Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Cilantro and red chilies pickle - Kothimeera, pandu mirapa paCHAdi

Chilies in many forms, from colorful fresh ones to dried ones to various kinds of chili powders have become an integral part of Indian cooking (though these guys are not native to the subcontinent.)

Newbies to Indian grocery stores often are awed at dedicated aisle for pickles. A peek into any South Indian pantry would reveal jars of various pickles that look inviting. The aroma of well made pickle transports me back to my grand parents' village, the rainy days and to the perfectly mixed piping hot steamed rice with ghee and the prized pickle. It reminds of the soil that produced the ingredients, the hands of my mom and grandma skillfully convert the raw materials into heavenly concoction.

Pickle making in Indian families is a knowledge that is passed from older generation women to younger generations. It was a sight of pleasure to see all the womenfolk in the family (and sometimes in the neighborhood) come together to churn up jars and jars of delicious pickles. This pickle, a modern one, I have learned from my mother.

Ripe red chilies (long variety) are hard to find in US super markets. I got lucky on one of these days and spotted them in a grocery store. How fitting, just when JFI ingredient is chilies! JFI was started by Indiraji of Mahanandi and is hosted by Nandita of Saffron Trail

Much of the preparation in this recipe is actually waiting. So, patience and a slow day are key ingredients. :-)

What you need to make this recipe

9-10 long fresh red chilies ( 2 cups when cut into half inch pieces)
3-5 large bunches of cilantro
large lemon sized tamarind
2 tbsp peanut or sesame oil
Salt to taste

For popu/tadka or seasoning or talimpu

5 tbsp peanut or sesame oil
1 tbsp chana dal
1 tbsp urad dal
1 tsp mustard seeds
3 dry red chilies, snipped into half inch pieces
fistful of fresh curry leaves
4 cloves garlic, pounded lightly

Prep Work:
-Wash and take stems off red chilies. Wipe them with kitchen towel and let them dry until no moisture can be felt on skins.
-Pick any yellow or rotten leaves out of cilantro bunches. Wash gently and spread them on a kitchen towel in thin layer. Let then dry. No moisture should be there in the leaves.
-Wash tamarind and cook in 1/2 cup of water until it turns soft. Allow it to cool, and squeeze the pulp. Keep it aside.

Note: It is very important to use dry hands and utensils while making a pickle. Otherwise, the pickle would not preserve well.
  • Cut the red chilies into pieces. Heat 2tbsp of oil in a pan. Add the pieces to heated oil, saute until the chilies become soft. Remove from pan, keep aside.
  • Add Cilantro to the same oil, saute until cilntro is wilted. If the quantity is more, do not add at once. Saute in batches. Take cilantro out, spread in a plate evenly in a thin layer.
  • Let both red chilies and cilantro cool completely.

  • Blend red chilies, cilnatro, tamarind pulp and salt together to form a thick paste. Do not add water. I used food processor to make this as food processor does not require too much liquid to move.
  • For tadka/seasoning, heat 4-5 tbsp oil in the same pan.
  • When the oil starts "dancing", add tadka ingredients one by one. Saute until the garlic is softened. Add the ground paste, stir well. Adjust salt according to taste. The pickle should be a bit salty to preserve well. Cook on medium heat, stirring continuously for 3 minutes.
  • Take off of heat, let it completely cool before transferring into clean, dry jar or glass bottle.
This pickle may be served with Dosas, Idlies, Roties or simply mixed with steamed rice with some Ghee (clarified butter).
-This pickle keeps well for 2 -3 months without refrigeration.
-The pickle should be glistening. If it looks dry, heat some sesame or peanut oil and
pour over the pickle, mix well and preserve.
-As ready-made tamarind pastes are too viscous and too tangy, it is best to use freshly made pulp as the fresh one would be sweeter.