Isn't it funny that the most exotic sounding food names have such mundane meanings?
I used to be fascinated by the word tagliatelle, the sheer pasta-like stretchy length of the word, and the ease with which you could mispronounce it. And then I went to Italy and found out that tagliatelle just means that which is cut. Airy, flaky, exotic sounding croissants are just crescents. And pesto is just a word for pounded or ground.
The Maharashtrian thecha goes down the same path. A super-spicy aromatic concoction of pounded green chillies, garlic and cumin blended with oil, this chutney behaves a lot like wasabi. A tiny dot of its concentrated aromas and taste wakes up any meal, and presto, you have clear sinuses in seconds! But dig a little deeper, and you find that thecha just means smashed or pounded paste. (smashed literally, not a bit of intoxication there).
While I love the piquancy of thecha, I feel that the heat and spiciness of the traditional mix edges it out of a family meal.
Here's a recipe that brings through the aromas and taste along with a wallop of Vitamin C, while leaving out the fieriness.
3 large green peppers - seeded and chopped
1/4-1 green chilli (depending on the amount of heat you can tolerate)
1 tsp cumin seeds
Juice of half a lemon
Salt to taste (I used 3/8 tsp of coarse sea salt)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1-2 tsp oil
Put the first 5 ingredients into a blender and process until smooth.
Warm the oil, add mustard seeds and turn off the heat as soon as they pop. Let the aromatic oil cool before mixing it with the relish.
I used this relish to top crostini today. It also works to add zing to sandwiches and rotis. Whipping a spoonful of the relish into yoghurt makes a great dip for chips and breadsticks.