Suddenly, the abundance of time has become a bane. There is just so much time, and now in the third month of the lock down, it is getting tiring dealing with it. Honestly, I am done with the family time and bonding and talking and isolation and cooking and reading and teaching and Netflix and listening and … You get the flow.
Among the few things that have kept me sane, my organic vegetable garden tops the list. After 11 years, I finally have a farm – on my roof and my own! It happened it February, and I am so grateful to my foresight. We avoided panic buying only because we were sure we could sustain ourselves through those weeks.
Now I say, we can sustain ourselves the whole year and every year!
Since then I have wanted to write about my experiences as an urban farmer, but life got in the way. April was that nightmare… I am not ready yet I think to write about it.
But hey! It’s summer. Or so to say. It’s been a crazy summer – excessive heat interspersed with downpours of varying magnitudes. This is the most humid summer I have witnessed in my 28 years in Delhi. This is climate change, and it is playing havoc on crops, the summer crops. If this too (along with the pandemic) does not make us re-evaluate our lives, what will?
I could go on and on… But summer is nearing an end and the monsoon clouds are advancing. Soon, the tomato crop in this part will be over. Then will come the monsoon and thereafter a short but trying period when vegetable prices are going to soar. It happens every year. And in the middle of a pandemic, it is a bigger burden. So to avoid being in a situation in the coming months, there is something amazing you can do with tomatoes today to save money tomorrow!
And making it is not so quick, but very gratifying and actually a zero waste process!
Any variety of tomato can be made into a paste, and any quantity. I keep all the squishy, yellowish, greenish, and soft tomatoes. Don’t return these tomatoes or throw them away – they are a gold mine for making the paste!
There is so much water content in tomatoes, that 10 kilograms reduces to just about 500 grams of really concentrated paste. So more the tomatoes, the more paste you get!
- Wash the tomatoes well.
- Puree them in a blender.
- Strain the liquid to separate the skins and seeds, but do not discard them.
- Put the strained liquid in a rice cooker or on the stove and let it boil.
- Once it reaches a roiling boil, set the heat to medium, the water will continue to evaporate and the liquid will get thicker. Do not stir it.
- When 3/4 of the water has evaporated, turn the heat down to a minimum. Still do not stir. At this stage the liquid thickens a lot and air gushes out from small spaces, throwing up boiling hot liquid, If you stir it, a lot of air begins to escape and thr kitchen can turn into a war zone.
- Once the liquid has stopped bubbling, is thick and begins to change colour, stir it a bit to open spaces for the leftover air and water to evaporate. As this happens, the thick paste will also turn dark red or maroon.
- If you want it to have a slightly caramalized flavour, allow the paste to stick to the bottom of the pan as darken, but not burn, and then scrape it off.
- If you want to store this for long, add a teaspoon for salt and sugar. Mix it well and then turn off the heat. You could avoid the sugar and salt, if the batch is small and you would use this everyday.
- Once the paste has cooled completely, put spoons of it into ice-cube trays and let them freeze. Then remove the cubes and put them into ziplock bags and store them in the freezer. They fit well and as many cubes can be used as required. If you store the paste in a jar and freeze it, each time you would have to thaw the jar to scoop some out, and that is not good.
Tomato paste is extremely concentrated. I use one or two tablespoons to replace 6 to 8 tomatoes in a recipe.
The leftover skins and seeds that you have NOT discarded, can be turned into powder. These parts, if put into the paste, could turn the paste a bit bitter. Having said that, they are NOT bad! Skins and seeds store a lot of nutrients that are great for us!
- Spread the wet peels and seeds on a tray in a thin layer.
- Leave this in a shaded area, ideally covered to avoid flies, and let it dry. Alternatively, you can dehydrate this in an oven on a low setting overnight. I prefer shade drying to keep the tangy taste intact.
- Once it is completely dry and hard, blend it into a powder.
- Store this in the fridge in an airtight container.
Tomato powder is amazing! I add a spoon of it into the wheat dough while making rotis or pooris or a pizza base. It can be sprinkled on top of salads, dips, sandwiches and what not!