The best way to enjoy a bounty of desi tomatoes is by cooking them down. As is the case with a lot of tomato gravies and chutneys, when the fruit cooks slowly, it loses its bitterness and lends a rich tomato flavour to the final dish. Now if I’m cooking specifically to showcase how good a certain fruit or vegetable is, I of course won’t overpower it with spices that can take over the dish completely, but rather downplay it with basic rai (black mustard seeds) and jeera (cumin) instead. Simply bunging everything together and letting the dish cook on low, in its own steam will lead to some truly fantastic results. When selecting tomatoes, it goes without saying that you should select firm taut ones that feel full and are not bruised. I always prefer handpicking my tomatoes rather than buying them online. I strongly urge you to do the same because your fresh daily necessities at least ought to come from a local vendor.
This no-effort recipe for sev tamatar nu shaak comes from my Bua, whose tomato bhaaji is one that I’ve grown up eating with hot, fluffed phulkas. I also fleetingly mentioned her in a piece I wrote for The Goya Journal on Bombay Sandwiches. She’s a Sindhi married to a Gujarati, which means she’s. no stranger to tomatoes, and has quite a few tricks up her sleeve to turn boring mealtimes around.
Sev Tamatar Nu Shaak
A simple, no-effort recipe, this involves twenty minutes of undisturbed cooking during which the tomatoes break down and go from bitter to a tomato-y sweet flavour that's great when topped with crunchy sev.
Tomatoes 6-7, medium-sized, quartered
Black mustard seeds 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder 1 tsp
Sugar 1 tbsp
Turmeric powder 1/4 tsp
Vegetable Oil 2-3 tbsp
Crispy sev to finish
Heat your oil in a medium-sized kadai over high heat and quickly add the black mustard seeds, cumin seeds and asafoetida. Stir quickly till the spices smell toasty, then add in the quartered tomatoes. Add in the turmeric, sugar, salt and red chilli powder, then reduce the heat to low and cover and cook for 2-25 minutes.
You’ll know that the dish is done when some of the tomatoes have broken down completely, but there are still a few pieces left. Give it a stir and taste. Adjust with a bit more sugar, if need be and take off the heat. Sprinkle over the plain salted sev when serving.
This recipe has no onion or garlic in it.