Recipe contributed by: Narges Kakalia
In my day job, I’m a law firm partner. In my REAL job, I’m a mother to two teenage sons, a dog lover, amateur photographer and home cook.
When I think of my Bapaiji’s (paternal grandmother) kitchen, two distinct smell and taste memories waft over me gently. They make me nostalgic for hot, humid Karachi summers. And, they make me hungry! One is the smell of lightly spiced fish frying in butter – just the memory of that smell takes me back decades and makes me salivate.
The other is the smell of Bapaiji’s Tamota Ni Gravy.
Not unlike a hearty Italian pasta sauce, this traditional Parsi tomato gravy is complex with the tastes and smells of deeply carmelized onions, cinnamon, a hint of acid, a splash of cilantro for freshness, and a rich, velvety texture. It is traditionally served with Parsi fried mutton cutlets (or “cutlace” as we call them), which are dipped in eggs before frying for their characteristic airy, frilly crispness.
Over the years, I have started making the tomato ni gravy to serve as a bed for small cocktail kavabs when I entertain. They are a hit with Parsis and non-Parsis, adults and kids alike! If any gravy is leftover, I like to thin it a little with some chicken stock, and serve it as a delicious soup. I tend to crumble the leftover cutlais or kavabs into the soup and top it all off with a tiny dollop of crème freche or sour cream.
For the egg-minded among us, the tomato gravy is also a great base for Tamota per Eedu (tomatoes topped with eggs). If tomatoes are in season or dirt cheap, you can also make a larger batch of this and cook some chicken, potatoes & green peas in it to make the Parsi staple ‘Ras Chaval’, a dish served in any Parsi home atleast once a week for lack of any new creative dish to make.
The best part is that this is one of those recipes that improves with age. So if you can, make it the day before you are serving it. Resting in the fridge overnight helps meld all the yummy flavors and make the gravy taste even better the next day. So, as we Parsis like to say – “Jamjo ji, sharmata na” (please eat, don’t be shy.)
Tamota ni Gravy (Basic Tomato Gravy)
- 2 tbsp ghee
- 1 onion
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1.5 inch ginger knob, chopped
- Salt to taste
- 4 green chillies, slit (I use Thai bird, but any small potent ones will do)
- 2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 whole cinnamon stick
- 5 cardamom, cracked
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 50 gram jaggery, chopped (about 1 big knob)
- 2 tbsp vinegar (as per taste)
- 0.25 bunch coriander, chopped
- Heat the ghee on a medium flame in a deep and wide saucepan.
- Add the chopped onions and saute. Once the onions are translucent, add salt and stir.
- Allow the onions to caramelize on a medium low flame for 15-20 minutes or longer until they are brown and sweet, but not burnt.
- Add the garlic, ginger and chillies, and saute a few more minutes.
- Add the chopped tomatoes to the mixture, mix well and allow to simmer for about 5-8 minutes until they have broken down. Check the seasoning and adjust.
- Add the cinnamon, cardamom and garam masala. Add half a cup of water. Stir and cover.
- Allow to simmer on a low flame for another 10 minutes. Turn off the stove.
- Fish out the whole masala (cinnamon and cardamom) and set aside. Blend the remaining mixture (I use an immersion blender directly in the pot).
- This gravy should be sweet, tangy and a little spicy. How much acid and sugar is added will depend on how sweet or acidic your tomatoes are. Taste the gravy and then add the vinegar and jaggery checking for taste.
- If your gravy becomes too sweet you can add more vinegar to correct it and if its too sour you can cook the gravy a bit longer to evaporate off the vinegar.
- Top the gravy with chopped coriander leaves.
This post is part of my ongoing series on the blog, the A to Z of Parsi Food which has been curated in collaboration with Parsi food enthusiasts globally. For more interesting recipes follow the hashtag #AtoZChallenge mentioned below.