hirvyaa tomatochi bhaaji
Green tomatoes are something I have not seen in supermarkets here, and only rarely in farmers markets, so the only time I have had access to a lot of green tomatoes was when I had planted tomatoes one year and got a bumper crop all throughout summer. While I let most of the tomatoes ripen on the vines, occasionally some of the green ones fell to the ground, and once, an entire branch full of them fell down because of the weight.
Red ripe tomatoes have started showing up at our markets in the last couple of weeks, and one of the farmers even had a small basket of green tomatoes. I grabbed a bunch right away. I didn't even have to think about what I would do with them - it had to be the green tomato rassa style bhaji that was one of my absolute favorites while growing up. Whenever it was made at home, I ate more than usual.
I always use my mother's recipe for this, but naturally, when I make it, it only comes close, and doesn't taste exactly the same. This simple homey side dish is best served with good polis, or thin soft rotis, brushed with a touch of ghee if you like.
Green Tomato Rassa Bhaji
6 medium sized green tomatoes
1-2 Tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
pinch of asafoetida (hing)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)
3/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon sugar or jaggery
1 teaspoon goda masala
1 Tablespoon crushed peanuts
1 Tablespoon freshly grated coconut (optional)
2-4 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
Core the tomatoes and chop them into roughly 1 inch sized pieces.
Heat the oil in a saucepan and add mustard seeds. When the seeds start to pop, reduce the heat, add the asafoetida and turmeric. Add the tomatoes, and stir around for a minute or two. Add chili powder and salt. Bring the heat back up, add about a cup (or more as required) of water, and when it comes to a boil, turn the heat down again, and let it simmer until the tomatoes are well cooked and soft but not falling apart. You can place a lid on it, partially, to speed up the cooking.
Since this is a rassa style bhaji, a fair amount of gravy is desirable, which means you can add more water if it gets too thick or too dry.
Finally, add the rest of the ingredients, and let it cook for just a few minutes more until the rassa starts to thicken. After the heat is turned off, let it sit for a few more minutes before serving. This really helps all the flavors to come together.
Curry leaves can be added just before the tomatoes are added. This wasn't in the original family recipe, but I love the flavor it adds.
Coconut is optional, I usually don't add it.