Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Tickle it with some… pickle!

Reading Time: 3 minutesAdd some oomph to your veggies and introduce them to achari spices 

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Pickles are, perhaps, the most revered condiment in Indian cuisine. An age-old technique which began as a means to preserve excess produce, today pickles are a very important part of Indian food.

There is a ginormous variety of pickles, or achars as we like to call them, in Indian cuisine today, and every household seems to have a favourite one too. Unlike other regions of the world, Indian pickles are slightly different in that a large variety of spices are used to maximise the flavour. All kinds of ingredients are used to prepare the pickles – vegetables, fruits, seafood, meat, the list is endless.

This recipe is not that of a traditional pickle, but uses the delicious spicy, tangy, chatpata (for lack of a better word!) masala incorporated in the pickle. Using the pickle masala as a base for the dish is a genius idea, as the flavours incorporated are not just tasty but extremely well-balanced as well. Saves a whole lot of time; it is as if you are using a pre-packaged masala where you throw all the ingredients into a pan and the dish is done.

You can use any type of pickle masala for this dish. If you like the spicy, tangy ones, use the masala from a North Indian style mixed vegetable pickle. Or just open your favourite jar of pickle, no matter what type and spoon a bit of the masala from it.

A highly versatile preparation, you can use this recipe for a variety of other vegetables like potatoes, taro (arbi), sweet potato, paneer or even prepare a mixed vegetable dish. And again, this recipe does not have to be restricted to just vegetables; this achari recipe works beautifully with meats especially chicken.

Okra or bhindi is especially recommended for this dish because of its health and nutritional goodness. With high fibre content, okra also has high levels of folate, vitamin C and antioxidants. It is also a great source of calcium and potassium.

Most Indians tend to pick up frozen bhindi at the supermarkets but the baby okra available in most farmers’ markets in Australia are delicious and fresh, lending additional flavour to your dish.

With Diwali fast approaching, this bhindi preparation is perfect to add to your thali. An out-of-the-box recipe, yet one that incorporates the familiar Indian flavours, this dish can turn out to be a conversation starter at your Diwali parties.

Mustard oil lends a nutty flavour to the dish while the other spices help to reinforce the flavours from the pickle masala. A generous squeeze of lemon juice completes the dish.

The medley of aromatics and spices and the nuttiness of the mustard oil, coat the shallow fried okra beautifully. A winner of a dish!

Achari Bhindi

500 gms baby okra (bhindi)

3 tbsp mustard oil

1 ripe red tomato, chopped

2 green chilli, slit

½ tsp mustard seeds

¼ tsp fenugreek seeds

¼ tsp cumin seeds

½ tsp fennel seeds

¼ tsp nigella seeds (kalonji)

1 ½ tbsp pickle masala (or suit to taste)

½ tsp turmeric powder

Salt to season

1 tsp lemon juice

Cut off the top ends of okra, wash and pat dry. (Since I used baby okra, I chose to leave them whole).

Heat mustard oil in a pan, crackle the mustard seeds and then add fenugreek, cumin, fennel and nigella seeds.

Add the chopped tomatoes and green chillies.

Add the turmeric powder, okra and season with salt. Mix well.

Cook on low heat and turn only occasionally so that the okra remains dry and not gooey and slimy.

When almost done, add the pickle masala and mix through.

Remove from heat and add lemon juice.

Serve hot.

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