One of my earliest memories of eating pickle is from way back when I was in primary school. Because we lived in a company township that was just coming up, one had to travel quite a bit to get to a good school. Several children from the township were enrolled in a school that was about an hour away. Even the thought of traveling that distance to and fro every day sends shivers down my spine now. But back then, going to school was just an excuse to get on to a bus that was twice as big as was required, and to carry two snack boxes—one for lunch break in school, and one for the ride home. One of my bus mates would carry one standard dabba or tiffin box, as it was called—Punjabi style parathas with mango pickle. I would often barter my mum’s painstakingly made version of bento for her lovely pickle. I found the Punjabi style pickle more appetizing than the fiery red Maharashtrian variety. Now, of course, I’ll eat any kind with as much delight.

So, when I read this, in my current gran/aunt-drying-stuff-on-terrace mode, images of that childhood surfaced immediately, and a pickle had to be made. This morning, I sprinted to the local market and bought these lovely red chilies, and got to work straightaway. Although lunch time was too premature to re-open the jar of the pickle, I yielded to temptation, and trust me; I did not regret it even once.

I used this recipe pretty much, but on a much smaller, experimental scale; and with a few compromises where I did not have certain ingredients. For instance, I didn’t have mustard oil or nigella seeds, and I only had champagne-style vinegar. Also, I think I threw in an extra bit of fennel seeds, because that’s the star of this pickle. For me. I’m reproducing the recipe here with those changes.

Ingredients:

  • 10 red chilies
  • 1tbsp. fennel seeds
  • 3/f tbsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tbsp. cumin seeds
  • ¾ tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • ¼ tsp. asafetida
  • 1 tbsp. + ¼ cup of mustard oil (I used vegetable oil)
  • 2 tsp. salt (I used coarse sea salt)
  • 1 ½ tsp. turmeric powder
  • ½ tbsp. vinegar (I used champagne-style)

Method:

  1. Wash and dry the chilies on a kitchen towel until completely dry.
  2. Slit and deseed the chilies.
  3. Meanwhile, place all the other ingredients (except the oil and vinegar) into a coffee grinder and grind to a coarse powder.
  4. Remove into a small mixing bowl, and add the tablespoon of oil and the vinegar.
  5. Mix using your hands, pausing to inhale the aroma that’s stuck to your fingers.
  6. Stuff the chilies with this spice rub of sorts and place them quit tightly together in a dry, sterile jar.
  7. Top with the remaining spice mix and the ¼ cup of oil.
  8. Place in a sunny spot on your kitchen window and stare at it for several hours before you open the jar and pop a half-pickled chili onto your lunch plate.
  9. Eat with fond memories.