I have never been a fan of processed foods, pickles and rice pastes included. I do resort to store-bought pickles every once in a while because I don’t always have the time to make them myself, but it always pinches my heart in the end. Lately, I have been inspired to try making out all the stuff that we usually buy in stores, at home, so that I can know exactly what goes into them. The hung curd open sandwiches, inji puli, and Kerala-style instant raw mango pickle that I prepared recently are a part of this drive. The same is the case with the mango jam I made some time back, in spite of the fact that neither of us are big jam eaters.
I am still learning, still experimenting, and have a long, long, long way to go in this regard. That said, these little achievements – which have stopped me from picking up a bottle of ready-made pickle or mayonnaise in the supermarket – have thrilled me to no end. Post August 15 this year, my resolve to use as much of home-made stuff as possible has strengthened. I am more conscious about using seasonal produce, locally sourced ingredients, and products that I can be – at least to a certain extent – sure have been made the ‘safe’ way.
Country tomatoes are available in plenty in Bangalore these days, and I couldn’t resist buying a couple of kilograms to make a thokku at home. With their beautiful, rounded shape and bright red colour, these country tomatoes are a joy to work with. I thoroughly enjoyed making the thokku yesterday, Andhra style, as one of my mother’s Telgiite friends taught me. The husband and I love it, and our pickle problem for the next week or so, at least, is sorted. It tastes great with plain, white rice, and can be had with idlis, dosas, or chapattis too.
Ingredients (makes about one medium-sized jam jar):
2 kg of ripe, juicy country tomatoes
Salt, to taste
Red chilli powder, to taste
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon asafoetida (hing) powder
5 + 1 tablespoons of oil
10-12 fresh curry leaves
1/2 teaspoon of fenugreek (methi) seeds
1 teaspoon of mustard (rai) seeds
2 teaspoons of mustard (rai) powder (this is nothing but mustard seeds ground into a fine powder in a mixer)
- Chop up the tomatoes and grind them to a puree in a mixer. There is no need to add any water. Keep aside.
- Heat the 5 tablespoons of oil in a deep-bottomed kadhai. Add the mustard seeds and allow them to splutter.
- Add the asafoetida powder and methi seeds.
- Before the methi seeds start burning, add the tomato puree to the kadhai.
- Add salt and red chilli powder to taste, as well as the turmeric powder and curry leaves. Mix well.
- Cover the kadhai and let the tomato puree cook on a high flame till it reduces to almost a quarter of the original amount. The mixture will splutter and splash, so make sure you cover the kadhai well. Intermittently, open the cover, reduce the flame and stir the mixture, to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Always cover the kadhai and turn the flame back to high, post this.
- When the tomato mixture attains the consistency of a paste (that you can mix with your rice), heat the 1 tablespoon of oil in a small pan. Add the mustard powder to it. Fry for a minute or so. Add this oil to the tomato mixture in the kadhai. Mix thoroughly.
- Let everything cook together for about 1-2 minutes uncovered, and turn the gas off. Ensure that you do not cook the mixture too much once you have added the mustard powder, as it might cause the dish to get too bitter.
- Let the thokku cool down completely, and then fill it in clean, air-tight jam jars.
- I prefer using only sour country tomatoes to make this thokku, but the farm variety can be used too.
- If the tomatoes are not sour enough, you might want to add tamarind extract (to taste) while you add the salt and chilli powder. If the tomatoes have a natural sourness to them – as is the case with country tomatoes, usually – there is no need to add tamarind.
- Stored in a clean, air-tight jam jar, refrigerated, and served only using a separate dry spoon, this thokku stays for about a week. If you do not want to refrigerate it, I think it would stay for about 4 days.
- Some people like adding a bit of jaggery to the thokku, and some garlic too, but I like making it without these.
- There are a lot of ways to make tomato thokku, in fact as many as there are households in South India, but this is the way we love it. I am sure I will be experimenting with other ways to make the thokku in the times to come. I just wanted to tell you that this is not the only way. 🙂
- There is a total of 6 tablespoons of oil used in this recipe, which is way higher than what I would use in ordinary day-to-day cooking. If you want to, you can increase the amount of oil in the recipe further. Apparently, the larger the amount of oil used in a pickle, the greater its staying power, or so I have heard. I am okay with this amount, and no more!
- Some people add a whole lot of salt to the thokku, which also acts as a natural preservative and improves its staying power. I prefer to add relatively less salt, just the level I add in my day-to-day cooking, which is just enough to give the dish a taste and not make it too salty. Again, that is your choice.
- You can even grind a couple of onions with the tomato and make a tomato-onion thokku, but that is not something we really like.