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

Calling it a year

In From the Garden, Low Fat, Maharashtrian, Pickles, Preserves, Random Musings, Under 30 min!, Vegetarian on December 28, 2011 at 12:34 am

It has been a mixed bag this year; from the very bad to very good.  All years are like that but losing a dear friend earlier this year was a dip that was really low.  Even winning Third Place in a National Architectural Design Competition, a rare enough achievement, was tinged with the knowledge that I couldn’t share the news with her, my buddy through those years of design school.  We would meet only a few times a year – mostly on birthdays and anniversaries. I am not a phone person so we never had long chats on the phone either.  Maybe, it was enough just knowing I could call her if I needed to.  Now, I catch myself thinking about her every single day.

UD Studio, 1986I and my friend, 1986

On the work front, it has been the busiest year for me.  The coming year is poised similar.  Which is as well (except that it has meant just ten blog posts, if I get this one in, for the whole year!).  It means I don’t bother the son, now in his third year of college, with daily phone calls.  I usually catch up with him on the weekends though he and his dad chat online more often.  Presently, he is home for the holidays and has promised to not game through the nights so that we can see him at lunch and through the rest of the day.

narthagai limes and mango ginger

Narthangai limes and mango ginger for pickling…from a year ago

narthagai limes and mango ginger

This year I reconnected with more friends from high school.  In fact, I am now back in touch with all the ones whom I was  ‘best friends’ with: Neena in middle school, Indrani in high school, and Rajamma in senior high school!  Some of us met last week at a reunion of sorts and promised to make an effort to stay in touch better.  The city and our lifestyles don’t help though.

At the reunion there were some friends visiting from the US and the talk veered towards our different lifestyles.  Some of us here like to believe that we are better off than our friends abroad.  The yardstick seems to be the fact that we have access to menial help which enables us to eat fresh food while the poor expats have to eat frozen.  Apparently, that is the be all and end all of quality-of-life-indicators for most Indians in India.  Sour grapes, I think.  How can we aspire for something when we don’t even know it is desirable?! We never stop to consider why so many of us, despite the obvious lack of affordable domestic help, still seem to prefer to eat that reheated thawed food so far away from home?  Because, my dear countrymen, the rest of the stuff is very much worth the tradeoff.  To have someone to cook and clean  and take the dog for a walk is not what constitutes quality of life! An important indicator of the quality of life is clean environment – clean air and water, less noise and pollution, and safe places for work and play.  These combined with political and civic freedoms, better educational and recreational opportunities make life worth living, and even seem to compensate for what one might lose in terms of ethnic social connectedness.  Not that there is less socialising within the expat community in the US!

No place is perfect.  We might as well try and be happy about the choices we have made.  We don’t necessarily have to prove that we are better or worse off; it is just a choice we have made.  Just like it is a choice between frozen or fresh cooked meals.  No one has to eat frozen food; but we all find it convenient.  Judging by the growing ready-to-eat and frozen food section in our stores, I would have to conclude that despite all the domestic help, someone sure is eating a good amount of packaged and frozen food!

My sister cooks frozen paranthas quite often.  Out of curiosity, I tried the ready-to-eat mutter-paneer, and mirchi ka saalan a few months ago and agreed that they were great options for the day you were too rushed or too lazy to cook.  We also concluded that my dal makni was better than the packaged dal-bukhara (ITC Kitchens)!

We all need a break sometimes.  Even the maid.  Even, from the maid!  Yes, I am still doing fine without any extra kitchen help i.e, a maid.  For instance, last night we had pav bhaji for dinner (Check Nupur’s recipe; she uses the same masala that we do!).  It was good fun because everyone joined in.  I went full steam on the veggie prep: potatoes, cauliflower, and peas  prepped and cooked in the pressure cooker; onions, green chillies, sweet peppers, and tomatoes diced fine and then sauteed in oil.  The son peeled a handful of garlic for the hot thecha (garlic+black peppercorns+red chillies) that always accompanies pav bhaji in our house.  TH rinsed and chopped a mound of fresh coriander leaves (a must), peeled and mashed the boiled potatoes when they were done, and also peeled and sectioned half a giant papaya for dessert.  Dinner was ready in exactly one hour including all the prep work.  The son was in charge of pav – fetching it from the market, pan frying it in butter, and serving it hot.  Enough was leftover for tonight’s dinner as well.  Sorry, no pictures!

winter veggies

After a delayed start, the Delhi winter is now in full gear with the minimum temperatures in single digits.  The bounty of vegetables in the market though is a sight for weary eyes; their lowered prices another reason to get to winter pickle making.  Last week I finally got around to making this winter pickle again.  The son and I love it and he just may decide to carry some with him this time since he is moving out of the hostel and into an apartment with some friends.

gobhi gajar shalgam for this achaar

The day I made my gobhi-gajar-shalgum achaar I also had plans for the beautiful limes my mom had brought over the previous weekend.  Yesterday, after they had been sitting in the colander a few days, I decided to just do it!  So before heading up to the office, I made my very first batch of my MIL’s lime pickle.  She’s been gone over five years but I still have a tiny bit left from her last batch.  This pickle is specifically prepared to accompany Maharashtrian fasting foods and uses ingredients that are permitted during fasts.  It perfectly compliments the spud-rich fasting foods – sabudana thalipeeth, sabudana khichdi (again, Nupur’s recipe matches our family recipe exactly), or upasachi batata bhaji.


Since the use of mustard seeds and peanut oil is not considered kosher during Maharashtrian fasts, this pickle uses neither.  In fact it uses no oil and relies on red chillies for the spice.  The addition of ginger and green chillies is not traditional but I added it because my MIL used to and I think it adds great flavour and an additional kick.

Lime pickle

Limbache goad londche
Maharashtrian Sweetened Lime Pickle

6 large limes (about 700gms or thereabouts)
ginger, peeled and chopped into strips (about 75gms) (optional)
5 green chillies, chopped into bite size rounds (optional)
red chilli powder, 2 heaped tablespoons (or to taste)
granulated sugar, about 500 grams (2 3/4 vati)
salt, 125 grams (2/3 vati)

Lime pickle

Lime pickleWash and wipe the limes and chillies. Chop limes into small pieces. I sliced them into thirds and then chopped each slice into nine pieces. These limes are meant for pickling because they turn seedless in winter! To a clean glass jar add all the ingredients; press down with the back of a spoon if you need to to. My jar was a tad bit small to fit in everything in one go, so I kept a lime aside for later. In a couple of hours the sugar and salt had dissolved enough to create room at the top for the last lime and I could see lots of juicy brine at the bottom of the jar. After a day in the winter sun the syrup was already tasting great; that combination of lime with ginger is classic! Keep the jar in the sun everyday for a month or till the lime skin has softened.  [It will ‘cook’ indoors, away from sun, as well – will just take longer.] Give the contents of the jar a good stir every other day and watch the contents transform into a pickle that is sure to please.

Lime pickle

  1. Lovely! Envy you the carrots though! 🙂 Perphaps the organic carrots might work better?
    And thankyou for sharing this recipe. I have some meyer lemons and this would be perfect!

    The orange carrots should be fine in any pickle. In fact, maybe even better because of their obvious lower water content.

  2. I am trying to find something similar to those red carrots- and hence the organic ones; not much choice available in carrots here.

  3. Hurray! great pic of you and your friend.

    Thanks, Jo!

  4. I do love this pickle- it’s simplicity is refreshing. I have a batch that’s been in the process for about a year now- still needs green chillies added to it for completion. 😀 As well, I love the colour of the khaar at the beginning- such a jewel-like red! My proportions ended up extremely-close to yours, btw!

    And of course, a very happy new year to you and your family-

    I didn’t have a recipe so I had to go by guesstimation. So far, it tastes right. I deliberately added more ginger though!

    • I would too- had I a stash of ambe-haldi! 😉 Do enjoy every bite while we sit here and only able to dream and drool. 😀

      Ambe-halad is tender and mild; nothing like the regular ginger that is in this pickle! The narthangai-mango-ginger pickle was the sour kind with the usual spice mix of rai+red chillies+methi – it lasted well eventually!

      • Oh! That was for a special sour pickle (I remember it now!)- I was corn-fused- my mistake. You kept notes on how much salt for next time, I hope? 🙂

        You know me…I didn’t! Will have to keep a watch next time as well!

  5. Wish you and your family a Happy new year with happy memories.
    I wish we could get those juicy carrots here, I’d love to bite into one….mmm!
    Must make the ‘limabcha loncha’

    Make it, it is hardly any work – I made mine almost on the way to work! 😉

  6. That picmis so good,..pickle looks yum ,.this is something which I have to still learn ,wish ya great year ahead

    You too!

  7. oh Anita, your friend looks gorgeous! And this in the 80s? Love your hair and glasses 🙂

    I was supposed to make batches of pickle, but postponed it to January 😛 Winter in Bangalore has been awesome, so I’m hoping it continues in January for me to make 3 kinds of pickles – your mixed veg, my granny’s mixed veg and one more I’m still deciding about – Asian style something?

    I also agree about the quality of life comment you made. I moved back to India from the US and there are several things that get on my nerves. People tend to forget that I was a single woman then and I didn’t have to worry about hosting people, cooking or maids then. Now, all these things become so important and when I comment on it, I have everyone telling me how spoilt I am or have become after moving to the US 🙂

    We’ve learned things the hard way. Just do what is right and ignore all the advice. At the most, we are going to make mistakes. We are fine with that. So, I don’t have a maid, don’t buy processed food much but eat out a lot ( which is looked down upon and also serves as an indicator of our ‘posh’ lifestyle apparently) but oh well!

    Liked this post a lot. There is a sense of content at the end of the year.

    Try kimchi! I have been meaning to but winter goes by too quickly, and with it the cabbages.

    It bugs me, this constant attempt to establish superiority. Why can’t we accept our quality of life leaves a lot to be desired and then work towards bettering it? We don’t value many things – a lot of which seem to end up on that QOL index! And it really bugs me if men, who in all likelyhood, have never made a cup of tea, scoff at frozen dinners.

  8. such a touching post, loved every bit 🙂

    Thanks, Deeps.

  9. Happy New Year Anita and family.

    Thanks to you, dal makhni is a staple in my kitchen now.

    And, Singapore rocks on that count… you get help and you get to live in a safe and clean city 🙂 But we do eat frozen parathas 🙂 sometimes with your awesome dal makhni 🙂 so that makes it worthwhile.

    A big hug to you.

    You lucky girl! Singapore is ahead of even the US on the Quality-of-life Index! You really have it all!
    I want to visit!

  10. Loved the picture with your friend …she is so pretty.

    Your lemon pickle looks absolutely yummy , A gorgeous red and i love ginger with lemons. I myself made three types of lemon pickles this season, loads of lemons coming from my garden 🙂 but we do not eat much pickles and most of it is gifted away.

    I wanted to know where you get mango ginger in Delhi? I have been dying to get them.

    Sangeeta, the narthangai limes as well as the mango-ginger were from the Mylapore market in Chennai! That pickle was made and consumed last year!

  11. Those pictures are fabulous! I’m so glad you posted them! Time will ease the pain.

    And, seriously? People think we eat frozen food because we don’t have maids and cooks? 🙄 As for ethnic connectedness, there might be too much of it here than there. Remember the whole Hanuman Chalisa discussion?

    I found a lovely blog the other day, written by a French-Austrian girl who lives in Goa. She put it beautifully: “The West teaches you comfort, security, organization and the East teaches you that you shouldn’t take anything for granted. Anything is possible, anytime, anyhow.”

    It’s fun when the whole family is in the kitchen helping out. I love evenings like that!

    And you’re right, I don’t remember green chiles or ginger added to the sweet pickle my Mom used to make but I can see how it would work so well! I think what I love the most about this pickle is the color and abundant khaar. And, my dear, how big are your vatis in cups and/or fl. oz.? Because vatis come in all sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL.

    Happy New Year to you, the husband, the son and the f-i-l! Try to stay up past midnight this year – just a few minutes!

    Yes, time will work its numbing magic slowly.

    I was doing a lot of :eye rolling: that day… See how the firangs in India seem to be able to look at both sides of a coin? Why do we think we belittle ourselves if we acknowledge good in another? 🙄

    Arre men, the vati measure is only for myself (hence the parenthesis) – you follow the approximate weight, ok? I know the vati I use for measuring – it is perhaps 3/4C? 😉

    Don’t call too late! 😀

  12. so tempting and delicious pickle……try it soon…


  13. ((((Anita)))) I can see how much you are grieving this loss…..she must have been such a special friend. Glad you have been able to reconnect with other friends.

    I just looked up your veg pickle recipe yesterday for proportions to make my purchases tomorrow – I am determined to make it this year. Do you have another recipe for a veg pickle which is not sweet? I have tasted such a pickle but don’t know a good recipe to replicate. I want to make both varieties this year.

    LOve love love the fresh (and low priced) winter veggies 🙂 Have pureed batches of tomatoes and frozen peas already.

    And well said – why diss other people’s choices just to make yourself feel better?? To each his own I say!


    Miri, that is precisely what it is – sour grapes. We fool no one but ourselves in thinking this is the best it can be! Another thing they will throw at you is, “But, don’t shower (as frequently as us!)!” [more :eye roll:!] Yes, they didn’t use to – 200 years ago, maybe! When they hadn’t invented central water heating for their temperate climes!!

    For the pickle, why don’t you adjust the recipe to suit your taste – reduce the sugar/gur and increase the salt a bit?

  14. Loved the first photo – that ‘combined study’ atmosphere and the calm and smiles in your faces.

    Only this year, I tried out frozen parathas – I’ll probably never make them at home. An early fascination with the ready-to-eat curries hasn’t lasted, though I do keep a pack or two at home for real emergencies, they all taste alike and are groaning under the weight of all that oil.

    A very happy new year to you and your family!

    I eat those paranthas only under duress at my sister’s place – all that fat – I could probably eat 3 home-cooked paranthas for the calories of that one!

    The ready-to-eat curries taste nothing like home made and therein lies their charm! They taste and look like they came from the dhaba!

    A Happy New Year to you and yours, Sra!

  15. Sorry for the loss Anita. But time will heal. You reminded me to make the veggie pickles again this year.

    Thanks for the second paragraph Anita, even after close to two decades of living in the US I always feel I made the wrong choice. Feel the kids would have a had a better deal living close to close family. I am slowly learning to enjoy what I have and not yearn for what I don’t. I have noticed one thing about most(not all)Americans though is that they accept what is wrong with their country maybe that is the reason they are able to reinvent and make it better for themselves.

    Those frozen parathas and ready to eat meals are very handy when you want Indian but don’t want to eat out or cook.

    A Very Happy New Year! to you and your family.

    I wish the present generations would learn to appreciate the positives in Western culture! There is so much I learnt in the short time that I was there and I am a better person today because of that. It taught me to look at myself critically, looking at the cracks, without feeling ashamed. Only when you see the fault will you try to fix it! If you think yourself faultless, well…then there is nothing that can be done!

    I don’t understand this need to diss others to feel good about yourself! And, I sincerely hope that we think there is more going for us than access to cheap menial labour!

    Enjoy where you are and visit “home” as often as you can!

    Happy New Year!

  16. Anita- losing a dear friend, that is the hardest thing. Friends- the family we choose. Wishing you a wonderful new year with an abundance of love, health and good eats.

    Yes, only time can make it hurt less.

  17. Wish you and family a Very Happy New Year Anita. Your lime pickle is pickling outside in the very hot sun as I write. Thank you for yet another good recipe. Your friend looks so pretty. How you must miss her. As for living abroad or anywhere make the best of it and enjoy wherever you are. Every place has its pros and cons right?

    Let’s make the most of what we have: sun or snow, dust or clear skies…and look for the silver linings – they are always there!
    HNY, Poornima!

  18. hellow, ur site is really great, i just discovered it a few weeks ago, after tht i can proudly say i am voraciously reading up all ur posts…am not a great cook just dnt have the flair for it, but tried ur dal makhni an dit was amazing tht too without any oil…hope ur having a good statr to the year :).

  19. I had read this post so many times Anita and couldn’t comment. Nothing to do with the pickle or any of the other things but your friend and the hard fact that life is so transient. She looks gorgeous in that pic and love your curls. the perfect geeky pair, han ?
    Wish you and everyone around you a wonderful New Year

    She was a good friend, and such a beautiful human being too. We were the “dumb charades” college champs!

  20. I want to try making that pickle and can’t wait to get started.

    Thank you for your thoughts on life in India vs US. I wish there were more folks who think similarly.

    It’s funny, but you will be be surprised to know that there are die-hard ‘mera bharat mahaan, baaki sab bakwaas’ kinds here in the US too and I do the silent eye-rolling too when I have to endure their company.

    It all comes down to objective, rational thinking, learning to acknowledge the good as well as not-so-good and then deciding what is important to YOUR life. For me, not having domestic help or taaza ghar ka khaana every single day (we do make it at least 3-4 times a week – re-heat and eat refrigerated extra portions the other days) does not matter one bit. For me clean surroundings, reliable infrastructure and services, little to no pollution, SECURITY and RESPECT AS A WOMAN, courteous people matters a whole lot more. Of course there are the not-so-good sides to life in the US as well, and of course we acknowledge that some things are just better in India (strong relationships, focus on education). But for OUR life priorities at this point in our lives, life here in the US does work.

    I would however never make a general statement or try to convince anyone that living in the US is better than living in India – because it simply would not be true for everyone.


  21. Having lost the anchor of my life towards the end of 2011, I can relate to the low you had described…

    Thanks for sharing the pickle recipe, Anita. This will be my first attempt with any kind of pickle, and I can hardly contain myself and wait the 3 weeks! I couldn’t help but sneak the pickle jar into the picture on my first blogpost 🙂


  22. Hi Anita,
    First time here.. you have got a beautiful,nice blog space.makes one feel very cosy & comforted as in home-kitchen .and reading through, I am really braving up to get some pickling done as this is a good season to get assorted fresh veggies & fruits in abundance.

    sorry about the loss of your friend,
    When you mentioned she was your dumb charades pal, reminded me of my days in arch school with dumb charades associated with famous architects, building etc.. used to be fun to mime a le-corb or a notre-de… 😀
    Did you have something similar during your school time as well??


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