Many get a break with sheer luck as their profile is viewed by many directors and producers. He moved from Dindigul to Chennai at an early age. His life centered around friends, school and college and he fondly recollects playing games like kabaddi and chor police (robbers and thieves), which very few children play these days. Ravivarman remembers being outdoors most of the time, enjoying ice sticks and boiled groundnuts with friends. One of his friends was an assistant director and that is how he did his first small role. It was a serial called Nadhaswaram which gave him a big break. Now, Ravivarman is essaying a role in the serial Neethane Enthan Ponvasantham.
The actor misses his daily game of badminton but is busy babysitting his son. Apart from this, he tries out various dishes in the kitchen. He says that cooking is like acting where all the right ingredients come together to give an emotional fulfillment. His mother’s cooking is what he longs for. Ravivarman loves Indian heritage dishes and he remembers how his mother and then his wife meticulously used to pack lunch for his shoots. He loves only home-cooked food and does not like eating out.
His favourites are sankara meen curry, pepper rasam, ennai kathirikai, tomato thokku (which is different from chutney), kali and sambar. During the last year, he perfected the recipe of tomato thokku and today, he is sharing the recipe. For tomato thokku, tomatoes should be burned first and then remove the skin.
Tomato is not a native fruit of India but was introduced by the Portuguese. Ancient Indians ate a diet that included dairy products, wheat, barley, rice, fruits like mango and small bananas and pepper was used for seasoning. Archeologists have found fishing nets and hooks in the ruins of early Indian civilizations showing that they also liked to catch and eat fish. The word thokku is derived from the Hindi word chatni and chatni in Urdu means to lick. Thokku was discovered in the royal kitchens of the Pandyan kings — they needed a dish to last for a few days when they go hunting in the forests. Different nuts, fruits or vegetables were mashed and cooked with spices and oil will be poured as a preservative. Manga thokku is the most famous among them. Tomato thokku became very popular once the Portuguese introduced it in India. Chutneys and thokku can be traced back to 500 years.
Sesame or groundnut oil: 4 tbsps| Tomatoes: 6 roasted, skin removed and chopped| Garlic pods: 6| Tamarind: 1 small ball size| Jaggery: 1 tsp| Mustard seeds: 2 tsp| Methi/fenugreek seeds: 1 tsp| Turmeric: 1/2 tsp| Kashmiri red chilli powder: 1 1/2 tbsps| Pink salt or rock salt powder: 1 tsp| Asafoetida: 1/2 tsp| Curry Leaves: 1/4 cupful
- Saute 6 large skinned, chopped tomatoes in 3 tbsp oil
- Add finely grated garlic and saute
- Also add small ball-sized tamarind, 1 tsp jaggery and mix well
- Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes or till the tomatoes turn mushy
- Mash tomatoes and garlic, slightly making sure it is cooked completely
- Roast methi seeds, half the mustard seeds and add the powder to thokku
- Now, add chilli powder, turmeric, hing and salt
- Add roasted and powdered methi and mustard seeds
- Mix well making sure the spices are combined well and oil is separated
- In a small kadai, heat 2 tsp oil for tempering
- Add 3/4 tsp mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp hing and a few curry leaves
- Allow it to splutter and pour the tempering into the prepared tomato thokku
- Mix well. Tomato thokku is ready to be served with rice, idli or dosa. You can also store it in an airtight container and refrigerate.
- Eat only home-cooked food
- Learn a new art or cooking during lockdowns
- Use locally grown ingredients, vegetables, and fruits
— Chef Ramaa Shanker is the author of ‘Festive Offerings to the Gods: Divine Soul Recipes’