With new hopes, aspirations and resolutions we are welcoming 2015 on a spicy note. Well, little unconventional way to welcome the new year, but the season is waning, and so the winter fresh vegetables and before the season last, I want you to make this spicy lip smacking Indian mix vegetable pickle.
Pickles do not hold a significant place in Bengali cuisine, but having spent most of my formative years in the jungles of Madhya Pradesh / Chattisgarh (in the news for all the wrong reasons now), pickles were staples in my home. In those days, access to ready-made foods were perhaps privilege to the urbanites, nor that there were many brands were popular, so in my home summers were spent mostly in pickle making sessions.
Rainy seasons lasts for three full months without the sunlight even, so great care was taken to ensure the stability of the pickled foods. Once the Autumn brings lots of sunshine, it was the time to shower some sunshine on the pickled jars too and for me the most boring part was to chase the sun with the pickle jars as it shifts slowly from the horizon.
Indian pickles are known for spicy, rich and oil based but highly fragrant, you can experience an almost explosion of flavours as you sniff the bottle, even before tasting it. The condiment that adds punch to the meals of plain rice and dal and the one that makes rotis and paratha taste better was almost indispensable in our home.
From Rajasthani mirchi ka achhar (chilli pickle) to Andhra hot and spicy avakkai (mango pickle) to UP’s unripe jackfruit pickle, there were never a dull and spiceless moment in Summer months, most of the recipes my mother had learned from the afternoon chit-chat sessions with our neighbours.
So every season, we have plenty of things to pickle, not to mention the half-dozen jars of lime and mango pickle as those trees were always fruit laden in our home. That leaves us plenty of jars to gift to our relatives and neighbours who don’t indulge themselves in this heavenly pickling sessions.
When it comes to pickles, every indian homes has their own treasured and cherished recipes that they take pride in it but most common practices were to sun dry the vegetables or fruits and then pickle them in oil.
Through out India, the tropical sun shines for most part of the year, so sun drying wont be a problem, but if you are living in apartments where your shaded balconies get their measured amount os sunshine for limited time of the day, other methods have evolved to solve the crisis, like blanching the vegetables or partially cooked it.
After all who would not want to make their own jars of pickled vegetables, free from chemicals, additives, preservatives, you can also control the amount of sodium in it and ensuring the good quality of oil too.
Indian pickles are primarily made with two types of oil, one is mustard oil, the cold pressed one or extra virgin (or better known as kacchi ghani) and other is sesame oil. These two types of oil are found to last longer and they enhance the flavour a notch higher on aromatic index.
Most of the pickles in our homes were always made with mustard oil and keeping the tradition alive, I have used mustard oil here for this recipe. For every pickle recipes, I follow these simple steps. Rub salt and turmeric over the veggies or mangoes or limes. After a day, drain the water (I do not use the water as it is too salty), sun dry them for good 4 – 6 hours ( that takes almost two to three days for me), roast the spices and then add them in hot or cold mustard oil, prepare the jar and packed them, let them mature for a month, put the jar in sunshine for at least one month before digging in it.
This Indian mix vegetable pickle is deliciously good, lip-smacking and as you just open the jar, you will be hit with super explosion of flavours. At times I think I went overboard with the spices, but then who is complaining anyway. You can skip some of the spices if you want but do not skip mustard, fenugreek and fennel. They are just indispensable in Indian pickles.
- Cauliflower (cut into small size florets) : 1 cup
- Carrots (cut into one inch long strips) : ½ cup
- Beet roots (cubed) : ¼ cup
- Turnips (cubed) : ¼ cup
- Green peas (fresh) : ¼ cup
- Radish (cut into one inch long strips) : ¼ cup
- Green chillies (cut into one inch long) : 3-4
- Lime (cut into small wedges) : 2
- Ginger (fresh / new slightly pinkish in color and cut into matchsticks): ¼ cup
- Garlic (one head that will yield approx 20 cloves)
- Onion (medium size, roughly cut into slices): one
- Turmeric powder : 2 tbsp
- Fenugreek (whole / methidana) : 1 tbsp
- Black mustard seeds : 1 tbsp
- Methi ke chawal (coarsely ground methi / optional) : 1 tsp
- Sarson / rai ke chawal (coarsely ground mustard) : 1 tsp
- Whole red chillies : 5-6
- Fennel seeds : 1 tbsp
- Cumin seeds : 1 tbsp
- Coriander seeds : 1 tbsp
- Whole garam masla : two -three cloves, two-three cardamom, two-three black peppers and a stick cinnamon
- Kalonji / nigella seeds : 1 tbsp
- Salt : ½ cup + as required
- Mustard oil : 1 cup + as required
- White vinegar : ½ cup
- Wash and cut all the vegetables (except onion) in desired size as mentioned. If you want you can keep the size of veggies bigger, provided you have large jars to store the pickles.
- Dry the vegetables with kitchen towels or leave it for half a day, spread out in big plate to dry out naturally.
- In a big bowl, add all the vegetables (except onion), salt and turmeric. Mix it very well so that every inch of veggies must be evenly coated with salt and turmeric.
- Leave it overnight, uncovered in a safe place free of flies and other insects.
- Next day, drain the salted water. In a separate dry and clean plate, place all the veggies and keep it in the hot sun for atleast four to six hours.
- If your balcony does not get much sunshine like me. then it will take some two to three days to get the required amount of sunshine.
- This step is important as it will ensure the storing quality of pickles. It will not attract fungal growth.
- On the day of pickling, sterilise the pickle jar by boiling it in water for 10 minutes. I prefer use of glass jars. Or else keep the jar (should be microwave safe) in microwave for 40 seconds.
- Do not touch the rim or inside of the jar.
- Dry roast the red chillies, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and fennel seeds all separately to ensure even roasting.
- Grind them in a mixer till you get a fine blend.
- Heat 1 tbsp of mustard oil, add the black mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, klaonji or nigella seeds and let it splutter. Then add the onions, do not fry then, lightly saute them till the onions become translucent.
- Switch off the heat and to this add further the ground spice mix (of red chilli-cumin-fennel-corainder), methi and rai ke chawal. Let it stand for two -three minutes.
- Separately heat the remaining mustard oil and add this to the oil-onion-spice mix.
- Take a large dry and clean bowl (ensure there is no moisture in it), put all the sun-dried vegetables in it, add the whole garam masla and then add the warm oil and spice mix.
- With the help of clean and dry spoon, mix all the vegetables well with spices and oil.
- Stir in the vinegar.
- Once it is cooled enough, store the pickle in sterilised jar.
- The pickle should be immersed in oil, if not then heat some more oil, cool it and then pour directly in the jar.
- Oil acts as a barrier between pickles and air. It inhibits the fungal growth.
- Let it sit for one month or so to let the flavour mature.
- For one month, put the pickle jar in the hot sun.
- This pickle will last for months (easily six months) if stored in dry and cool place. This pickle does not need refrigeration.
The pickle oil can be used for regular Indian recipes.
You can skip the garam masala from the recipe and methi and rai ke chawal is optional too but they add true flavours in it.
To make rai or methi ke chawal at home, lightly roast the methidana and mustard seeds (use black or brown one for the pickle) and then coarsely ground them in mixer or in mortar pestle.
If sundrying is not possible then consider microwaving the veggies for two to three minutes. It will suck up all the moisture from it.
Take very good care to sterilise the pickle jars and their lids.
Have a prosperous 2015