Tomatoes are an indispensible ingredient in many of our recipes and are used generously, but with the prices of tomatoes in India reaching a staggering Rs 100/ kg and expected to remain so at least till mid-august, we could do with some substitutes for this favourite.
Kaddu to the resucue
After years of snubbing kaddu at the dining table, the current prices of tomatoes are going to make you love them. At literally half the price and their slightly sweet taste and creamy texture, pumpkins make the best low cost substitute for tomatoes, especially in the puree form.
Just blend the pumpkins; maybe roast them before that for some more depth of flavor and a deeper colour. Add in a dash of vinegar to replicate the tartness of tomatoes. To deepen the hue (and nutrition) of your pseudo tomato puree add a roasted/raw red bell pepper, a piece of boiled beetroot, boiled carrots or all three to it. A hint of tomato ketchup can also give it that bright red colour, but will make it sweeter than regular fresh tomato puree. If you need to adjust the consistency of the puree bring it to a boil and let it reduce till it is perfect for your recipe. Keep tasting and adjusting the ratios depending upon what your recipe demands.
Tamarind for tang
Besides adding body, tomatoes lend a delicious tartness to a variety of recipes, especially in Indian cuisine. Tamarind is one of the ingredients which come closest to replicating the fresh sweet-tanginess of tomatoes. Just add a hint of it to tamarind pulp or paste to recipes like dals, curries or stir fries instead of tomatoes. You can also buy a batch of fresh tamarind and dissolve a lemon sized ball in warm water and use the extract to give your recipes a delicious tomato-y taste with actually using them.
Yours truly – Yogurt
Yogurt also comes in handy when preparing Indian style curries which have a tomato base. It provides body to the curry and the right kind of tartness – so you won’t be missing tomatoes too much. Just make sure you whisk the yogurt really well and add it towards the end of the cooking process to reduce chances of it splitting. Yogurt works especially well in recipes like biryanis, or thick curries and masalas that require tomatoes.
You can always use a pack of store bought processed tomato paste or puree, but we think these natural substitutes are a better idea. They work out much cheaper, are healthier and also making the perfect no tomato, tomato puree recipe makes for a very exciting day in the kitchen.