mostly about food and cooking, but also the stories about the Bread and the Butterflies!

Pickle with Me

In on the side, Pickles, Preserves, south Indian, Vegetarian on January 26, 2011 at 1:00 am

No New Year resolutions for me!  Where’s the point?  Didn’t I promise to turn over a new leaf just a little while back?  I could use the weather as my excuse; you cannot turn over new leaves in the dead of winter.  Let spring arrive…(This post has been in writing for a couple of over three weeks, and I am afraid it almost is Spring!)

Let me wish all my friends here, in this virtual but not make-believe world, a very Happy New Year (while it is still January).  I hope we continue to exchange and enjoy a healthy Madness here.  If writing about food could be quick, I would post everyday!  But it is not. These last two years it has been very busy at work.  Blogging could not be the break I wished.  At the end of the day it is hard to return to the computer for anything other than to read.


For all the work, and unusual for us, TH and I managed to squeeze out time for regular breaks.  We had resolved to visit the son mid-semester each semester, irrespective of whether he could/would make the time or not.  Our spring semester visit to Kochi, an overnight journey for him, coincided with his college festival. The following semester, in October, with plans to visit the temples of the Hoysalas, we landed in the middle of his exam week.  We went ahead with the plans anyway and visited the ancient temples of Halebid and Belur.  Once again, it was humbling to be in a shrine where our people have continued to pray for centuries, and I thought again of the little unspoiled temple by the backwaters of Aleppey where our houseboat had moored that night…

temple lamp

Hoysala postcard

It is truly a vacation when you have uncharted days.  We whiled our time just  hanging out in Udupi and Manipal: visited the Krishna Temple early one morning,  had breakfasts of idli-sambar everyday, took the local bus to nearby Malpe beach one afternoon, and hiked up End Point that offers panoramic views of this university town that has nothing in the name of conventional entertainment.
Udupi postcard
Earlier this summer we spent a fun week in Malaysia enjoying, amongst other things, a beautiful beach to ourselves while island-hopping in Lankawi one afternoon.  It was the same gang as on the Valley of Flowers trip, but this time with the children along. On the outset what impresses is the cleanliness, and then the Indian in me marvels at the sense of road discipline.  Ah, you want to know about the food.  Well, there were hits and misses.  Amongst the hits was Nasi goreng, our first meal.  Fishy laksa, I will have to say, is an acquired taste; more so for people who live far from the coast and its seafood offerings.  But the layered tea is amazing; so rich and thick and strong, yet not tannin-ny at all.  I think it is the addition of condensed milk that transforms their tea and coffee!
Postcard from Malaysia
The kachang, a medley of chopped fruit, vegetables (corn!), sorbet, ice cream, ‘noodles’ (like a colourful falooda), even beans, is an eclectic mix you cannot imagine; a dish that is a feast for the eye and a tease for the tongue. But, it is Malaysia’s natural beauty that really takes your breath away. For people from the land of heat and dust it is a green so saturated that it appears a new colour altogether!


market penang

Towards the end of the year I met with food blogger friends, some for the first time! I met Raaga and S (the first time was a couple of years ago, but too brief to count) when Sra came to visit! It was a fun afternoon with a lot of laughter; it is hard to keep a straight face for too long in Raaga’s company! We visited them once more just before the two moved to Singapore.

After knowing each others through our blogs, Miri and I finally met IRL! A few phone calls, and detailed home-directions later there we were at her place one afternoon and had ourselves a great impromptu tea party, complete with cake and pastry puffs! I requested Madras kapi though.  The instant camaraderie surprised just a little.  Miri’s detailed directions messaged over the phone were a sign; words spelled out and complete sentences with prepositions in their places instead of the incomprehensible short-message-mumbo-jumbo! Do I need say any more? We hit it off as if we had always known each other! She doesn’t drink tea but there was plenty of common ground besides just food.

the getogether

The year ended on a big high with Manisha and her family’s visit!  She was one of the first people to find my blog.  To her goes the credit for much of the initial madness on this blog.  It wasn’t love at first sight though.  She left a comment asking me to join the FlowerFest.  All I had to do was write a post about flowers and link to her blog.  That was four years ago.  I had just begun and was already being pestered by folk pushing their blogs!  I was new to blogging, and didn’t know what a ‘link’ was and had to be shown how to insert one by none other than TLO herself!  The lessons didn’t stop with that…I had a steep learning curve but, she lived to tell the tales.  Somewhere along there I also figured out that Manisha of FlowerFest was the same as the one over at Indian Food Rocks! I can be really exasperating like that.  But for all her secret eye-rolling and pulling of hair (sorry about all that, Manisha),  she put up with me and we now have a friendship with scarcely any secrets! It grew as we found we shared so many interests other than our common passion for food.  Above everything she is smart and witty and funny (even if I don’t get all her jokes, I know she is funny!).  It is always good to surround yourself with smart people!

Before she would step foot in Delhi she displayed all the anxiety of the typical NRI (Non-Resident Indian, for the uninitiated).  They are a tribe unto themselves providing great material for a caricature.  As she rolled out her list of do’s and don’t for the NRI, I sitting here in India, just nodded my head, yeah, yeah. No uncooked food – naturally. That includes chutneys, ok? No salads. No coriander garnish.  What? No dhaniya patta? TH cannot imagine food without! We were going to have to take portions out for her before sprinkling with the mandatory coriander leaves! 🙄 But, imagine the post I would get to write at the end of her visit!  All those food-phobias!

With a heavy heart I inform all of you that she succumbed to the charms of the twisted jalebi on her very first outing and the less said about not eating uncooked food (including dhaniya, and fruits with thin skin) the better.  Just wait and watch the space on her blog about all her forays into Indian street food.

We had fun walking the streets of Delhi and tried to cover some ground in the short three days that she and her family spent with us.  We got a taste of both New and the Old Delhi. Naturally, there was much food that accompanied the fabulous time our families spent together.  But, when it came time for her to pack I had a hard time figuring out what I might send with her that would be worth lugging across first to Mumbai and then across the Atlantic.

One morning for breakfast we ate paranthas, standard breakfast fare in our home just a few years go.  We had two kinds – methi parantha and besan parantha, the latter is a recipe I have been meaning to share here for a very long time… With the paranthas I served the amla pickle, the newest pickle in my repertoire.   They seemed to like it too and Manisha thought it would be good to make some herself.

I knew exactly what I could give her!  She and her family left for Agra-Jaipur that afternoon.  While they were away I made a fresh batch of amla pickle just for them!  I have made a lot of pickles of all kinds of vegetables and believe me when I tell you that, in my opinion, this is the best pickle I have ever made!

amla pickle

And it was just happenstance that I made it at all.  Last month, the father-in-law bought some amla to make into amla supari.  As he sat down at the table to process them I cautioned him that the skies were overcast and the weather foggy.  He wasn’t too convinced but agreed to risk just a few.  We now had this pile of amla and I thought a pickle might be the answer.  The fruit was washed, wiped, and sectioned.  I decided to check some recipes online.  Many recipes used whole fruit while I had sectioned mine, and all of them seemed to require amla to be stir-fried and browned, which is not what I had in mind.  I was looking for a hint of Andhra (aren’t Andhra pickles the best?) but with a crunch.  So, I decided to go ahead and make this in my usual Andhra-style manner – rai, methi, lots of red chillies, a little hing, and some garlic.  What was different this time was that I also decided to add lime juice, the first time I have done so for a pickle.  After it had cured a few days, I had a winner on my hands!

amla pickle

PS: More amla was procured later for the aforementioned amla supari.  This time FIL has a beautiful batch of powder-pink amla supari shavings!  The recipe, another time!

  1. The pickle is simply brilliant! Just like you!

    We had a grand time! You and V are fabulous hosts! I’m already planning my next trip!

    Don’t let it be another eight years till you make it happen!

  2. I got goose bumps seeing Manisha and family at your home, the power of blogs. I have some how missed the chance of meeting blogger friends. I am feel the pulse in your post. What fun!! This post too is spectacular capturing your past year perfectly.

    Surreal, no? why don’t you make a trip up North?

  3. I was waiting to read about you and Manisha meeting up. The pickle looks awesome. How about posting the gobhi-gajar pickle recipe too? Did Manisha have ‘daulat ki chaat’? Did you go to Chandni Chowk? We are an NRI family, now making almost yearly trips to India, and now even the kids have street food, regular water etc. I guess they’ve got the Indian immunity now 🙂

    Actually, the gobhi-gajar pickle was meant to be part of this very post! But this took forever to write and I thought it better to post before further delay. We did go to CC! I think with the microbes inside, next time Manisha should be able to eat even gol gappas off the street vendors!

    • Even *she* wouldn’t have daulat ki chaat! ;-D

      It was sitting out in the open and not something that is deep fried or served piping hot…Besides, I had it one time…It’s overrated. How great can foam sprinkled with a bit of powdered sugar taste?

      • When I was wondering how you both were uncharacteristically all praises for each other, her you go 😉 Love your banter…

        Uncharacteristic? Why, I have always addressed her as The Learned One! 😀 And I mean it too!

  4. Lemme tell you, it takes enormous will power not to drool excessively, just looking at the Amla pickle photographs.. I’m not comfortable using the word food porn, but the sheer delight it creates on the tongue, imagining it… You’ve really brought out the essence of what UMAMI is! A pleasure to read!

    Well, that word landed you “under moderation!” 😀 It is the best pickle for me!

  5. Ah, the amla pickle- nothing better! 😉

    Did you buy one of those sill-battas?

    And… I have to say something about those layered sweets up there from Malaysia: I love those! The one on the left looks like pandan layered with red bean; here, in GB’s Thaiville, we have pandan layered with mung bean, so they’re green and yellow. I think they’re called khanom chan or maybe I’m off…

    …anyway, I’m glad to hear that Manisha behaved herself and ate something. 😀

    At first, i wondered why we were going off topic with “sill-battas”…those be oakhli-moosul (pestle and mortar!). No, I couldn’t find one! I looked wherever we went, asked our driver even, in sign language.

    I kept the receipts so I would be able to write but then finally gave up on the idea. Now, I don’t remember what all we ate!

    Yeah, she was good. She even tried some sweet-potato chaat!

  6. I’m saving all the stories for my post. ;-D

    Let’s hear them. I’m not afraid!

  7. Lovely post and pictures! I am craving some Amla pickle after this! Absolutely mouthy-watering and LOVE the hot color! In Bangalore, we used to get this yummy Amla pickle, made from baby amla (the very small one)-perfectly spicy and tangy!

    I saw the tiny ones in Udupi! I wonder if those are the wild variety. What a perfect bit they must make!

  8. […] my excuse; you cannot turn over new leaves in the dead of winter. Let spring arrive…(This… [full post] Anita A Mad Tea Party vegetariansouth indianpreserveson the side 0 0 […]

  9. I’m starting with trying out my own podis this year…and maybe I can migrate to pickles as well.

    We got some Andhra amla pickle from Sachin’s friend last year and we scraped the bottom of that jar! I can’t stop drooling at your pictures of this pickle.

    Was so glad we connected a couple of times in 2010 🙂 and look forward to many more occasions in the near future 🙂

    I hope we will meet again! Maybe we can come and visit and then I can have a postcard for Singapore as well!

  10. “…surround yourself with smart people.” I’ve heard that before 😉 Possibly from the same person you have! 🙂

    That said, lovely post. And my granny made the Amla pickle that Musy is talking about. I’m going to do all this when I return to India.

    P.S. Also eat daulat ki chaat 😀

    Not so reluctant a chef, methinks! So, when should we expect you?

  11. Always a delight reading your posts. The stir frying and browning must have been made up an NRI who has to deal with mushy frozen gooseberries. Looks delicious.

    All the ones I clicked through seemed to have that step. I never thought you could pickle with frozen food! I guess when you miss something bad, you do the best you can! Obviously, those pickles cannot have a long shelf-life.

    • There might be something to what you say but I doubt pickle recipes for amla originate from outside India. I wonder if the amlas were sauteed to reduce some water content.

      • I looked it up some more and it appears that the amla is cooked to get rid of any bitterness. Amlas do taste sweeter when they are cooked. My sister had made an avlyache lonche that we ate more like a bhaji! It has a phodni, green chillies, lots of turmeric and the whole thing is cooked until the amlas are tender. I love that ‘pickle,’ too. That one definitely needs refrigeration and needs to be consumed within a week.

        I carried Anita’s pickle to hot and humid Bombay, where it sat for 2 weeks. It has been sitting unrefrigerated until yesterday (another 2 weeks) with no spoilage. I finally added more oil and lemon juice to it, as recommended by Anita, and now it’s sitting in my refrigerator because of all this paranoia about refrigeration. If it’s cured…but whatever, I don’t want it to spoil because it is so so so so good!

        I didn’t follow those recipes precisely because I didn’t want a soft pickle. Here they make a sweet preserve with amlas (Musi should know how, my mum used to make it when we lived in a Punju neighbourhood) that involved partial cooking in sugar syrup – amla murabba. Made with carrots as well. But I was looking for the crunch. Wonder if drying the amla for a day in the sun might help with losing the moisture some. It is the done thing for most Punjabi pickles.

      • Yah. Reducing water reduces salt-need. Frying is one way, also I saw partially-dehydrating as another for dealing with amla.

        Would you believe I even found exactly one recipe for lime pickle which mandates that the pieces be partially-dried first? It’s less-salty than other lime-pickles, but the drying and rehydrating (in more lime juice) definitely forms a unique flavour and texture!

  12. Would you not saute the amla in little oil ?

    I didn’t. And after tasting the results, I wouldn’t! 🙂

  13. Lovely post and beautiful photos of your travels. Amla pickle looks very tempting & colorful.

    Thanks, Supriya!

  14. I want to know the answer to Pel’s question too. Did you buy any of those sil battas? Love that picture and the one with the diya and the long corridor in the ancient temple.

    Did not realize NRI’s going back to des after eight years had such a long list of what not to eat. And you were the perfect friend to indulge her. I would too for the joy of meeting a dear friend. Lovely post as always.

    🙂 I looked hard for those pestle and mortar things but couldn’t find one! These were on display in an old house.

    The good thing is that things are much better, food and drink-wise, these days. So, you’ll survive!

  15. Lovely Post (you will never know how much I wait for your new posts!),and the recipe for Amla pickle looks yum and all that about NRIs, fantastic! I was a NRI just 3 months ago and now am a R2I, going through that too! Yes, I am still re-learning to laugh it out on jokes on road traffics, corruption and impolite, insensitive comments of employers/men to women in general. Actually my daughter through her adaptation of a country almost new to her, is giving me so many messages everyday. Specially the way she is coping with the school system, very new to her. Actually we in India are doing very fine, only a bit more of civic sense and little more of dignity of labor a little more sensitivity towards others and our resources will be more than enough. Travel photos are great too, but the Udupi – Manipal postcard stands out special for me. Would love to read more about food and their texture from these places (when and if you get time!)

    Don’t laugh off the insensitive comments; give ’em a piece of your mind!
    It’s not easy, living here, with all that you mention. But, no place is perfect! We can try to change a few things (and gosh, is there scope!) and accept some, for the moment.
    Udupi is such a sweet laid-back town. I wish they would hang on to some of that old-world charm instead of giving in to those glass-boxes!

    • Yes, of course no place is perfect, and India is my home, with bits and pieces of rags here and there but how can I ignore the richness of culture, diversity, patience in women, which has made me a proud Indian, wherever I went in this world I proudly presented my images of India to others. It is my home, and I will try my best to pour out my learning whenever I can. And you the group of fantastic like minded Indian bloggers, you cannot imagine what strength you give to fellow Indians!

  16. Your pickle looks gorgeous. Gooseberry pickle is a great favourite in Andhra and I’ve almost always seen the fruit fried whole. It’s also called the “black” pickle (in Telugu) because it blackens quite a bit, unlike other pickles – that’s what my grandad told me once, anyway. I don’t eat it much nowadays as I find it too laborious to finish an entire gooseberry, esp when it’s fresh and not soft enough.

    Sections make this just what you might like! This one stayed a bright red to the last bite!

  17. What a coincidence, I posted travel pics on my blog y’day too! Great minds and all that …;) That shot of the temple doorway made me ache for the touch of cool,smooth black granite stone on my feet – marble of the North Indian temples don’t seem to fill that void!

    It was so good to meet with you – not once but thrice in three months! 🙂 and Manisha as well (where’s my pic with you guys??)

    The pickle looks lip smackingly good!

    Right, great minds!
    It is so comforting to walk on those cool floors!
    We have to wait for Manisha to post that picture. I only have one of the husbands (which I put on FB)!

  18. Anitaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa 😀 I’m coming back this July to India for good. Delhi plans shall be made since I have a ton of shopping to do and have to eat Chole Bhature at Lajpat Nagar with my mum-in-law!

  19. Love your version of Amla pickle, looks tangy and mouth watering! Garlic in this pickle sounds interesting.

  20. Sitting here in an icebox. The streets here in Princeton are a snow maze , no place to put the snow away so pile it higher. The back muscles are singing the jazzy blues. Only viruses thrive everywhere. Nalige lee Ruchi illa (Kannada for toungue has no taste)Nalige satha poyiche(toungue has died more literal in Tamil)whatever! language the whole need to eat is not there anymore. So not paying heed to eat local and seasonal, I went to my colder refrigerator freezer and took out even colder Amlas and made the achaar , had to cook though in the microwave first. The achaar disappeared before I could do an Aaachoooo! Thanks for friends trips and achaar Anita , nalige lee ruchi bantoo go figure!

  21. Viji and Vijayshri the same

  22. Lovely, lovely post – those Hoysala photos are simply stunning. Great post!

  23. This is a stunning post with all those divine pics.
    It is so heartwarming to see blogger friends enjoying their time together and this amla pickle looks mouthwatering and no amla pickle doesn’t get spoiled . This Andhra version looks so hot and spicy …

  24. I’ve never tried pickle but would love to try! Great recipes!

  25. […] The dhaba where we stopped later for lunch was a disappointment but the packed methi paranthas (and amla pickle) held us in good stead.  Our destination for the day was Himmatnagar but the coffee-break in […]

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