In the true spirit of "nothing ever should go to waste," my thrifty grandmother would buy up the less-than-perfect "yesterday" tomatoes from the vendor, striking up a good bargain. Invariably, this haggling session would be followed by the heavenly aroma of tomato chutney brewing from the kitchen in the afternoon. The tartness of the tomatoes is complemented well by the smokiness of the toasted arbol chiles. In addition to the dried arbol chiles, my variation includes roasted jalapeños in the mix for an extra kick. I pair this with anything from toast to plain rice. Although this would work with a can of crushed tomatoes, nothing compares to making this with ripe heirloom tomatoes fresh from Hillsboro farm around the corner from home.
3 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes
4 jalapeño peppers
4 dried arbol chiles
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
2 sprigs curry leaves (20 to 24 leaves)
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
Kosher salt, to taste (about a tablespoon)
Step 1Set a large pot of water to boil. When it comes to a rolling boil, add the tomatoes, allowing the skin to split. Remove the fruits carefully using tongs, and let them cool enough to peel the skins off. Remove and discard the top scar from the tomatoes. Set aside.
Step 2In a skillet, toast the arbol chiles until they just begin to brown, then set aside. Add the fenugreek to the same skillet and allow to toast to a reddish color. Lower the heat and add the curry leaves. These should curl up and dehydrate without browning. Set aside to cool. When cool, combine the fenugreek, curry leaves and the arbol chilies, and grind to a fine powder. Set aside.
Step 3Roast the jalapeño over the stovetop until the skin blisters. Drop into a paper bag (ensuring that there are no smoldering ends!) to cool, and rub off the blistered skin. Deseed, chop, and add to the blanched tomatoes. Blend the two into a purée in a food processor.
Step 4Heat the oil in a skillet. When smoking hot, add the mustard seeds to sputter. Carefully pour the jalapeño-tomato purée and stir in the asafoetida, salt, and turmeric. Boil off the liquid from the paste until the oil starts oozing from the mixture. (the consistency will be that of a thick paste). Add the sugar and the arbol chili spice blend (adjust to your taste and heat tolerance) and mix to combine.
Step 5Cool and store in clean glass jars in the refrigerator. The heat from the chili peppers tends to mellow overnight. Given the variations in jalapeño heat, I'd advise starting with two green chilis and adding more half way through the cooking process if you prefer.