Padma Lakshmi Shared a Nostalgic Recipe in Honor of Her New Book Launch

This traditional Indian dish gets some kid-friendly adjustments for a family-friendly meal.

Padma Lakshmi on a designed background
Photo: Getty Images / Dimitrios Kambouris

Padma Lakshmi is a celebrity chef, host of Bravo's Top Chef and Hulu's Taste the Nation, and an EatingWell cover star. And now she's adding another accomplishment to her list: her newest book, Tomatoes for Neela, comes out today (buy it: $15 on Amazon). In this children's book, Lakshmi and award-winning illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal take readers on a journey that spans multiple generations of family, food and treasured recipes.

Ahead of her book launch, Lakshmi shared a recipe for tomato chutney on Instagram and shared some of her own memories that inspired the story, including her mother cooking for her as a child and spending quality time with her daughter Krishna.

In the video, Lakshmi says this version of tomato chutney is mild enough for kids to enjoy and she encourages parents to use it in place of salsa for chips or for as a dipping sauce for a grilled cheese sandwich. While the recipe is called "Neela's Tomato Chutney" in her book, Lakshmi shares that it's actually her mother's recipe that was part of her weeknight meals. "The real recipe comes from my mother. She was always working full-time as a nurse. She was very busy, but she always had hot fresh food on the table for dinner," Lakshmi says.

To make the tomato chutney, Lakshmi adds cumin and black mustard seeds into a frying pan with a neutral oil. Then, she adds onion, garlic and ginger (or "the holy trinity of Indian food," as she calls it) and cooks them for a few minutes until the onions are translucent. Next she adds ginger, turmeric and cayenne to the mixture, noting that you can adjust the spice level by dialing back on the cayenne or subbing black pepper instead.

After letting the spices marry, Lakshmi adds heirloom tomatoes to the pan and shares how she and her daughter Krishna would visit the Union Square Greenmarket together, where part of Tomatoes for Neela takes place. Then, she lets the chutney cook down for about 30 minutes.

"The more you cook it down, the more concentrated the flavors," Lakshmi shares as she adds a little salt and freshly ground black pepper to the pan. She shares that you can also add a little bit of sugar or jaggery (an unrefined cane sugar used in Indian and Asian cuisines) if your tomatoes are bitter or sour.

"This tomato chutney is such a nostalgic dish for me," says Lakshmi in her Instagram caption. "My mom used to cook it for a weeknight when I was growing up, and we would use it on everything from roti to scrambled eggs."

One commenter on Instagram says, "Love it on burgers—my go-to additions are shallots, honey, and chili pepper flakes." Another commenter says, "I love how you have brought traditional South Indian Tamil recipes to the table, making it easy for everyone to learn and try it! Well, now I know what I'm making for dinner tomorrow night ❤️."

If you're a fan of Padma Lakshmi, check out her recipe for Beef Shawarma with Beet Yogurt Sauce and her list of 10 Places in NYC Everyone Should Visit at Least Once.

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