Monday, 7 May 2012

In a Pickle

I have long been fascinated by pickles. As a child, if my mother made the mistake of buying pickle, I would tiptoe into the kitchen every now and then and snack on whole spoonfuls of the stuff. It's a mercy that my intestines haven't corroded into nothingness yet with all of that heat, salt and oil. My mother wisened up of course, and pickle become something of a contraband commodity in our household. Pickles reappeared in our home only on the rare occasion that some thoughtful relative from "the motherland" dropped off a bottle. I would then spend the next few days tiptoeing in and out of the kitchen. In my time, I have overseen the end of many a young pickle's life.

My mother's only sister was, and still is, a kitchen diva. She churned out everything from homemade jams to squashes, and pickles of course. I still remember her homemade kadumanga pickle, which looks like this. (Apparently the word kadumanga comes from kadugu (mustard) and manga (mango), translating into mustard-mango. I am not sure I agree with the christening of that pickle - the recipe does call for the use of mustard seeds, but it is not the most prominent flavour in the finished product.) She would carefully wrap bottles of the stuff in plenty of newspaper, tie a rubber band around the contraption to be doubly careful and pack it off with us when we returned from visits to her home.

We Malayalis are such meat lovers that it wasn't long into the history of Kerala before someone came up with the idea of pickling meat. And fish. You'll find everything from chicken pickle to fish pickle to prawn pickle in Kerala. All delicious, without exception. All dangerously addictive. Like my ancestors, and their ancestors before them, given a choice, I tend to go with meat and fish over food of the green leafy variety. So as far as I'm concerned, meat/fish pickle = pickle heaven.

Now, older and (wiser?), a vague sense of the significance of good health compels me to maintain a safe distance from pickles. Life is healthier. But happier? I wonder about that one at a deep philosophical level. Let me spare you my thoughts on that for now.

Coming back to the central theme, my love of pickles prompts me to cook up dishes that are a little sour and a little spicy. They tend not to be as hardcore as your average pickle, but close enough to satisfy stubborn pickle cravings. Here's one that I concocted some time ago using brinjals, a vegetable that I am steadily developing a fondness for. The pictures have been languishing on my desktop for several weeks now, so it feels good to finally upload one of them (even though slightly unfortunate looking).

Brinjal dish-that-has-not-yet-been-christened
(My own recipe)

1 large brinjal (chopped into bite size pieces)
1 tsp methi seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp hing
1/2 red onion (paste)
6-7 cloves garlic (ground)
1 inch piece ginger (ground)
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp kashmiri red chilli powder
1 tbsp peri peri sauce
2 medium tomatoes (pureed)

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a nonstick pan. When hot, add the mustard seeds. When they pop, reduce the heat, add the methi seeds, hing, ginger, garlic and onion paste and fry till the oil separates. Now add the spice powders. Mix and add the pureed tomatoes and the peri peri sauce. Cook for a few minutes till the mixture dries up a little and finally add the chopped brinjal. Cover and cook till done. Serve with rotis. Only if you want to bridge the national north-south divide at a symbolic level must you pair with rice (and then, only at your own risk). 

1 comment:

  1. This sounds lovely! Peri peri sauce - slick