overcook. Finish!

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