Summer is the season when the sight of unripe mangoes hanging on trees drives people crazy. Even the most well-behaved citizen will be tempted to throw a stone at the tree to bring the mangoes down. Unripe mangoes are plucked and brought to the market in large quantities. They are bought for the purpose of making pickles, preserves, and also to be used in curries. In my family, mango pickle prepared freshly (not soaked in salt for weeks together) is a great favourite. Those days, when we did not have the refrigerator, my mother used to store these in ceramic jars. It used to keep only for about 3 days, but even before that we used to wipe the jar clean. Now of course I store it in the refrigerator.
Tomatoes are still selling at a low price though not at Rs. 8/kg. They are of good quality, and it is time to make tomato sauce for pasta or pizza. I used to buy pizza sauce, but I found the flavour too strong for my taste buds. It also distracted from the flavour of other ingredients. I browsed through several recipes for Italian tomato sauce, and I created a recipe which has the Italian punch but still Indian enough for us.
In the tropical city of Chennai, March and April are the months when tomato prices hit rock bottom. I can even get them at Rs. 8/Kg. This is the time to make tomato jams, chutneys, and sauces. Tomato jam is a great favourite of mine as my mother used to make it when I was a child. She used to painstakingly peel the tomato skin with a knife because she was not aware of the concept of blanching. I learnt about blanching tomatoes in my undergraduate studies, and I incorporated it into the making of jam in my kitchen, minimising wastage in the process. My mother did not have a mixie or a blender, and the tomatoes were just chopped and boiled. I make a smooth pulp of the tomatoes and that gives the jam a lovely homogenised consistency.
December 2015 saw most of Chennai devastated by floods after heavy rains. Water entered the electricity substation feeding my neighbourhood and we did not have electricity for 5 days. I had unwisely stocked my freezer just a few days before this happened with perishables. I developed this recipe (along with Candlelit Chicken Pulav) as a dish that could be made without electricity, cooking only with gas, and to use the non vegetarian foodstuffs before they spoilt. To my surprise and delight the curry turned out to be very tasty. A few months later I tried the curry again with the addition of coconut milk and coriander leaves, and it was an excellent preparation.