Friday, June 20, 2008


My maternal uncle (Mama) was an agricultural officer, and he specialized in growing sugar cane. He lived in cool serene villages surrounded by trees and green fields. He had a ready stock of fresh green vegetables and fruits, and other farm produce at home. We visited him quite often and he took us round to show the age old temples and forts, and the forests and river sides around his place.

His wife (Mami) was a very enthusiastic hostess. She treated us with all the ethnic dishes which she prepared with great zest. She was a specialist in pickles, jams, chutneys, vattals (salted and sun dried vegetables used in various preparations), and vadams (these are prepared with lentils, puffed rice, raw rice, beaten rice or sago, and sun dried and stored during summer. This could be fried and used as side dish or as a snack just like chips.)Mama took us on awesome walks through the gentle stream which wound through at the bottom of our lane and Mami fried hot bajjis and sent them to us with a boy with a delicious and pudina (mint) chutney to go with it.The eroding sand grains tickling our feet under the soothing cool water, and the melting of the hot bajjis in our avaricious mouths was a unique experience which can not be explained in words.I can never forget the speed with which Mami pickled the freshly picked mangoes though her hands were full with all the cooking and packing the picnic lunch for our trips with Mama. Her mantra for a good pickle was “pick fresh, cook fresh and eat late.” Pickles do taste good as they age, as all the spices and seasoning take time to settle down in harmony.

1. Baby mangoes – 500 gms
2. Salt – 200 gms
3. Red chilly powder – 50 gms
4. Turmeric powder – 2 tbsps
5. Castor oil or olive oil or gingili oil – 4 tbsps
6. Mustard seeds – 1 tbsp
7. Fenugreek seeds -1 tbsp
1. Wash and dry the mangoes thoroughly.
2. Mix oil and turmeric powder into a paste and rub over all the mangoes.
3. Lay a fistful of mangoes in a clean and dry jar.
4. Spread little salt on the mangoes.
5. Add another fistful of mangoes
6. Again cover it with salt, and repeat the procedure till all the mangoes and salt are over.
7. Cover the jar and allow it to stand for 2 or 3 days.
8. On the third day you will find the shrunk mangoes floating in a large volume of brine.
9. Stir well and drain excess water.
10. Add red chilly powder.
11. Powder the mustard and fenugreek seeds raw, and add it to the pickle.
12. Stir well and enjoy with curd rice.

HOG PLUM PICKLE (Amtakai) can also be prepared similarly.

Here is Mami’s recipe for a mouth watering pickle prepared with the fresh juicy yellow lime, each the size of a badminton ball- which hung on the tree in her back yard.
1. Lime - 12
2. Salt – 250 gms
3. Red chilly powder – 250 gms
4. Turmeric powder -1 tbsp
5. Sesame oil - 2 tea cups
6. Mustard – 1 tsp
7. Asafoetida – a small piece
8. Fenugreek seeds – 2 tsps
1. Wash and wipe lime thoroughly. Cut each into 8 or 16 pieces.
2. Lay the pieces and salt alternately in layers in a clean dry jar. Cover and let the lime soak and soften in the salt for about 4 or 5 days.
3. Add chilly powder and turmeric powder, and do not stir yet.
4. Heat oil in a pan.
5. Fry the asafoetida .
6. Add the mustard seeds into the hot oil and allow it to splutter.
7. Pour the seasoning and the oil over the powders.
8. Dry roast fenugreek seeds until dark in colour.
9. Powder fried asafoetida and roasted fenugreek seeds and add to the pickle.
10. Stir well and store after it is thoroughly cooled.

When the pickle settles a thin film of oil stands on the top protecting it from molds. Enjoy with curd rice, chapattis, dosas, bread or any other dish of your choice.

Follow the same directions as for lime pickle for 6 mangoes. Care should be taken to dry excess mango juice after cutting. Use a tissue to blot away the juice or allow it to dry in air before pickling.

1. Firm raw mangoes - 6
2. Chilly powder -250 gms
3. Salt – 250 gms
4. Turmeric powder – 50 gms
5. Mustard seeds -100 gms
6. Fenugreek seeds -100 gms
7. Chick peas (kadalai) - 100 gms
8. Sesame oil – 2 tea cups or more

Cutting raw mangoes for Avakkai is an art. With the help of a sickle the mango is cut along with the tough seed so that each piece holds on to a small piece of the seed .This type of cutting needs a lot of tact and precision. If this is not possible, cut the mangoes into large pieces excluding the seed.
1. Wash and dry the mangoes before cutting.
2. Sponge off the excess juice and let the mango pieces to dry.
4. Powder mustard seeds and keep it aside.
5. Take a bowl with a wide mouth and spread the mango pieces in it.
6. Add the chilly powder, salt, turmeric powder, mustard powder, whole raw fenugreek seeds and the chick peas.
7. Add oil and blend all Ingredients thoroughly with a wooden spatula.
8. If the pickle is still dry, add more oil and blend for a pickle consistency.
9. Store in a clean dry jar.
10. Allow the chick peas and the fenugreek seeds to soak and swell in the spice for a week.
11. Keep stirring the pickle with a dry spoon every day.

Enjoy the hot and pungent spicy pickle with curd rice. It can even be relished with steaming hot rice.

1. Gooseberries – 500 gms
2. Sesame (also called til) oil – 2 tbsps
3. Mustard seeds -1 tsp
4. Asafoetida powder – ¼ tsp
5. Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
6. Salt - 2 tbsps
7. Chilly powder -2 tbsps
1. Wash and dry gooseberries thoroughly .With a sharp knife, make slits in the berries taking care not to cut them to pieces.
2 . Heat oil in a pan and add asafoetida and mustard seeds.
3. After the mustard splutters add the prepared gooseberries and mix in half the salt and cover with lid.
4. Cook over low flame for 2 minutes till the berries are done.
5 . Remove lid and add the remaining salt, chilly powder and turmeric powder and cook for 2 more minutes.
6. Remove from fire and allow it to cool.
7. Add one cup of whipped curd and blend well.
8 . Store in a clean dry jar.
The pickle with spicy curd gravy tastes excellent with plain hot rice. If you like the pungent aroma of raw mustard and fenugreek powder add the powder and blend just before removing from the stove.

1. Grated raw mango – 1 cup
2. Sugar – ½ cup
3. Salt – ¼ tsp
4. Chilly powder – ¼ tsp
5. Turmeric powder – 1 pinch
6. Cooking oil – 1 tsp
1. Heat oil in a pan and add the grated mangoes and salt.
2. Stir in the red chilly powder and turmeric powder .
3. Cover with a lid and cook for 2 minutes in low flame.
4. Remove cover and add sugar and stir.
5. Stir vigorously till the sugar melts completely in the mango juice.
6. Now cook in high flame till it boils once and switch off the flame.
7. The pickle will have the consistency of a jam
Enjoy it with bread, dosas or chapaties and poories.

1. Lime – 6
2. Salt - 10 tbsp
3. Green chillies – 10
4. Fresh ginger – 1 finger length
5. Turmeric powder -1/4 tsp
6. Mustard seeds -1/2 tsp
7. Asafoetida powder – ¼ tsp
8. Sesame oil – 2 tbsps
1. Wash and dry lime and cut them to pieces.
2. Wash and dry green chilies and slit them length wise.
3. Wash and dry ginger, remove the skin and cut it into thin slivers.
4. Combine all these with salt.
5. Heap the turmeric powder on the pickle .
6. Heat oil and season with mustard seeds and asafoetida powder.
7. Pour this seasoning on the heaped turmeric powder.
8. Shake all the ingredients together and store in a clean dry bottle.
This pickle is ready to use after 4 or 5 days.