I was in quite a bit of a pickle, literally and figuratively. I think the post title should give you an idea why! I have been told by some that it is because I am Libran and maybe that is one way to explain it. I have long had this tendency to swing between energy highs and lows. When I am feeling like doing things, you’ll find me rushing around trying to get a hundred things done, getting to everyone around me in the process, and then tiring myself out. On the other hand I have these periods when there’s so much to be done, but I just can’t seem to find the energy to get started with it.
We Indians love our pickles no matter which part of the country we belong to and, summer or winter, if there’s something we can make into a pickle we will. Given sheer variety of spices Indians cook with, it is not surprising that our pickles reflect this and I can’t say enough about the mouth-watering (pun intended!) kinds of pickles one can find here. Nowadays, the trend is store bought pickles but everyone knows it’s not the same as the home-made stuff.
So early last week, while in one of my energetic phases, I got this urge to get pickling. I’m Indian, love pickles, the summer’s here with mangoes and other vegetables and fruit that could be pickled, and I had any number of empty glass jars waiting to be filled. How many more reasons does one need to start pickling???
It started with some green mangoes. My friendly vegetable lady brought me some freshly plucked and very fragrant green mangoes at a bargain. I had previously bookmarked this, this, this and this to make. Yes, that’s a lot of pickle to be made!
So I bought a whole lot of chillies, perhaps not the exact kind requires for these pickles but I had decided to pickle chillies and came back with what I could get at the market.
Summer’s here, of course, and the winter vegetables are almost gone but I was lucky to find some winter carrots and turnips (shalgam).
Avakkai Urugai (Andhra Style Mango Pickles)
Every part of India that grows mangoes has its own way of pickling them, and it is difficult to choose one or two or even three which stand out above the rest. Each type of pickle invariably has something that’s unique about it and this includes the popular Aavakaaya mango pickle from Andhra Pradesh. Pickles from this state are very well known for their “fire” as people native to this state like their food very hot (from chillies). This is not surprising as almost 45% of the chilli production in India is from this state!
I still remember my first introduction to the Aavakaaya pickle when I was about 16. We were having dinner at my parents’ friend’s place. They belonged to Andhra Pradesh and I was thrilled to see a mango pickle at the table. Suffice to say that I spent the rest of the evening wiping my tears and nose, and with my tongue on fire which sensation eventually subsided to leaving it numb.
I have always been careful with pickles since and never dive in when tempted and have learnt the hard way that a taste first is prudential.
So every summer, once the mangoes are here Aavakaaya is one pickle I always make along with Maangakari (Quick Mango Pickle), Maangai Thokku and Chundo (Sweet And Spicy Mango Pickle). The traditional Aavakaaya doesn’t have chickpeas in it but I happen to like this version too so I’ve made it that way.
For this pickle, you need sour green mangoes which are hard, still somewhat tender but have central cores which have started becoming hard. You need a very sharp knife to cut through this core, and the inedible seed has to be discarded. Then cut each mango half into approximately 1/2” pieces. Oh, make sure your mangoes are completely dry to start with.
Avakkai Urugai (Andhra Style Mango Pickles)
6 smallish green mangoes (cubed ~ 2 cups)
1/2 cup dried chickpeas
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
3 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 cup sesame oil
1/4 tsp asafoetida
Put the mango pieces and the chickpeas in a steel or glass bowl and add the salt, chilli powder and turmeric powder. Stir gently, to coat the pieces, and keep aside.
Heat an iron kadai/ wok/ skillet and dry roast the mustard and fenugreek seeds (do not brown), over medium heat, till they start giving off an aroma. Take them off the heat, allow to cool, and then grind the seeds to a fine powder in a mixer/ blender.
Heat the sesame oil in the same kadai/ wok/ skillet but do not let it reach smoking point. Add the asafoetida to this and take the oil off the heat. Add the powdered mustard and fenugreek to the oil mix and allow it to cool.
Pour this oil over the mango pieces and mix well with a spoon, using a folding motion of the hand. Transfer the pickle to a sterile glass jar, and store at room temperature stirring the contents once a day, for about a week.
The pickle can be eaten in about 3 weeks and should keep without refrigeration. This recipe makes enough pickle to fill a medium glass jar. For larger quantities, increase proportions of the ingredients as required. Serve with rice and yogurt for the best combination.
Anita’s Quick Chilli Pickle:
This pickle caught my attention when Anita posted it because it is one of my personal favourites. Not ever having made this pickle, I just had to make it. I never knew this was a Rajasthani pickle and they apparently use a variety of green chillies called “Athana” which is long and fleshy.
A very easily made pickle, the main flavours you get are salt, mustard and a bit of tang. The chillies, of course, lend the “fire” but this is not a very spicy pickle as pickles go. My advice would be to choose the longish green chillies which aren’t very hot to make this pickle.
Since I followed Anita’s recipe more or less, you can read it at her blog. As she says, it’s a great accompaniment to any Indian meal, parathas, burgers and hot dogs. And you definitely need to try it out with south Indian curd rice (yogurt and rice).
Rajani’s Stuffed Green Chilli Pickle:
Rajani’s “bharwan mirch ka achaar” or stuffed green chilli pickle was another pickle I had planned to make. Since I was buying chillies to make Anita’s pickle, I bought enough to make this one too. This pickle is probably a Rajasthani one too, and here the chillies are slit and stuffed with a “masala” (mix of powdered spices) before being pickled.
Again, it is best to use the mildly hot kind of long, green chillies unless you can find the red winter chillies Rajani says are the best for this pickle. I followed her recipe more or less, just that I used a quarter of her recipe, reduced the turmeric by half, and I used sesame oil rather than mustard oil. I know that makes a lot of difference to the final flavour of the pickle but we don’t like the taste/ smell of mustard oil.
This pickle is really good with parathas and dal chawal (rice and lentils) but my favourite combination is with “thayir chaadam” (south Indian curd rice/ yogurt and rice).
Madhur Jaffrey's Punjabi-Style Pickle (Cauliflower-Carrot-Turnip Pickle):
This sweet and sour pickle uses typical north Indian winter vegetables and since they’re available here in Goa, I thought I’d try out this pickle I saw on Anita’s blog. We don’t like pickles which are made with vinegar and so I hesitantly approached making this one. It was the sight of those little red turnips (shalgam) at the market for the first time this winter that finally made me decide to give this a chance. Red juicy and sweet winter carrots are in plenty and cauliflower is something we seem to get here the year round.
I was going to use Anita’s recipe, but her recipe needs curing the pickle in the hot sun. Now wouldn’t it just happen that as soon as I decided to make the pickle that the skies started clouding over? The days are still hot but one needs a strong sun work its magic over the vegetables and spices to make the pickle!
That’s when I found Madhur Jaffery’s Instant Punjabi-Style Pickle which was more or less like Anita’s version except the sun had no business here, which I used. Imust emphasize it as always better to stick to the written word when you’re in unfamiliar territory, at least the first time round. This was the first time I had made a pickle using vinegar as the main preservative!
Of course, the sun does give a flavour to pickles that no amount of cooking can re-create so this pickle was definitely different in that aspect from Anita’s. I was pleasantly surprised to find the pickle wasn’t all that vinegary to taste and for once, I have ended up liking a pickle with a vinegar base. This is another pickle that is very good with parathas!
Simran’s Mom’s Lime Pickle:
I guess the summer’s got to a lot of us food bloggers in India, at least the ones whose blogs I try to read regularly. Simran had posted this pickle on her blog and just looking at that picture brought back memories of eating this pickle in homes of my parents’ friends.
When we first came to Goa, we had this “Aunty and Uncle” couple (all elders, family or otherwise, who are not specifically designated by a defined relationship, are Uncles and Aunties in India) who were our neighbours. Now this Aunty was a fantastic cook and I remember her lime pickle which looked and tasted like this.
I used a quarter of Simran’s recipe and kept to it more or less. I didn’t make any changes worth mentioning. This pickle takes some time, about 2 weeks or so, to reach “maturity” compared to the others. The salt, spices and the sun have to work their magic till the limes soften to an almost mushy consistency.
One more interestingly spiced sweet and sour pickle where the “heat” comes from the black pepper this time, and not the ususal chillies or red chilli powder. This is a north Indian pickle so you’ve got to try it with parathas, though you might be forgiven for just dipping you finger into the jar for a taste!
I’m now the very happy owner of a fresh batch of a variety of pickles. My pickling stint is far from done as I still have some more Mango pickles and a carrot pickle to make, and who knows, I might just discover some more pickles I would be tempted to make.
And just in case you are looking for something other than the routine chappathis and parathas to serve with the pickles, I suggest trying these very flaky and absolutely delicious besan parathas which Anita made for Manisha and family when they went visiting her recently. Manisha has posted them with detailed pictures and a write-up on how to make them.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank Asha who organised this auction to raise money for the Japanese Red Cross so they may continue the good work they have been doing tirelessly. I’m happy to have been a part of the small group of bloggers along with Liren, Simone, Trissa and Vanille who were part of this effort.
Our special thanks to all those who did bid against the various items on auction, and helped us raise USD 925 for the Japanese Red Cross. You can see the details below. The winners of the items will be receiving e-mails from Asha with further details.
Item Winner Amount
Breakfast Basket (Asha) Arun Manickavasagam $100
PB & J Hamper (Asha) Nancy Eatough $200
Afternoon Tea Basket (Liren) Nancy Eatough $150
Dutch Basket (Simone) Sarah Samuel $100
Eggless Decorated Cookies (Aparna) Sarah Samuel $25
Margaret Fulton Favorite (Trissa) Maria Pearcy $45
Stafanie Alexander Gift Set (Trissa) Brendan Doggett $275
Kiwi Basket (Vanille) Robin Cammarota $30
Total $ 925