Over the past 18 years since I got married, I have cooked and baked like crazy. Curries, Stews, Chutneys, Breads, Cakes, Desserts. Indian, American, South Asian, Mexican, Italian – you name it, I have tried it! You just have to browse through the recipe categories on my home page to see what I mean! However, one category that I have not really ventured into a lot is that of ‘pickles’. And by pickles, I mean ‘Indian’ pickles which are an altogether different class of foods as compared to what pickles mean to the western world. A pickle in India is usually something that is a relish – something that is either extremely sour or extremely spicy or in most cases both 🙂 The very mention of the word ‘pickle’ gets my salivary glands into hyperactivity! And I can confidently say that it does the same for most Indians 🙂
These pickles are meant to be consumed in very tiny quantities in a meal and is thought to tickle your palate thereby improving your appetite and aiding digestion. In fact, the way to enjoy these pickles is by dipping your finger in it and then licking it between eating portions of rice or rotis! The best pickles – the ones that I grew up eating were all home made! By my grandmas and my various aunts. Yes, my mom for some reason too did not make pickles. But after I got married, I started getting pickles from my MIL regularly. That could very well be the reason why I never tried to make pickles. And the fact that it just seemed like a lot of hard work. Which is true in most cases since the pickled object for example the lemons or the green mangoes etc have to be washed, wiped and sun dried completely for one. Second of all, once the pickle was made, it needed to be sealed appropriately and stashed away for a few months before it was ‘ready’ to be consumed! Now who has the patience for that?
For the past two years being on a Paleo and AIP diet I have cut down considerably on the quantity of pepper from my diet. I now only use kashmiri chill powder which is very mild – it gives the hot red color which I crave for without the added heat that I can do without.! So I had very much given up the hope that I could be eating pickles anytime soon.
However, last month while I was visiting India, my elder sister made the Kerala traditional Vadaukkapuli achar for Onam. God bless her! Vadukkapuli is the name of a variety of lemon that is much bigger than regular lemons and they have a thicker rind. The pickle made using these lemons are a side dish for the Onam sadya. makes sense right considering what I mentioned before about palate and digestion 🙂
Gosh, I very hesitantly tasted it telling myself that I was just going to have one tiny bit – a little indulgence since it was onam! What I didn’t realize was that this innocent tasting would open up the floodgates of pent up ‘pickle cravings’! Having tasted it now, there was no stopping me. Luckily my sister had not made it too hot or spicy. I loved it so much that I begged her to tell me the recipe. I was pleasantly surprised when she told me that she had made it that very morning. Meaning this was an instant version of pickle. She had peeled the skin off making the lemon pieces soften instantly. What a neat trick! I couldn’t wait to get back home and try a version that suited my needs – less hot and spicy and completely paleo friendly. I used lesser quantity of all the spices and also used apple cider vinegar instead of synthetic vinegar and used regular organic lemons since I couldn’t find the large Meyer lemons.
Presenting to you a milder version of the traditional Kerala Naranga Achar!. I have been currently enjoying this lemon relish with boiled yucca (kappa). Yum O!
- 3 large lemons (I used regular organic lemons)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil (gingelly oil)
- ½ tsp mustard seeds
- ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
- ½ tsp mustard powder
- ½ tsp fenugreek powder
- 1 tsp kashmiri chilli powder
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- Peel the lemons (removing the yellow rind) and then cut into small bite size pieces. Discard the seeds. Place in a strainer that is placed over a dish. Collect the juices and reserve.
- Heat a small pan or cooking pot and add the oil. When hot add the mustard seeds and the fenugreek seeds. When they splutter, add the lemon pieces and saute for 2 mins.
- Add all the spices and salt and sautee for 1 more minute. Turn heat off and add the vinegar and stir to mix.