Sunday, April 01, 2007
A Kut Above
Was it the original apple in the Garden of Eden? Was it the reason why it all began? Come to think of it, it’s amusing to think of this everyday, squishy vegetable as being the love apple that led to the original sin.
There is quite a bit of information on the subject and for me, this round of Jihva For Ingredients, hosted by RP of My Workshop, was an occasion to rediscover the tomato. When the ingredient was announced, I was a little disappointed – an unusual Tomato Bread Pudding was already on my blog (no picture, though, as I deleted it by mistake and re-posted it). So were Oaty Tomatoes. And a busy month ensured I couldn’t give it much more thought. I usually try to post a recipe that at least I find special/unusual as it keeps my interest alive and kicking, so after some hurried exploration, I settled for the Hyderabadi tamater kut. Which turned out to be a good choice, because it’s all tomato but so different from the everyday tomato curry or soup or gravy that’s made in our homes.
Frenzied workday cooking doesn’t always remind you that there is food waiting to be smelt and savoured from beginning to end. Though I made this on a work day that was sure to be frenzied, boiling a kilo of tomatoes with a bit of spice jolted me out of automaton mode into a brief connoisseur, reminding me this was how tomato daal smells at home, how tomato used to smell soon after it was boiled to make the day’s chaaru, which came in very handy for me to recover my appetite after a long bout of jaundice.
“Ever seen a dried tomato?” asked a school friend one day, with an I-know-you’d-never-have-seen-it glint in her eye. I hadn’t. She bent over to reach for her school bag, extracted her rough notes from it and from its pages, produced a thick and transparent slice of tomato – it has never ceased to amaze me. How did she do it? How could it not have rotted? And despite it being a dried tomato, how did it still feel so fleshy? She had pressed it much as we used to press leaves and flowers between pages, and come up with this. I tried it later, but didn't have the patience to keep a soggy slice inside my notes inside my school bag, so it must have gone into the dustbin.
I don’t have too much more nostalgia to dish out about tomatoes but do remember that there’s a song from an old movie about a hero caught between two heroines likening himself to a tomato in a sandwich!
I have searched for information on the dish but could come up with little on why it’s called Kut. I wonder if it could be a Hyderabadi variation of ‘Kattu’, the Telugu word for a kind of chaaru/rasam usually made by roasting and powdering daal. This Kut recipe involves straining boiled and mashed tomatoes into a soupy liquid, simmering it with spices and a bit of flour to thicken it and tempering it.
Here’s how you go about it:
A kilo of tomatoes
1-1/2 cups of water
2 tsps of ginger-garlic paste
3 medium onions, sliced
1 tsp red chilli powder
A pinch of turmeric
¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
A few sprigs of curry leaf
1 tsp cumin/jeera powder
1 tbsp sesame seeds, roasted and ground (need not be fine)
2 tbsp gram flour/besan/senagapindi, roasted and mixed with a little water to form a paste
2-3 tsp oil
Salt to taste
Six hard-boiled eggs, halved lengthwise (optional)
For the tempering:
½ tbsp cumin seed
½ tsp mustard seed
¼ tsp fenugreek seed
¼ tbsp nigella seed/kalonji
3-4 dry red chillies
a few curry leaves
2 tsp oil
Pressure cook/boil the tomatoes with the water, ginger-garlic paste, ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds and cumin powder. Mash it well within the cooker, sieve through a strainer – I got 6 cups of extract – I can’t bring myself to call it puree because it was more soup than puree! (At this stage, add a green chilli or two, some salt, then temper it with mustard, jeera, some pepper, curry leaves and bit of fenugreek, and you've got yourself some nice tomato chaaru. Add some tamarind extract to it if you think it's not sour enough and boil it briefly - but before you temper it.)
In a frying pan, heat the oil and fry the onions till brown. This can be time-consuming, so sprinkle a bit of salt on the onions to make them fry faster – yes, it really works.
Now add the tomato puree, salt, turmeric, red chilli powder and the ground sesame seed. Stir in the gram flour paste. Simmer for about 10 minutes on a medium flame.
To temper, heat the oil (in a separate pan). Add the mustard seeds, cumin, whole red chillies, nigella seeds and then the fenugreek seeds. Finally, add the curry leaves. Make sure the fenugreek doesn’t look burnt-brown – it can turn the whole dish bitter. When the red chillies brown, add this to the tomato soup/puree and cover. Serve hot. Add the eggs, if using.
The initial taste disappointed me. It seemed that the fenugreek was burnt and I was stuck with a bitter, gritty dish that no one would touch with a bargepole. Photo session over, I went off to work. When I returned and settled down to dinner, unloaded this dish from the fridge (grimacing at the thought of having to possibly finish it all myself), heated it and put some on my plate. Was I pleasantly surprised! There was no trace of the morning’s bitterness, and it had finally condensed into puree!
Tags: Tomato Curry Kut Tamater Hyderabadi