Monday, 10 November 2014

Emergency Masala Tomato Sauce

Emergency Masala Tomato Sauce makes a great vegan almond stew!

You never know when you’re going to be too lazy to cook, so when you have some extra tomatoes and extra energy on hand, get to work!  I made and then froze this sauce about a month ago, when my home grown tomatoes had ripened and were lingering in my basement.  You can make this sauce with any fresh or canned tomatoes.

I had a lot of tomatoes that needed to be used up, and many of them were the super sweet Sun-Golds.  If your tomatoes don’t have this sweetness, I’d suggest adding a tablespoon or so of brown sugar, or jaggery (raw Indian cane sugar) if you have it. 
These were ripe and had to be used fast!

My recipe made about sixteen cups of sauce, but that’s because I had so many tomatoes.  You can make this in smaller quantities.  It took about two and a half hours to make, from start to finish, and much of that involved me reading and talking on the phone. 

2 sticks cassia
2 Kashmiri dried chilies
1 heaping tablespoon cumin seed
1 heaping tablespoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon fenugreek seed
½ teaspoon black cumin seed
¼ teaspoon mace flakes
1 teaspoon fennel seed
4 green cardamom pods, crushed with husks removed
1 black cardamom, crushed with husk removed
1 heaping teaspoon ground turmeric

2 tablespoons good vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
2 large red onions, diced
1 shopping bag full of ripe tomatoes (gathered from the greenhouse, then the basement ripening floor), or the equivalent, or many less if you can divide the amounts below…
1 head garlic, broken apart, ends trimmed and most of paper and debris removed
2 inch stem ginger, roughly sliced
2 fresh hot chilies (or to taste)
salt (to taste)
1 tablespoon brown sugar or jaggery if your tomatoes aren’t sweet enough (taste first)

Over the next few months I expect to use much of this sauce as the basis for my beautiful granddaughter’s favourite, butter chicken.  With her in mind, I kept the chilies at the mild level.  If more daring types eat your cooking, increase the heat factor.  (You can always add extra chilies while you’re reheating this, remember!)
Sun-Golds, eventually stemmed, with roughly cut ginger

Start by roasting your whole spices.  Use the large pot you’ll be cooking the sauce in.  Scatter the spices over the bottom of the dry pan, and roast on medium high heat, shaking the pot a little, till they smell gorgeous.  Remove from heat.  Pluck out the cassia sticks and load all else into spice grinder along with the turmeric powder.  Set aside to cool.

Put the pot back on the heat and add oil and cassia sticks.  When hot, add the cumin and mustard seed.  As soon as they splutter and shift colour, add the onion.  Reduce heat to medium, and cook till onions are translucent and golden at the edges.

Here we have a lot of sauce coming up!
Meanwhile, load tomatoes, ginger, chillies and garlic into the blender.  (I trim the hard ends of the garlic and remove most of the paper and scraps, but I’ve been assured the closest paper on the garlic cloves enhances their flavour.) Buzz till smooth, which should take a couple of minutes.  I had two blenders worth of tomatoes, so I did this in two stages. 

Once you have a blender’s worth of pureed tomatoes, grind the spices till they’re powdered, and add to the onions.  You may need to add a bit more oil if they’re too dry.  Fry for a couple of minutes.  With the pot lid handy, add the pureed tomato mixture.  Quickly cover the pot.  While the first load bubbled and sizzled away, I pureed my next batch of tomatoes and flavourings.  This sauce bubbles up like lava, so be careful about opening the pot till it’s settled down.  Add all tomatoes, and rinse  blender with a little water into the pot to get every last tomato molecule.   Taste. Mine was a little too acidic, so I added about a teaspoon of sugar, but you may want more if you aren’t using super sweet tomatoes.
This will need to cook a while, being stirred occasionally.

Cook for about an hour and a half, till the oil separates a bit.  Stir from time to time.  Read the newspaper. Chat on the phone.  Take off heat, let cool and then freeze what you don’t use immediately. 

I’ve been making a quick and easy vegan almond stew with this sauce, to be explained soon.  Super easy butter chicken will also be on the menu.  Stay tuned.

I, for one, will remain undaunted by this cold and snowy weather which induces horrible laziness on my part. This beautiful sauce will make many quick and delicious meals that will keep us warm, satisfied and toasty. 

It's ready when it's reduced and looks gorgeous!

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