Today, let me introduce you to a long-time favourite condiment of mine – Tomato Khejur Amshotter Chaatni. This is a Bengali chutney – chaatni in the local language – made using tomatoes, dates (khejur) and aam papad or mango leather (aamshotto). Like Bengali chaatnis are, this one too is a riot of flavours, sweet and sour and salty and spicy. Beauty!
My tryst with Bengali cuisine
I was introduced to proper Bengali food, including some amazing chutneys, on a holiday in Calcutta, a few years ago. Life hasn’t been the same ever since. The trip expanded my knowledge of Bengali cuisine, much beyond what I had tasted in Durga Pooja pandals in Bangalore. It was in the course of this holiday that I started loving the versatile spicy-sweet-tangy chutneys that the Bengalis prepare, and even learnt how to make some of them myself. It was my initiation into Bengali vegetarian cooking. Now, Tomato Khejur Aamshotter Chaatni, Anarosher Chaatni, Bhoger Khichuri, Aloor Dom and Bhapa Doi are as much a part of our meals at home as sambar, rasam, dosa, idli, phulkas, undhiyu, Gujarati dal and kadhi are. 🙂
West Bengal cuisine for Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge
The Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge is a group of food bloggers, who cook dishes from a particular region of India, every month. All the participanting members are paired up, and every pair exchanges two ingredients which they will go on to use to cook a dish belonging to that month’s region. Interesting, right?
This month, the members of the Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge are showcasing dishes from the state of West Bengal, a state known for delectable things like Rosogulla, Sondesh, Chhanar Dalna, Shukto, Dhokar Dalna, Puchka, Mochar Ghonto and Chorchori. I was paired with the talented blogger Seema of Mildly Indian this month, who assigned me the two ingredients of ‘tomatoes’ and ‘salt’. The ingredients were just right to prepare my favourite Tomato Khejur Aamshotter Chaatni, and so that’s what I decided to put up.
Seema’s blog, BTW, is a treasure trove of beautiful recipes from around the world, including some really unique dishes. Her Nadru Palak Sabzi, Bhindi Pulao and Jackfruit Rind Curry have been playing on my mind – can’t wait to try them out! Her blog is something you must definitely check out. While you are at it, do visit the lovely West Bengal dish that she prepared using the two ingredients I assigned her.
How to make Tomato Khejur Aamshotter Chaatni
Here’s how I prepare the chaatni, based on what I learnt from the kind staff at the hotel we stayed at in Kolkata, all those years ago.
This is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, suited to those on a plant-based diet. It is a gluten-free dish too.
Ingredients (serves 6-8):
- 6 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
- 10-12 dates
- 1 tablespoon raisins
- 2 big pieces of dried mango (aam papad or mango leather)
- A 1-inch piece of ginger
- 1/2 tablespoon mustard oil
- 1 teaspoon panch phoron
- 2 small bay leaves
- 4-5 dry red chillies
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder or to taste
- 6-7 tablespoons jaggery powder or to taste
- Juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin powder or to taste
1. Chop the tomatoes finely. Keep aside.
2. Remove seeds from the dates and chop them into large pieces. Also, chop the mango leather into large pieces too. Keep aside.
3. Peel the ginger. Grate finely or cut into thin slivers. Keep aside.
4. Heat the mustard oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the panch phoron, and allow it to sputter. Now, add in the bay leaves and dry red chillies. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.
5. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan, along with a bit of salt. Reduce heat to medium. Cook on medium heat for about 2 minutes or till the tomatoes start turning mushy. Stir intermittently.
6. Now, add in the chopped dates and mango leather, the grated/slivered ginger, raisins, salt to taste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and jaggery powder. Mix well.
7. Continue to cook for 2-3 more minutes on medium flame, or till the chutney starts thickening and getting glossy. Switch off gas when it is thick, but still a bit on the runny side.
8. Mix in the lemon juice and roasted cumin powder. Your Tamatar Khejurer Chaatni is ready.
9. Allow the chutney to cool down fully before transferring it to a clean, dry, air-tight container. Use as needed, and keep it refrigerated otherwise. The chaatni can be served with khichuri or as part of a complete Bengali meal. We love having it as an accompaniment with rotis or plain parathas too.
Tips & Tricks
1. Use the more flavourful and tart country or ‘Nati‘ tomatoes, as opposed to the ‘farm’ variety to make this chutney.
2. If the tomatoes are too tart, you can skip using the lemon juice.
3. Sugar can be used instead of jaggery powder. I prefer using jaggery powder.
4. Adjust the quantity of red chilli powder and jaggery as per personal taste preferences. Remember that you are also using raisins, dates and mango leather in the chutney, all of which have sweetness in them already.
5. In a traditional Tamatar Khejurer Chaatni, mustard oil is used, so I went ahead and used it too. You may use any other variety of oil if you so prefer.
6. Switch off the gas when the chutney is still runny. It gets thicker as it cools.
7. Slivers of cashewnuts can be used in the Tamatar Khejurer Chaatni too. Here, I haven’t.
8. Transfer the chutney to a clean, dry, air-tight container only after it has cooled down fully. This chutney is best refrigerated when not in use. Stored in a refrigerator and used hygienically, it stays well for 7-10 days.
9. To make roasted cumin powder – Take a couple of tablespoons of cumin and dry roast them in a heavy-bottomed pan till fragrant, taking care to ensure that it does not burn. Allow it to cool down fully and then coarsely crush in a small mixer jar. Store in a dry, air-tight bottle and use as needed.
10. ‘Panch phoron‘ – a mix of the five spices of mustard, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds, cumin and fennel seeds – is used for tempering in this chaatni. I buy the panch phoron ready to use, but you can mix the five ingredients yourself too, if you so prefer.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!