I think of this tomato relish as a beginner’s guide to sambal, as it works beautifully either spicy or mild, depending on your preference. For those with chilli-sensitive palates, like my Devonshire mother-in-law, Caroline, deseeding the chillies lowers the potency of the heat. The addition of tomatoes makes it a mellow and umami-rich relish that is irresistible drizzled over soups, added to stews or used as a dipping sauce with wedges or fritters.
This is typically made with intensely flavoured bush tomatoes in the parts of Indonesia where they are lucky enough to grow them, but in my home kitchen in London I’m happy to use good-quality cherry tomatoes.
This sambal keeps for up to 1 week in the fridge covered with a thin layer of sunflower oil, or for up to 3 months in the freezer.
long red chillies (about 250 grams), deseeded and sliced
garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
ginger (about 4-cm piece), peeled and sliced
small banana shallots or 4 Thai shallots, peeled and sliced
tamarind paste (or 1 teaspoon lime juice mixed with 1 teaspoon brown sugar)
palm sugar or brown sugar
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Coconut oil or sunflower oil, for frying
In This Recipe
Place the chillies, garlic, ginger, shallots and tomatoes in a food processor and blend to a semi-fine paste, retaining a little texture.
Place a frying pan over a medium heat and add 4 tablespoons of oil. Add the paste to the pan and cook, stirring continuously, for 10–15 minutes or until the sambal darkens, is fragrant and reduces to a thick consistency. Season with the tamarind paste, sugar, salt and pepper. Leave to cool.