My mother would be laughing hysterically on seeing this post. Why, you ask? Well, the thing is she used to make a version of this chutney quite often when I was young. Of course, I'd start throwing a tantrum saying how much I disliked it and refused to eat it. Poor thing... When I think of all she's put up with from me, all I can say is that Amma is a saint!
Like most people, my tastes seem to have changed as I've grown older. So, today, I decided to make this chutney Amma used to make with a few of my own changes. The original recipe is well over 50 years old in my family. It starts with small onions cooked in a base of tomatoes and is seasoned with fennel and chilli powder. Really, that's it. So simple, right? Yet, it's made by my relatives every morning for idli/dosai.
I decided to change it up and add a little bit of garlic. Also, my tomatoes didn't have much flavor, so I wound up adding a touch of tamarind for a hint of sourness. Can I pat myself on the back, here? The chutney came out awesome!! I think Amma would be both proud and royally surprised.
Small onions/sambar onions/shallots, peeled - 1/2 cup
Garlic - 2 cloves, chopped finely
Tomatoes - 2 plum tomatoes, finely ground (about 1 cup)
Tamarind (only if tomatoes are not sour)- small almond sized piece, ground with the tomatoes
Chilli powder - 1 1/2 tsp, or to taste
Fennel powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt to taste
Oil - 1 tbsp; recommended: sesame oil (nallenai)
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Urad dal - 3/4 tsp
Curry leaves - 6-8 leaves
1. Heat oil. When hot, add the seasoning ingredients. Allow to splutter and the dal to turn golden brown.
2. Now, add in the small onions and fry until slightly softened. It's ok if they turn a little brown at the edges. In fact, it tastes better that way!
3. At this point, add the garlic and fry for 30 seconds or so, until fragrant. Don't brown it or the garlic will become bitter!
4. Pour the pureed tamarind and tomatoes into the pot along with chilli powder, fennel powder and required salt.
5. Add about 1/2 cup of water, cover and let cook on medium low until slightly thickened. The raw tomato smell should have gone and the onions should be fully cooked.
6. Next? Turn the stove off and enjoy with idlis or dosai!