Almost every region of India boasts a chilli variety with its own unique qualities in terms of flavour, colour, and heat. Kashmiri chillies have a deep red colour but are otherwise mild; Andhra chillies with their bright colour and fiery heat are shown off to great advantage in their pickles; and now we’ve all heard about the bhut jolokia from Assam that holds the world record for the hottest chilli.
Athana in Rajasthan is also famous for its chillies. The long and fleshy Athana mirch is pickled whole and is favoured by the Marwari community. The chillies are slit and stuffed with a mix of spices that include fennel, coriander, mustard, methi seeds, turmeric, and amchoor. A similar large chilli, much like the Bhavnagri mirch, is made into the most delicious mirchi vadas the best of which are to be found in Jodhpur.
My mother-in-law used to make a green chilli pickle which is a simpler version of the Athana mirchi pickle. It is likely Rajasthani in origin.
Here it is – the quick, almost instant, chilli pickle for you chilli lovers. I don’t know my chillies too well and rely on the thumb rule that the smaller a chilli, the hotter it is. For this pickle pick chillies that are medium hot or milder.
1 C chopped green chillies (medium hot variety)
3 T coarsely ground oriental mustard seeds
1 T coarsely ground methi (fenugreek) seeds
½ t turmeric powder
2 t salt
1/8-1/4 C refined peanut oil
juice of 2 limes
In a bowl first place the ground mustard seeds. Top with ground methi seeds. Place the turmeric powder to a side. Heat the oil in a pan till very hot. Pour over the methi seeds; it will gradually soak the mustard as it spreads (and cools).
Wash, pat dry, and chop the green chillies. Once the spices have cooled, add the chopped chillies, salt and the lime juice. Mix. Store in a clean dry jar. Let sit 24 hours before consuming.
The hot oil treatment of the spices is a very important step – something I wasn’t aware of the first time I attempted this pickle. And the mustard in the pickle was a heady experience after a couple of days, if you know what I mean. The tempering partially cooks the spices allowing for just a mellow sharpness, and stops the mustard from developing into a full sensory onslaught.
Use the lower amount of oil specified if planning to refrigerate the pickle and consume within a few weeks. Use the larger amount of oil if you need longer shelf life. It does not need refrigeration.
This pickle is best made in small quantities to enjoy the chillies in their crispier state. Serve with any Indian meal, burgers, hot dogs; it perks up breakfast paranthas too!