Palakkad Iyers make their pickles with sesame seed oil and do not use vinegar. The oil and salt ensure the pickles keep. This is not a traditional pickle (traditionally we do not eat onions) but is one of my favourites.
½ kg Madras onions (shallots)
¼ cup sesame seed oil
a small marble sized ball of tamarind/ 1 tsp tamarind paste
1 ½ tsp mustard seeds
2 sprigs curry leaves
4 tsps kashmiri chilli powder
¼ tsp asafetida powder
¼ tsp fenugreek powder (roast fenugreek seeds and powder)
2 tsps jaggery powder
salt to taste
Clean the onions. Take a quarter portion of the onions and crush well in the blender. Soak the tamarind in about half a cup of warm water. Don’t bother to do this if using the paste.
Pour the oil into a wok and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the onions, crushed onion paste, the curry leaves and a little salt (not all the salt, only as much as required to salt the onions). Stir, on medium heat, and allow the onions and paste to cook for about 10 – 15 minutes.
Add the chilli, asafetida, fenugreek, and jaggery powders and required amount of salt. Mix well. Add the tamarind liquid next. If using tamarind paste, also add a little less than half a cup of water. Allow to cook, on medium to high heat, stirring frequently till the water evaporates and oil floats up along the sides of the wok.
The pickle is ready. Cool and bottle. Refrigerate.
Serve as an accompaniment to any of these - thayir chadam (yogurt rice), pulav, dosa, adai, chapathi,parathas and even bread.
If you would like this pickle to be a little sweeter, add an extra tablespoon or so of powdered jaggery. The sweeter version is especially nice with pulavs, fried rice, biriyanis or parathas.