When I first saw a tomato and chilli jam in one of my favourite cafes in Cape Town, back in the summer of 2006, I thought "Wow ! there's actually a jam made with tomatoes and chilli – that's great" and I promptly bought a jar. On return to Vienna, I wasn't disappointed, it actually tasted quite nice and I even took the unusual step back then of writing to the Chef that made the jam (his name and website were on the jam jar) and asked him to share the recipe. Well ! you guessed it, he never replied. I thought "you know what, I'll make it myself" but of course after searching for some recipes and what do you know, I found one in the aptly named Cook's Book, published by DK and a compendium of some of the World's best cooks.
In any case, the recipe seemed simple enough – 500g of tomatoes (half chopped the other blended), 4 chillis, 250g of caster sugar, 4 garlic cloves, 2 thumb size of fresh ginger and 3 tablespoons of fish sauce, and the only waiting game was to see what looked like a watery mixture turn into a nice thick substance. As you should know by now, I added my own extra twist to the recipe, lemon grass, 50ml of balsamic vinegar and a handful of coriander, but of course. I wasn't disappointed again, but mightily happy, because it tasted even better than I imagined and much better than my first experience – the store bought version. The jam has a rich complexity of flavours, sweet, spicy, hot and sugary. My wife was initially skeptical – the idea of something sweet and savoury in the same jar was just too unusual. My daughter was as ever supportive and splashed it all over her daily cheese sandwich. To get a more objective view, I shared some with colleagues and they all went wild, begging for some to take home, so I thought "I'm onto a winner here". In any case, as I like to share and not hug a wonderful experience, I'm going to run through how you make this wonderful stuff.
First things first, you need the two main ingredients – tomatoes and of course hot Thai slim but powerfully hot green or red chillies
You only need 4 of them, but because you will add sugar, you won't need to de-seed them – just chop them up as tiny as you can. Put half the tomatoes (about 3 medium sized ones) into a blender along with the fresh ginger, a handful of fresh coriander and a stick of lemon grass (previously soaked in hot water for 5 minutes) and pulse until well blended. Chop the rest of the ingredients into tiny pieces – the tomatoes about 1cm size. Pour all the ingredients into a deep and wide pot together with about 300g of caster sugar and 50ml of balsamic vinegar and boil until it begins to bubble, when you should turn the heat down to a simmer for about 45 minutes. According to the chef I got the basic recipe from, don't de-seed the tomatoes, because the pectin inside of them, will form a natural "gelling" agent – I followed his advise. I've added just a small amount of balsamic vinegar because I find that tomatoes and balsamic vinegar just seem to "gel" with each other. You can also place a star anise into the pan to get the flavour, because this jam has a tendency to the east with chillies, lemon grass and coriander.
In any case, you will need to stir the pan frequently to begin with to ensure that all the ingredients are well blended and that as the sugar begins to crystalize it doesn't stick and burn the pan, but after about 10 minutes, when the mixture will begin to bubble, turn the heat down and simmer for about 40 minutes. The time is a guide, but only take the mixture of the heat when it looks thick and dark red with a rich gloss. You can try the frozen saucer test, where you place a dry saucer in the freezer for about 10 minutes and put a little bit of the jam onto the frozen plate, and if the jam drips of, then it definitely isn't ready, but if the jam sticks and you rub your finger over the top, it should make an imprint – Gosh ! all this for jam, but don't worry after making any type of jam about 4 times, you will know automatically by looking at it and giving a brief stir that it is ready.
Place the jam straight away into a sterilized jar, and close when hot, leaving it to cool down to room temperature, after which, place it in the fridge and it should last 4-6 weeks.
It's nice with lots of things, like souffle eggs in wraps for breakfast – a family favourite.
in a sandwich with cheddar cheese, or with meat like chicken breast and on my last attempt, I tried it with French brie.
So in summary, you need;
500-600g (about 5-6 tomatoes)
2 thumbs of fresh ginger
2 tablespoons of fish sauce (optional)
4 Red or Green Chillies
4 Garlic cloves
300g of caster sugar
50ml of balsamic vinegar
handful of resh coriander
1 stick of lemon grass
Star Anise (optional)
A nice big pot to let the jam cook evenly