I’m running my first ever pop-up dinner next week (eek!) and thus spent last weekend playing the part of the diligent (half-)Indian (non-)housewife, slaving away over pickles and garam masala as step one of Operation Make Lots of Money for Nepal.
When I was growing up I used to get really annoyed with my dad for making his gross pickles, as I saw them back then. You’d open a curtain or a cupboard and there’d be an old jar or large former-chapati container that had been stained yellow from the haldi (turmeric) and the spicy pickle smell engulfing all my clothes – making me a not-so-popular teenager. And if he even tried to get me to eat the stuff I would usually hide it in my napkin and flush it down the toilet later – a trick that did me and my sister wonders throughout childhood. Not because my dad’s food was bad – it the complete opposite – but because there was just so much of it. And every last scrap had to be eaten. Pickle and all.
But as with an appreciation of olives, a genuine taste for wine, and an ability to get at least two questions correct in The Guardian crossword, good things come to those who age. And thus my pickling adventure began.
I decided to try two different pickles: nimboo achaar – lemon pickle, which is common in Nepal, and very similar to the lime pickle popular in India, and good old hari mirchi achaar – green chilli pickle. EDIT: post-event – this pickle was perhaps the most loved part of the meal! It is mouth-wateringly delicious. Do try! I pickled mine on a windowsill for 2 weeks and it was a perfect pickle. #projectpickle is my next venture me thinks…
I don’t think I’ve ever cut as many lemons and chillies in my life – the latter was exceptionally tedious. I made epic portions as I am cooking for 35 people and wanted to have plenty spare, so in the recipe I’ve quartered what I did which should give you a good jar or two full, but do feel free to multiply up.
lemon pickle (nimboo achaar)
- 4 lemons
- 1/4 cup salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes (ground) or cayenne pepper (I used 1/2 chilli flakes and 1/2 Schezuan peppercorns ground down together)
- 2.5 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (ideally black)
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
Ensure you have a large clean, dry jar or a couple of smaller jars. I use old olive, jam or pesto jars, as well as larger storage jars which you can pick up in Poundstretchers for £2.
Add the sugar, salt and ground chilli/cayenne.
Heat the oil and cook the mustard and fenugreek seeds until the fenugreek seeds go a lovely dark red/brown colour. Take off the heat, add the turmeric and stir.
Add the oil and seeds to the lemons and mix until all are coated in spicy goodness.