Bengali tomato chutney
In Bangladesh, achar – or pickle – is served with almost every meal. Green mango, normal mango, carrot and garlic were just some of my favourites. Bangladeshi achar are tantalisingly sweet-sour, and usually quite thick and chunky. Achar adds depth and flavour to any meal, and dolloped onto a plate of rice and curry, really completes a dinner.
In the summers, when tomatoes are plentiful (we’re talking 3 or 4 taka a kilo – that’s about 3 or 4 pence), tomato achar is made by everyone. It’s my absolute favourite type of achar – perhaps because it’s on the sweeter side of sweet and sour, and goes perfectly with almost anything.
In tomato season I used to go wild making tomato sauces, which I’d freeze and keep for the winter, when tomatoes disappeared from the bazaar completely. Then one day, one of my neighbours took me to task, and taught me to make tomato achar. This recipe is stunningly simple, yet tastes deliciously rich. I eat it on the side of a curry, or spread thickly in cheese toasties.
Let me know what you think!
What you need
12 ripe tomatoes (medium-sized)
2 tbsp oil
1 ½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp fennel seeds
3 tsp peeled and finely grated ginger
½ tsp red chilli flakes
200ml white wine vinegar
230g caster sugar
2 ½ tsp salt
How to make it
- Cook the tomatoes first. Wash them, then roughly chop. Cut out and discard the hard white middles as these won’t soften during cooking. Place in a heavy-bottomed pan big enough to fit them comfortably, then squeeze the tomatoes with your hands– keep squeezing until they start to get mushy.
- Switch on the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and leave for around 10 minutes until the tomatoes start to release their juices. Then turn up the heat, and allow the tomatoes to bubble away. Once they’ve reduced, and the liquid is nice and thick, turn off the heat and transfer the tomatoes to a bowl. Blend with a hand-blender or push through a coarse sieve.
- Rinse and dry your pan, then return to the heat with the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the cumin and mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard starts to pop – it takes just a minute or so – chuck in the fennel seeds. A few seconds later, add the tomatoes, ginger, vinegar, sugar and salt, and stir – be really careful when you do this, as the oil is very hot!
- Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat. Allow to simmer, uncovered, for roughly an hour. Keep stirring gently every now and again to stop the chutney sticking. The cooking time will really depend on how juicy your tomatoes are – you may need to cook for an extra few minutes. The chutney is ready when it’s a deep, dark red, and the texture is thick and sticky.
- Spoon into sterilised jars, allow to cool then refrigerate. Tomato chutney should keep for a couple of months in the fridge.