"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," says food writer Lara Lee.

Tomato sambal recipe

Tomato sambal recipe

"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 one week in the fridge covered with a thin layer of sunflower oil, or for up to three months in the freezer."

Tomato sambal from Coconut & Sambal by Lara Lee


(Makes 250g – about 16 portions)

20 long red chillies (about 250g), deseeded and sliced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

4cm piece of ginger (about 20g), peeled and sliced

2 small banana shallots or 4 Thai shallots, peeled and sliced

180g cherry tomatoes

1tsp tamarind paste (or 1 tsp lime juice mixed with 1 tsp brown sugar)

1/2tsp palm sugar or brown sugar

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Coconut oil or sunflower oil, for frying

Tomato sambal from Coconut & Sambal by Lara Lee (Louise Hagger/Travel photography Lara Lee/PA)
Tomato sambal from Coconut & Sambal by Lara Lee (Louise Hagger/Travel photography Lara Lee/PA)


1. Place the chillies, garlic, ginger, shallots and tomatoes in a food processor and blend to a semi-fine paste, retaining a little texture.

2. Place a frying pan over a medium heat and add four 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.

3. Season with the tamarind paste, sugar, salt and pepper. Leave to cool.

Coconut & Sambal: Recipes From My Indonesian Kitchen by Lara Lee, photography by Louise Hagger and Lara Lee, is published by Bloomsbury, priced GBP 26. Available May 14.