Traditional homemade pickles usually involve a secret family recipe, a grandmother, dozens of ingredients (including seasonal vegetables like raw mangoes and oil) and a long-winded sterilisation process.
But there are times when you want to zest up a meal in the absence of a grandma, the right season and most importantly, time.
This instant pickle does the job. It won't last until the birth of your first grandchild or have jealous neighbours setting up spy cams in your kitchen to steal the recipe, but it does add magic to an otherwise ho hum meal.
There are basically three steps to this pickle.
The vegetable or fruit. I used a granny smith apple in this pickle, but you could also make it with green peppers, guavas, carrots, cucumber, or almost anything in the veggie compartment of your refrigerator.
Chopping the fruit fine or grating it gives the spices a bigger surface area to cling to, and eliminates the time pickles usually need to marinate. A bit of lime juice gives the pickle its tang.
A spice mix. This turns the main ingredient into a pickle. Your spice mix can be as simple as a blend of turmeric powder, chilli powder and salt, or you could give it more depth with traditional pickle spices like asafoetida powder, fennel seeds and fenugreek powder. The proportions are pretty flexible in my recipe - less chilli powder if there's a child around, for instance.
Tempering: This is the last and most dramatic step of the process. It involves adding mustard seeds to hot oil until they pop, and pouring the hot seasoned oil to the pickle. This step can be eliminated if you feel guilty about using oil, or can't be bothered with an extra step. But you would miss out on the sizzle and pop drama, and the subtle difference in taste.
The basic mix
A green apple, julienned (around 150 g)
1/2 tsp of lemon juice
1/8 tsp of asafoetida powder
1/8 tsp of fenugreek seeds, lightly toasted and ground
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tbs oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
Add lemon juice to apples.
Mix the spice ingredients.
Rub the spice ingredients into the fruit. Hands work well.
Heat the oil in a saucepan and add mustard seeds. As soon as the seeds start popping, add the oil to the pickle and mix well.
Refrigerate unused pickle for up to a couple of days.
Want more tang in your pickle? Add a little extra lemon juice. No lemon at home? Try vinegar.
Too spicy? Cut back on the chilli powder or use a little paprika instead.
Too bitter? Some of the fennel seeds have to go.
Too drab looking? Ease up on turmeric if you're using green or red vegetables, and add more if you are making a carrot pickle.
Like the taste? Scale up the spice mix and store it in a jar. The next time you want a pickle, you will just have to spoon out some and add it to a vegetable or fruit.