GEMS and sourpusses, injineers and monkeys

“What a GEM of a person”!! Compliment, you’d think, right? Wrong! GEM is an acronym for Ginger Eating Monkey – a loose translation from the Tamil: “Inji kadicha korangu”! Colourful way to describe a sourpuss with a permanent sneer. English similes pale in comparison. I dare not take on a Wodehouse (it would be sacrilegious to even think of paraphrasing anything writtten by the God of humour) but I think Mr Wodehouse would definitely have loved to describe an Aunt Agatha thus! 
Aside : Imagine the first man – or woman – let’s not get gender-biased here or actually first baby or LGBT member or any other grouping or of any of the above groups (as you can see i do NOT want to step on any toes here) who saw a monkey biting a piece of ginger, then saw their Aunt Agatha and drew a comparison between the two – again with no offence to any grouping, aunts included!
My mom makes the best ‘upma’ in the world today but there was a time when she was so busy with her medical calling and running a home that shortcuts were the order of the day – with the result that the upma would result in a number of GEMs around the table – literally – as we bit into many lumps of ginger of all shapes and sizes!
Anand, my brother, went through a phase where he hated mustard in the seasoning (popu) of anything and particularly upma so you can imagine his agony and subsequent hatred of upma on which many hours had to be spent picking out not just the various sizes and shapes of ginger but also the little black mustard seeds!!
No wonder we grew up preferring omelettes and paranthas – after all, you couldn’t put ginger into omelettes! Or so we thought – until i actually was served an omelette with ginger and curry leaves and turmeric and… ah, well, that’s another horror story I’ll save for a scary evening!
Ginger/inji/allam is definitely an acquired taste and one that I acquired rather late in life. Today, though, no one could be a bigger fan of “allam pachadi” (ginger pickle) than said erstwhile GEM – self!
Here’s my mom’s recipe for allam pachadi.
Allam pachadi (ginger pickle)
Ginger – peeled and cut into thin slices – 2 cups
Red chilies – 1/2 cup + 3 extra
Asafoetida – a pinky nail sized (gorantha in Telugu) lump
Jeera (cumin seeds) – 1/4 cup
Methi (fenugreek seeds) – 1/2 tsp
Tamarind – 1 lime-sized lump – wash
Jaggery – 1.5 lime-sized lumps
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Sesame oil – 4 tbsp
Salt – 1.5 tsp
Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a pan and add the asafoetida, red chilies and methi seeds. Fry for a minute – till you get an aroma and start coughing ;). Add the jeera and stir for a minute. Add the ginger and fry for about 5 minutes – stirring constantly. The ginger will change colour slightly to golden brown and turn crisp. Switch off. Cool and grind along with tamarind, and salt to a slightly rough paste.Can add a few tbsp of water at this stage. Heat the rest of the oil, add the mustard seeds. Wait till they splutter and then add the 3 red chilies. In a few seconds, add the ginger paste and the jaggery. On a medium fire, cook till the ginger stops smelling raw, stirring constantly. The consistency of the chutney should be like idli pindi/maavu – dropping. It thickens a bit when cooled.
Cool completely and bottle in a sterile jar. Lasts in the frig for a couple of months at least. Serve with idli or pesarattu or dibba rotte (see post dated 16/09/2014). Bet it wouldn’t make you look like a GEM even if you are an inji-neer!