As children, we tended to go for the sweets. As adults, unfortunately for our waistlines, we still do!! The only pickles I would deign to eat were the sweet ones – bellam aavakai (jaggery aavakai) and that too, if nothing else was available! I remember one conversation with a cousin at the end of which we decided that the best aavakais were the least chilli-ed ones! While too much chilli is still a problem – yes I am an authentic Andhra, at least half of me is! Today, aavakai with hot rice and ghee makes my heart sing for the day!
However much of a sweet tooth I may have, the genes come out in the making of the pickles. Store-bought? Sniff – is that a pickle? I have a friend who insists that if you can make pickles successfully, you’ve “arrived” as a chef! She says that it takes guts to make these – methinks it requires common sense and an ability to terrorise people! What’s that? Common sense basically in the cleanliness that pickles demand – a high level of hygiene, bathing, tying up hair so gross stray dandruff doesn’t fall in to spoil it, no colds and coughs so evil germs don’t breed in the pickle jar and so on…
Why terror? Coz it’s fun to scare people with “don’t breathe when i’m opening the jaadi (jar)” – this always results in an argument with my extended Tamil side of the family – (challenge to the Tambram-ism? ) Whatever – it has everyone jumping through hoops and THAT is a lot of fun – MWAAHHAAAHAAA says the Telugu Mugambo!!!
Back to basics – it’s really NOT that difficult to make pickles – here’s one you can make in ten minutes flat and enjoy for the month – gooseberry (usirikayi) pickle.
First bathe and then tie up your hair. Check for stray coughs and colds – if you DO have one, postpone the pickle making! Clean jar – wash and sun-dry or microwave till dry.
Gooseberry (amla) pickle
Gooseberries – about 18-20
Red chili powder – 3 tbsp
Mustard powder – 2 tbsp
Salt – 1.5 tbsp
Turmeric – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Sesame oil – 4 tbsp
Roasted methi seed (fenugreek) powder – 1tsp
Wash and dry the gooseberries. Prick all over with a fork. Set aside. In a pan, heat 2 tbsp of oil and add the mustard seeds. When they crackle, add 2 tbsp of chili powder and as it foams up, immediately add the gooseberries. Sprinkle a little water over the gooseberries. Cover and cook on a low flame for 4-5 minutes. Switch off, remove lid and cool. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Bottle and shake occasionally for 3 days. The gooseberries are ready!