Tuesday, 10 September 2013

People who can't be pickled

A few weeks ago, I bought a bag of redcurrants; so sour they make you wink. They looked pretty and well-behaved, sparkling quietly from their market stall. And then they kicked like a mule right at that soft spot where my jaw met my ears. I brought them home simply because they looked beautiful. And because sometimes, I buy things I don't know what to do with.






On the walk back home, I thought up a use for them. A redcurrant achaar. A very Indian pickle, with a very un-Indian berry. Back home, I handed the brown paper bag to Ma. And together we set out to fill a jar with pickle-ish things.

Tomorrow, Ma and Baba fly back to India. This time will be especially hard for Chotto-ma. For three months, she has been stuck to her Mamma like the flap of a well-licked envelope. She and Mamma have their own little world, their own secrets,  furtive giggles, games only they understand and the most long-winded conversations you can imagine.

Chotto-ma: Mamma, are you going to cry when you're back in India because I'm not there?
Ma: Yes, shona.
Chotto-ma: Will you cry a lot, a lot?
Ma: Yes, shona.
Chotto-ma: Ok then, could you cry enough to make a puddle? I'll go and splash in it.

Her relationship with her Dada is different - she's my father's little helper; bringing him his shoes, taking off his knee-cap after his morning-walk, giving him his medicine after breakfast and sitting next to him on the bed telling him one of her long-winded stories. Of Good People and Not Good People and volcanoes and fantastic creatures. 

What will she do without their ready ears? And ready arms. What will she do without the people who can't be pickled?



Redcurrant Achaar (redcurrants pickled in Indian spices)

This is one of the best things I've bottled in a while. The pickle can be dolloped on anything - a lentil soup, a yogurt dip, or flatbreads. I've even used the pickled oil as a salad dressing. So good.





Ingredients

300 gm redcurrants
100 gm green chillies, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
10 large cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1/2 tsp turmeric
Sunflower oil
Mustard oil
Sea salt

A mix of whole spices (also called Panch Phoran, available ready-made in any Indian or Middle-Eastern store)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp aniseed
1 tsp black cumin (black jeera)



Roast the whole spices on a dry pan, stirring constantly, till they give off a lovely, roasty smell.
Pound them coarsely using a mortar and pestle.
Put the redcurrants, green chillies, garlic, turmeric, salt and roasted spice mix in a jar. Cover half with sunflower oil, and the rest in mustard oil. The oil should cover all the ingredients.
Seal the jar, and let it sun itself on the window sill for 3 or 4 days.








11 comments:

  1. Such beautiful thoughts. Reminded me well, why I read your blog. Thanks for writing these lovely words

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    1. Anita - a big hug for such kind words! :)
      I'm always glad to have you here, reading what I write.

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  2. Superb! Love the recipe. Now where does one find red currants in India?? :)

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    1. Isn't it terrible to have a recipe and not the ingredients? I'm afraid you might be out of luck getting red currants in India :(

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  3. Your way with words is so searingly evocative. I'm unusually sensitive to sour/ bitter tastes and can't eat many sour/ bitter foods others love. Your phrase that "they kicked like a mule right at that soft spot where my jaw met my ears" just expressed it SO perfectly. As did the idea of winking when something is sour / bitter!

    And it's always lovely to read of chotto-ma's little ramblings.

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  4. Thanks Kavey, for writing in such a beautiful note.
    You know, I'm not too bad with bitter - quite like karela. But sour does me in, especially berries. Though I could have imli without a wink. It's what you grow up with, I think.

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  5. Love the beautiful Achar. Hope the goodbyes went as well as can be expected :/

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    1. As well as could be expected, yes :)

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  6. That pickle is very original! I bet it tastes amazing.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  7. What a lovely relationship between your parents and your daughter. You have me thinking of my maternal grandfather. We were quite close.

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