My Grandfather’s Spicy Tomato Ketchup

Long before I started this blog, I was sharing recipes online at Mamta’s Kitchen, our family cookbook on the web, named after my mum who has contributed the bulk of the recipes, with many more given by family, friends and readers. Mamta’s Kitchen has been going strong since 2001 and is a wonderful way to share the joys of cooking with people from all over the world. Mum continues to add new recipes and respond to reader queries via the discussion forum.

I’ve heard from friends about mothers who refuse to share their precious recipes even with their own sons and daughters, presumably gripped by a need to keep kudos for themselves, to be known as the only one who can make the very best victoria sponge, steak and kidney pudding, tandoori chicken, even at the expense of the recipe being lost to the world when they pass away. In some cases, a recipe is shared but a key ingredient or step miswritten or omitted entirely, all the better to cling to top dog status and ensure that no-one else can match them.

But that’s not how my mum is at all, nor any of our family or friends. Mum is quick to point out that she has learned how to cook from so many others – not just her immediate family but the wider extended family of in-laws and cousins and cousins of cousins not to mention a lifetime of friends, cookery books and TV cookery programmes.

In turn, mum loves to share her recipes, investing them with all the tips she can think of to help others achieve the best results possible. If she finds a better way of explaining how to do something, another way of helping someone understand, she goes back and updates the recipe accordingly.

And if others can make a dish that is just as good as hers by following her recipe, that doesn’t lessen the deliciousness when she makes it herself!

Indeed, I’ve come to see how it adds even more joy – I can no longer make my mum’s Lucknowi-inspired lamb biryani without thinking fondly of all the people who have made and loved the recipe (and come back to let us know).  The recipe we call “mum’s chicken curry” is now made by many other mums across the world, and I hope their children love it as much as my mum’s children do! There are many London friends who have not only tried my spicy tomato ketchup but are aware that the recipe was passed down from my grandfather to my mother and now to me and many others.

Unusually for his generation, my maternal grandfather (my “nana” in Hindi) was fond of both gardening and cooking. A sugar chemist by trade, he spent a few years of his early career making not only sugar but confectionery, sauces, pickles and chutneys, the recipes for which he carefully recorded in a ‘Preserves’ notebook. Mum has translated these recipes, many of which were for cooking in bulk, to suit a domestic kitchen, and many of them are shared on Mamta’s Kitchen. Not only are they wonderfully tasty, they give us a way to connect with my grandfather, who passed away when I was very young. He may be gone but he is still part of our our family tree and our recipe tree.

This recipe for tomato ketchup can be adapted to your tastes and I’ve made batches with ripe red and yellow tomatoes and also with unripe green ones, adding a little extra sugar to compensate for the tarter fruit.

tomatoketchup005 UKFBAstall-9576
SungoldTomatoKetchup-2 GreenTomKetchup09-0163

Print Pin
5 from 1 vote

My Grandfather’s Spicy Tomato Ketchup


  • 1 kg ripe tomatoes , unpeeled, chopped if large
  • ½ small onion , diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic , peeled and chopped

Whole spices in fabric bag (*)

  • 5-6 cloves
  • 2 black cardamoms , cracked open to release flavours
  • ½ tsp whole black peppers , cracked open to release flavours
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 1-2 small pieces cinnamon or cassia bark

Ground spices

  • ½ tsp nutmeg , freshly grated if possible
  • 1 tsp chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp mustard powder
  • 40 g sugar (with extra available to adjust to taste)
  • 50 ml cider vinegar (with extra available to adjust to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt


  • Sterilise your jars and lids. I boil my lids in a pan on the stove for 20 minutes before laying them out to dry on a clean tea towel. I sterilise my glass jars in a hot oven, leaving them in the oven until I’m ready to fill them.
  • Place tomatoes, onion, garlic and bag of whole spices into a large pan. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to stop the tomatoes catching at the bottom before they release their own juices.
  • Cook until soft.
  • Allow to cool a little. Remove spice bag.
  • Blend into as smooth a puree as you can.
  • Press through a sieve to remove skin and seed residue.
  • Place the sieved liquid into a pan with the nutmeg, chilli powder and mustard powder and bring to the boil.
  • If your liquid is quite thin, boil longer to thicken. The time this takes can vary wildly. In the past it’s taken anything from just five minutes to half an hour!
  • Add the vinegar and sugar and continue to cook until the sauce reaches ketchup consistency.
  • Add salt.
  • Taste and add additional vinegar or sugar, if needed.
  • Remove the sterilised jars from the oven and pour the ketchup into them while both ketchup and jars are still hot.
  • Seal immediately with sterilised lids.
  • Once cooled, label and store in a cool, dark cupboard.

As this recipe has only a small volume of sugar and vinegar (both of which are preserving agents), you may prefer to store the ketchup in your fridge and use within a few weeks. We have stored it in a dark cupboard, eaten it many, many months after making, and been just fine. However, we are not experts in preserving or food safety, so please do your own research and decide for yourself.

    This post was commissioned by McCarthy & Stone for their Great British Recipe Tree campaign. Recipe copyright remains with Mamta’s Kitchen / Kavey Eats.

    Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!
    30 Comments to "My Grandfather’s Spicy Tomato Ketchup"

    1. Anita-Clare Field

      Fabulous, it sounds delicious. I adore family recipes with all their history, It also makes me remember how much I miss my Grandmothers, their wit, advice, love and their pickled onion, pickled red cabbage and scotch eggs. Thanks you’ve made me smile this morning. 🙂


      Thanks Anita-Clare, I love your little list about your grandmother — wit, advice, pickled onions… 😉

    2. Alan Wilson

      Sounds a wonderful way to make a Ketchup, I will certainly give this a try, has to be better than Heinz!!!


      I’m a fan of Heinz for some things but yes, home made is altogether different beast and of course you can adjust sweet, sour and spiciness to your preference!

    3. Katie Bryson

      I love a good sauce, so feel compelled to try your family’s ketchup – sounds amazing! Where do you get the fill-your-own tea bags from?
      Not sharing recipes is ridiculous… as Sarah says it goes against the whole fabric of the food blogging community. I love it when families pass recipes on through the generations. My dad recently gave me a really old notebook full of recipes from my great grandmother which I aim to go through when I get more time… fascinating stuff!


      Originally i found them in oriental supermarkets but more recently, on Amazon. Follow link back to my post on them, I think I linked to some options.
      Hope there are lots of lovely recipes from your great grandmother!

    4. Maureen

      This sounds/looks delicious, and those colors are beatiful. I love how homemade condiments are catching on– no weird preservatives or additives and a lot more flavor.


      Yes it’s not only good to know what’s in them but nice to adjust to your own tastes!

    5. Luca

      Living in the sticks it’s always great to find recipes for stuff that’s difficult to buy. I love this and I love the spice. Thanks so much for sharing.


      So kind of you to share a family recipe 🙂 Love the colours of the different ketchups too x

    7. Adam Garratt

      Absolutely love this Kavey! So sad your grandfather has gone, but what a lovely legacy he has left behind, you must be very proud he sounded like a lovely man. Not sure what a sugar chemist is but sounds like fun to me! My great grandmother kept a little black recipe book which has been handed down to me, it’s one of my most treasured posessions, i’ve even wrote about it on the blog. it’s great that your mum is so open towards her recipes too, my nanny was the same. Consider this recipe bookmarked 🙂


      Thank you Adam, what a lovely comment. Yes it’s wonderful to have these mementos of my grandfather – I have a couple of memory fragments of him, though I was very very young at the time. As a sugar chemist he worked on the process of refining sugar, my understanding is that one of the methods still used across India today (and perhaps elsewhere, I don’t know) is one he created. Your great grandmother’s recipe book must be a wonderful piece of family history, that sounds amazing. I shall go and find that post right now.

    8. Carole

      Thank you so much. I’ve never made my own ketchup. This year I grew these yellow paste tomatoes called yellow bells. I was looking for a recipe & came across yours. I think I should have cooked it a little more to make it more saucy. It taste fabulous. Going in my recipe box as a favorite.


      You could probably recook the batch to thicken further if you’d like to, but so pleased you enjoyed. It’s great to make it with home-grown tomatoes!


    Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Recipe Rating