Of aspiring cooks, overarchin’ ambitions and a once-in-a-lifetime dish!

The year is 1985. I’ve just decided to get married and am feeling quite on top of the world. 

My fiance is coming down for a couple of days from his workplace in Orissa and a couple of old friends decide to join us. Having always been a keen, if not quite quite a judicious cook  – generally having a tendency to bite off more than I could chew by choosing to cook dishes which took hours of slaving over a stove (must add a postscript here – the weather in Madras soon cured me of any desire to slave over any kind of stove), I decide to really go out on a limb this time – choosing to make a complicated dish called “tomato mahashas” – an interesting dish because it’s one of the few Jewish Indian dishes. 

I, of course, decide to make a complicated recipe (from that hoary lady of women’s mags – Eve’s Weekly) even more complicated! Quickly ran into trouble! My guests and my fiance had arrived… and I… I was covered in juice of tomato, flour, potato and bits of unidentifiable food objects! Guests sitting in the drawing room and me getting desperate because I’m not even half done! Guests smell something fishy (not literally!) and prowl around hungrily – the house being one of those ancient Hyderabadi homes where you can wander around for ever, some prowling is needed!

The kitchen is taken over and everyone is soon busy stuffing, rolling and kneading with varying degrees of ineptness – fiance who has rarely done more than make a cup of tea creating a total ruckus with his well-meant efforts!

The dish, though, turns out absolutely delicious. Highly recommended if:

a) you do not live in Madras or other equally hot places where you will melt into a puddle by the time you finish

b) you have all the time in the world and want to fill it up with cooking!

c) you are icebound and want to slave over the stove to defrost – self!

d) you want a story to tell for the rest of your life!

e) you are totally nuts!

My version below.


  • Firm, large-ish tomatoes – 6
  • Potatoes – 1/2 kg
  • Cooked pulao (leftovers will do) – 1.5 cups (see post on corn pulao – click here)
  • Breadcrumbs – 2-3 tbsp ground with 2 tsp mint leaves or basil
  • Gram flour/besan/senaga pindi/kadale maavu – 2 cups
  • Salt
  • Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp
  • Green chilies – Minced – 2
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Oil to deep fry
Boil and mash the potaotes with salt, 1/2 tsp red chili powder, minced chili and lemon juice. Keep warm.
With a really sharp knife, remove the tops of the tomatoes carefully, creating a hole about 2 cm square. Reserve the tops and carefully scoop out the insides. Set tomatoes upside down to drain.
Fill in the tomato shells with the pulao and top with 1/2 tsp of breadcrumbs.
Cover the shells with the tops of the tomatoes.
Divide the potato mash into six lumps. Shape each lump in your palms into a flat disc. Place the tomato in the centre and drawing up the edges of the potato mash, cover completely.
Mix the gram flour with 1/2 tsp red chili pwd, salt and enough water to make a thick batter.
Heat the oil to below smoking point. 
Dip the tomato balls in the batter, wiggle ém around a bit till they’re fully covered and drop ever so gently into the oil – you want fried tomatoes, not fried fingers!
Fry, turning occasionally till golden brown.
Serve with mint chutney or ketchup or date chutney.
Pour yourself a stiff one – you’ll need it!