Monday, October 22, 2007

Making my mum's tomato & onion relish instead of slow-roasted oven tomatoes

Here's a recipe for 'the' tomato preserve of Estonian women that I ended up making last night instead of slow-roasted oven tomatoes that so many good foodbloggers have been praising. Slow-roasted oven tomatoes have been featured by Molly, Alanna (and again), Kalyn, Lydia, Jeanne, even Dorie, and by Thredahlia closer to home) - all versions sound fantastic, and I bought some tomatoes at the market on Sunday morning for that purpose. But then I realised that slow-roasting really means slow roasting, and as we needed the oven for something else last night, I reached after my mum's tried and trusted quick tomato & onion relish recipe instead. I used to dislike it as a kid - too much onion, too much pepper, a bit vinegary - but have now come to really like it. When I asked K. to taste the finished product and share his thoughts about it, he claimed it tasted exactly like his mum's tomato and onion relish. Come to think of that, my mum's tomato & onion relish does taste very similar to my aunties' and grandmothers' ones indeed. It really must be the choice of tomato preserve for many Estonian women..

So if you've still got lots of tomatoes to 'deal with', yet haven't got the time to slow-roast the tomatoes, then consider this recipe. It takes about half an hour from start to finish, and it makes an excellent addition to cold meats and any other warm savoury dishes during the winter..

My mum's tomato & onion relish

1 kg ripe red tomatoes, quartered
500 grams onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
100 grams caster sugar
5 tsp coarse salt
10 black peppercorns
5 whole cloves
1-2 Tbsp vinegar (30%) *

Cut tomatoes into quarters or eights, depending on size, and put into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes, until tomatoes have gone a bit mushy.
Add the sliced onions, sugar, salt, peppercorns and cloves, and simmer on low heat for another 10 minutes, until onions have started to soften.
Stir in the vinegar, and immediately pour the relish into hot sterilised jars. Close the jars.
Keep in a cool, dark place for a few months.

* The most common vinegar for preserving in Estonia is of 30% strength. You may need to re-adjust the amount for your usual vinegar.

UPDATE 23.10.2007 - my fellow Estonian foodblogger Thredahlia (yes, our future Harold McGee:), claims that you don't need vinegar in this relish at all, as the inherent acidity of tomatoes helps to keep this fresh & good without it. Although I've already reduced the amount of vinegar above, I'll make a vinegar-less batch coming weekend to compare. Thank you, Thredahlia!!


K and S said...

both the roasting and the relish sound wonderful!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Lovely! Now, if you cooked this down a bit and added some fruit and brown sugar, you'd have a chutney. The vinegar taste is a perfect partner to roast meats. And lately I've been making tomato-based relishes for salmon. I'm definitely going to try this one -- so much quicker than the long slow roast for tomatoes!

Maarja said...

vanaema teeb meil seda. kartuli-hakkliha vormi ilma selle salatita ette ei kujutagi.

paar viimast aastat olen ise ka teinud, aga mina panen lisaks paprikat ja küüslauku.

Maarja said...

näed, jälle unustasin ära, et inglise keeles kirjutada.

Kalyn Denny said...

My own mother used to make something very similar to this which we called Chile Sauce, even though it didn't have any chiles in it at all!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I think this is something like my grandmother used to make and serve at her table! Yes I can see an endless use for this sauce!

Ilva said...

OK I will bookmark it so I know where I have when I need it! \Thanks Pille!

Jeanne said...

Mmmm, that looks good! It sounds like the "train smash" relish I grew up with and that you can buy tinned in South Africa. It's basically chopped tomatoes stewed with onions and spices, and the tinned version seems to be totally unknown here in the UK! This sort of relish is the way I start almost every tomato-based pasta or mince dish I know :)

Thanks for the nice mention btw! And when you get a chance DO try the slow-roasted tomatoes They are a real treat!

Thredahlia said...

Tomat on tore, misiganes poosis :P
Meil nimetatakse seda "tomatimöginaks" ja oi, kui hea on see võise kartulipudru ja praesibulaga. Ainult äädikas mulle isiklikult selles kombinatsioonis eriti ei istu - ilmselt ikka neil perekondlikel põhjustel, ei ole lihtsal kastutaud.
Ma vahel "rikun" retsepti paprika ja/või riivitud suvikõrvitsaga, aga päris ausalt - tomat, sibul ja vürtsid on lihtsaim ja parim.

Thredahlia said...

Ja selle, mida tegelikult tahtsin öelda, jätsin jutuvadas hoopis vahele... ma säilitan ilma äädikata köögikapis ja toatemperatuuril järgmise hooajani. See on happeliste tomatihoidiste boonus :P

Tanvir said...

I have family in Finland, they own several restaurants there. They tell me that the food in Estonia isn’t bad either. The food looks great, I would love to visit Estonia and indulge in the great food and history. I just saw a website about Estonia’s Singing Revolution –; this is quite inspirational.

Gloria Baker said...

Pille Lovely recipe, I hope to try when I have good tomatoes. Thanks. Gloria

Anonymous said...

Oh, you will have to add me to the slow roasted tomato list. I love them a lot, and roast them with sumac to give a bit of a bite.

But it does take time! So your recipe for a quick tomato hit is superb and your photograph,well, I feel like I could dip my bread into the sauce. What a great entry into WHB.

Anonymous said...

.... meant to say What a great entry into WHB are you muffins. They look too good to eat. Great posts, and a great site.


lobstersquad said...

interesting. This is one to try. I´d sort of given up on tomatoes this late in October, but with this weather, might as well.

Unknown said...

Somehow I am wondering myself what's the differences of tomato relish and tomato chutney. Looking at your recipe, that gives me answers. I am using my mother-in-law recipe to make tomato chutney and for 5kg firm tomatoes, we use 1kg brown sugar and 1-2 cups of malt vinegar, together with brown onions, pepper, cayenne pepper, etc. I love homemade relish and chutney! Taste much better! And no preservative.

Thredahlia said...

Pille, you're welcome! :)
And once more you make me blush making such an undeserved comparison...

Tea said...

This sounds so good, Pille! I was recently given a jar of wonderful spicy tomato ketchup by Anita and Cameron (Married...with Dinner blog) and it has me thinking of other, tangy things to do with tomatoes--this looks like a perfect example!

Pille said...

K&S – thank you for your kind comment!

Lydia – I’ve finally realised what’s the difference between chutney & relish – it remained a mystery to me for a long time :)

Maarja – siia vist võib tõesti kõike lisada, aga ma oma ema laps, nii et teen tema retsepti järgi :) Ja ei pea üldse inglise keeles kommenteerima – Evelin, Eveli, Thredahlia ja Kärt kommenteerivad ju ka alati eesti keeles. Peaasi, et kommenteerite :)

Kalyn – that’s curious. Maybe she used a little bit of chillies after all?

Tanna - so you’re saying it’s not an Estonian recipe??? LOL :)

Ilva – tack!

Jeanne – ‘train smash relish’ – what a name!?!?

Thredahlia – aitäh äädika info eest! K. väga ei taha äädikat ja mul soovitas dietoloog samuti äädikat vältida, nii et hea teada, et see säilib ka ilma. Sinult saab alati asjalikku nõu, nii et ma mõtlen seda MMG võrdlust täitsa tõsiselt!

TSR – you’re right, the food in Estonia isn’t bad at all :)

Gloria – yes, please do!

VegeYum – slow roasted tomatoes with sumac? Sounds good to me (plus I’ve got loads of sumac at home).

Ximena – late season tomatoes are just fine. And there’s no need to add any oil or water in the beginning to avoid burning (unless you’re tomatoes are really, really dry).

Arfi – I understand that relish is less sweet and more watery than a chutney. Am I correct?

Tea – tomatoes are pretty versatile. I’ll definitely try slow-roasting them next year..