I think I really like tomatoes. As in really. Yesterday I slow roasted a pint of cherry tomatoes with salt, pepper and thyme at 330 for about 40 minutes and then ate them like candy. The intent was to make a ‘tart’ with puff pastry, goat cheese and oven roasted tomatoes, but then my love for tomatoes clearly got in the way. There is a lesson to be learnt here folks – next time, I will roast two pints of cherry tomatoes.
One of my husband’s close friends is currently in town and when Ali asked him what he would like to eat all he asked for was Pakistani food because he has not had any since he was here back in November. With a free rein and my tomato obsession in mind I decided to make a simple pea pilaf ( cumin seeds, whole red chillies sautéed in minimal oil, equal amounts of peas and rice, half a chicken stock cube for every cup of rice) and with it my favourite Pakistani tomato dish, the oddly named Tomato Cut. This is my mother’s recipe and although I have tried several variations on it, I love it best as is. By which I mean I have made only minor changes. Sometimes that Mama Jafri is not so accurate in how she writes recipes down. Additionally, for the blog I try and keep the recipes in measuring spoon measurements and when my mother says a teaspoon she means the kind you would stir sugar into your tea with. Very different you see.
Tomato Cut is a Hyderabadi dish and since I am pretty sure neither my mother nor her mother are from Hyderabad I cannot make any claims as to the authenticity of the dish. All I can say is this: it is tangily satisfying, equally good warm or cold (great do-ahead), and one of those dishes which somehow never makes it way to the realm of leftovers.
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp dessicated/flaked coconuts
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin seeds or powder
½ – 1 tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp coriander powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
8-10 Roma Tomatoes
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground garlic
Pinch of sugar
Lemon juice or Tamarind Paste (Optional)
¼ cup oil
1 sprig curry leaves
2 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
2 dried whole red chillies
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp nigella/ onion seeds (kalonji)
4-5 grains of fenugreek seeds
2 hard boiled eggs
Roughly chop your tomatoes and set aside.
Put a medium sized saucepan or pot on medium high heat and add the first 7 ingredients to the pot to dry roast the spices. Doing so will release the nuttiness of the sesame seeds and the subtle sweetness of the coconut along with intensifying the flavours of the red chilli powder and turmeric. Keep moving them around as sesame seeds are delicate and burn quickly. Once they take on a golden toasty hue then grind the dry spices together to create a powder. You can also use a mortar and pestle to do this; I would if I had one 🙂
Now put your tomatoes, ginger and garlic pastes, dry spices, sugar and about a cup of water back in the pot, cover it and put it on medium heat for 20-25 minutes. Oh wait – take a look at the amount in your pot. By the time we call it quits this mixture should have reduced by a third at the very least. You can use this time to boil and peel your eggs.
Check on your tomatoes, they should be nice and mushy now, using a blender (hand held or otherwise) blitz the tomatoes into a puree and put them back on the stove. Cook for another 30 minutes on medium-low heat, checking periodically to make sure nothing is burning or sticking to the bottom. If it is then turn the heat down. The longer we cook the cut, the stronger the tomato flavors will become and since the cut is more condiment than a main it needs to pack a strong punch.
Once the cut has cooked down then taste it and adjust seasoning if needed. Squeeze in a little lemon juice or add a little strained tamarind pulp to it. The tamarind pulp is the recommended way, but I hardly ever seem to have it. When I do I use about two teaspoons. Put it in whatever dish you are going to serve it in and set it aside.
Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium high heat and add all the ingredients for the baghaar/tempering of the cut. When the garlic is a golden brown then carefully pour the baghaar over the tomato cut.
Garnish with sliced boiled eggs.
As said earlier I did serve this with a pea pilaf, but it works well with any light flavored rice dish and remarkably well late at night with some toasty naan bread.