My two best girls have deserted me this year to travel the world. While I am heartily jealous, and miss them like crazy, I thought I might try to tag along in some small way.
I hereby commit myself to make a dish from every country they visit from here on in, starting with India, where the two intrepid travellers are spending a couple of months teaching English in an orphanage in Kolkata, West Bengal.
The stories of their journey can be found on Rachael’s beautifully written travel blog, while I pine away knowing that this, and their emails, is all I will see of them for the entire time it takes for the earth to journey around the sun.
So, to Kolkata I go, on my google search…
Alrighty then, I have made Tomato Kasundi. It’s a Bengali chutney that is good on or with just about every savoury dish. I say just about, because Rachael has recently declared her undying enmity for a certain legume known as the chickpea. Her disgust has been transformed from former banal disfavour, as she has had to eat them on a regular basis and found the experience most irredeemably distasteful on all occasions. However, I daresay I would enjoy a chickpea smothered in this stuff.
I have been amassing a stockpile of tomatoes from my garden (and my generous neighbours) for a while now, and it really is time to put them to good use.
My problem was, I decided that I was going to get this done today, on the spot, now, but I didn’t have quite the right ingredients. I made a couple of diversions from the recipe below. First off, I had no black mustard seeds. These are a hallmark of this condiment, and not using them may have been some kind of sacrilege for which I am truly sorry. What I did have was about 30g of yellow mustard seeds, which I used instead.
For the chillies, I had one precious little red chilli from my own pot plant. I used that, plus a sploosh of crushed red chilli from a jar.
And, of course, I needed this to be gluten free. The malt vinegar had to go. I replaced it with cheap and cheerful apple cider vinegar.
70 g black mustard seeds
375ml malt vinegar
45g green chilli
1.5 kilos tomatoes
190ml sunflower oil
70g cumin powder
45g chilli powder
190g brown sugar
Roughly chop up the tomatoes and set aside. (Since I had mostly cherry and roma tomatoes, I didn’t even bother with this.)
Puree the ginger, garlic and chillies with 25ml of the vinegar, then set aside. A food processor is most convenient here.
Heat the oil and fry mustard, turmeric, cumin and chilli powder until fragrant.
Add pureed ingredients and cook for 5 Minutes.
Add tomatoes, salt, rest of vinegar and sugar, bring to boil then simmer for 60-90 minutes. Kasundi is done when oil rises to the top and the mixture has thickened to the consistency of chutney
Bottle in sterilised jars and seal with lids.
I used the dishwasher to sterilise the jars. I am not an expert on this, but I think that as long as they’re hot (the same temperature as the kasundi), clean and dry, you’re good to go. My Mum’s method for this is to put the jars in a cold oven, turn it up to 100C and by the time the oven is up to temperature, the jars will be at the right temperature. Also in imitation of my Mum, I put a layer of glad wrap under the lids, after first dipping it in a saucer of vinegar to disinfect.
If the buttons on the lids don’t pop down after your jars are cooled, place the jars in a big pot, cover with water and bring to the boil. After about ten minutes you can take them out, and as they cool you’ll hear the comforting ‘pop’ of the safety buttons popping down.
The result is a sweet, spicy, umami sauce with just enough texture to keep it interesting. I daresay it is even piquant. There, finally I’ve made something that qualifies for my blog’s very title!
Lesson 1. Be careful of turmeric-dyed splatters. You probably won’t be able to get that stain out.
Lesson 2. Restock spices before making Indian dishes, and buy in bulk, those little supermarket jars are not enough.