This oven roasted tomato gravy is an easy hands-off way to make a restaurant style Punjabi gravy dish, with either paneer or vegetables. A rich tomato-flavour, balanced out by sweetness, a smooth texture and the hint of smokiness that is a classic feature of dhaba cooking makes this a delicious gravy that becomes a carrier for anything, from paneer, to cooked lentils to vegetables.
Addition of milk cream and or/butter adds a richer flavour to the dish. But it does taste good even minus the calorie overload that comes from these additions.
Why oven roasting you may wonder….because I did too.
The idea for this came from my neighbour Nidhi, who is known in our community for her absolutely delicious butter chicken. I tasted the paneer version of the same and the sauce for this curry was good enough to beat the pants off any respectable Punjabi restaurant. When I asked her the secret sauce for this dish, she was kind enough to share her tricks with me. One of them was to oven roast the tomatoes for the curry sauce or the gravy.
Advantages of roasting the tomatoes in the oven
- Oven roasting the tomatoes brings out the natural sweetness as well as the umami flavours and then used them as the base for this dish.
- Unlike boiling or cooking in a stove top pan, they do not lose all their juices. There is no risk of the flavours getting diluted by water or liquids. On the contrary, roasting concentrates the flavours.
- Plus, this process takes off the need to monitor one process in the recipe as the oven does its own thing. We don’t need to stand around and babysit the process.
- Roasting the tomatoes loosens up the skins, so you can easily peel them off. This results in a gravy with a smoother texture.
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Smoking the gravy for an authentic Punjabi dhaba flavour
The smoking stage adds the authentic dhaba flavour which adds the final layer of flavouring to the dish. For this purpose, use food grade coal pieces sold by grill brands like Weber. Heat it on an open flame until red hot. Keep it in a steel bowl and place this bowl in the prepared gravy. Place the red hot charcoal piece in this cup, top with some ghee. It will start smoking. Immediately, cover the pan and allow the smoke to infuse the gravy for at least 20-30 minutes. I did this for just 10 minutes the first time over and the flavour was too subtle.
By all means, make a bigger batch of the same gravy and freeze in portion sizes that are good for your family / meals, so that next time you want to make a tomato based gravy, all you need to do is defrost one portion, simmer in a pan with the ingredient you want to add to the curry.
No oven? You can still make this.
For those of you who don’t have an oven, you can do the same by using a large heavy pan, applying a bit of oil to the pan and keeping a bunch of halved tomatoes cut side down, allowing them to cook on a low flame.
What can you add to this oven roasted tomato gravy
- cubed paneer
- cubed paneer + cooked green peas
- hard boiled eggs, halved
- roasted cauliflower florets
- sautéed capsicum and onions
- boiled potatoes, diced and sautéed
- cooked masoor dal
Oven Roasted Tomato Gravy
- 6 large tomatoes halved or quartered (600 grams)
- 2 medium onions peeled and quartered (150 grams)
- 2 tsp sunflower oil
- 1/2 salt
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp chopped ginger
- 1 tbsp ghee
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp crushed kasoori methi
- 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
- 1 tsp red chilli powder kashmiri
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
for the smoking
- 1 piece charcoal
- 1 tsp ghee
- 1 tsp ghee
- Take a 9” square baking pan. Place the tomatoes and onions in a single layer. Top with oil and salt. Preheat the oven at 200°C. Bake the tray with tomatoes for 45 minutes or so, until you see a few charred spots and the tomatoes have softened.
- Once cool enough to handle, peel off the skins and place the roasted tomatoes and onions in a blender. Make sure you use the oils and tomato juices if any from the baking pan, because this is where a lot of flavour is. Blend to a fine puree and keep aside.
- In a small mixer jar, blend the garlic and ginger to a fine paste.
- In a large pan, heat the ghee. Fry the bay leaves and cumin seeds. Once the seeds splutter, add the prepared onion-ginger-garlic paste and fry for 6-7 minutes.
- To this add the tomato-onion puree, spice powders, kasuri methi, sugar and salt. Mix well, cover with a lid and allow to simmer for 7-8 minutes. The cover or lid ensures that there is no spluttering of this gravy.
- To this gravy, add any of the given ingredients such as paneer, boiled peas, boiled cubed potatoes, hard boiled eggs etc.
- Heat the piece of charcoal on an open flame until red hot. Place this in a steel cup or bowl. Top with ghee. Place this cup in the centre of the pan with gravy, ensuring that it is not toppling into the gravy. Immediately cover with a tight fitting lid so that the smoke stays inside the pan for a good 20-30 minutes.
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