Tomato Chutney, Take 2

I posted a recipe for a spicy tomato chutney a couple of weeks ago. Here now is a variation on it that is less hot but has a more complex flavour. The major things that are in this that were not in the previous are habanero chillies, ginger, Sichuan peppercorn and—wait for it, wait for it—raisins. The latter—I fully admit—were put in there mostly to troll my friend Aparna—a renowned hater of dried fruits being added to anything savoury—but they work really well here. Speaking of haters, when I posted the recipe of the first chutney on a food forum a gent there got very wound up about the fact that the recipe did not follow the convention of listing the ingredients in the exact order in which they appear in the preparation. He was apparently so confused by this that he had to stop reading. This is one of the most hilarious things I’ve come across in a while. You’d have to work really hard, I think, to be confused by that recipe. As for the convention itself, I suppose it may be a useful one. My own recipes rarely follow it, and when I cook from any recipe I set all the ingredients out and then follow the cooking steps—it hardly matters whether I set the ingredients out in the order of the cooking steps. My position, in any case,—as I noted on Twitter—is that you fuckers should be happy I list quantities and cooking times at all, having been “trained” by my mother on a steady diet of “a little” and “some” and “cook till it smells good”. If it really does bother you so much you should apply to management for a refund.

Ingredients (for Robert)

  • Salt, 2 tblspns
  • 2-3 tblspns golden raisins
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves
  • 2.5 lbs tomatoes
  • 1 tblspn mustard seeds
  • 2 tblspns fresh ginger
  • 2-4 habanero chillies
  • Oil, 3/4 cup, preferably light sesame oil
  • 6 tblspns sugar
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar (or similar)
  • The following dry-roasted till fragrant and cooled: 1 tblspn cumin seeds, 1 tblspn coriander seeds, 2 tblspns Sichuan peppercorn, 1/2 tspn fenugreek seeds, 1/2 tspn hing
  • 1 tblspn fennel seeds ground to a coarse powder with the above dry-roasted spices
  • 1 tspn haldi


  1. Char the tomatoes and habaneros in a cast iron skillet or under the broiler for a few minutes. You’re just looking for a bit of char, not to blacken them.
  2. Remove the seeds and ribs from the habaneros (or leave them in if you want this to be much hotter) and grind the peppers, tomatoes, ginger, all the ground spices and the haldi together into a smooth puree.
  3. Heat the oil over medium heat in a wide and deep pan (again, this All-Clad pan is my favourite for making jams and pickles/preserves) and add the mustard seeds.
  4. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop add the curry leaves (you may want to take a few steps back as there will be a bit of an explosion in the pan).
  5. As soon as the curry leaves turn glossy (which will be very soon) add the puree.
  6. Stir and cook over medium heat till the oil begins to separate.
  7. Add the vinegar, the sugar and the salt and cook down, stirring frequently, till the oil separates again and the whole is thickened significantly but still pourable.
  8. Add the raisins and stir for another few minutes.
  9. Ladle into jars.


  1. This should make just over 1.5 pints. If you have a lot more than that then pour it all back in the pan and cook it down some more.
  2. You really need to use light sesame oil for this—the flavour and aroma of the oil is a major component.
  3. Again, though this contains a fair bit of acid, this recipe has not been tested for canning. Give some away and finish the rest in a month if you can make it last that long. I’ve refrigerated my jars.
  4. How hot you make this is up to you. I’d suggest starting with 2 habaneros, tasting as you go and adding a little hot chilli powder if it seems to mild to you; if so, the next time you can double the habaneros. The balance of hot, sweet, tangy and earthy is what you’re after more than direct heat anyway.
  5. How to eat this? It would be great anywhere you’d use a chutney like this on the Indian table: alongside dal and rice or with idlis or dosas. You could also put it over eggs, spread it in sandwiches or use it as an all-purpose dipping sauce. You could even do fancy things like put a tablespoon of this over two tablespoons of standard coconut chutney and place a piece of seared fish on top. Tomorrow I plan to stir a couple of teaspoons of it into a raita.


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