February 01, 2024
I'VE GOT ACHAAR IS ON THE MIND. I still remember the tiny apartment in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania where we began our journey in this country. It was a first-floor apartment facing the front parking lot and entrance of the complex. A perfect location just across the street from school, Plymouth Elementary There were two bedrooms for the four of us and some extended family. So, in the summer, we made do with aunts, uncles, friends, and cousins in the main living area. We didn't have money to splurge on summer camps or endless entertainment that our kids nowadays have at their disposal. And, we were too young for summer jobs. We just hung out and toiled away our summer hours watching tv and playing endless games outside. On one particularly boring afternoon, I remember my aunt setting up a feast of naan from our first little Indian grocery store in Norristown where we were finally able to find Indian provisions. Naan was rare in our home, where my parents preferred healthier roti made from whole wheat flour rather than white all-purpose used to make naan. My auntie heated the large naan on a griddle until they were brown and crispy, slathered them with ghee, and then plopped a dollop of achaar in the middle - the extra hot five spice pickle on top. Then, there was crunch from raw onion slices sprinkled with black salt. It was a dream meal! My cousins and I would sit cross-legged on the floor with paper plates and our meal and get through one, two, and even three servings each. We couldn't get enough of that spicy pickle. Well, that is until my father came home early one day and saw what was going on. Bread and butter? No vegetables? No dal! Enough! It was not the kind of diet he wanted his kids on. That was the end of that naan-achaar-onion parties. We had to find other things to eat and occupy our time and boy did we! Those stories will come later, but for now I want you to realize how delicious these pickles truly are and how healthy and delicious they can be when made at home. I first shared this recipe below in my book Vegan Indian Cooking, page 227. Not to worry, I'll have more pickle recipes to come. xoxo Anupy.
Stovetop: Habanero Achaar, Spicy Habanero Indian Pickle
2 cups habanero chiles (Thai, serrano, cayenne also work)
2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 teaspoons turmeric powder
2 tablespoons ground black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon amchur powder, mango powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoons light or dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons mustard oil
1. Wearing kitchen gloves to protect your hands, cut a slit lengthwise down each chile with a sharp knife, stopping at the stem. I have been leaving the stems on for aesthetics, but you can remove the stem as long as the base is intact.
2. In a bowl, combine the salt, turmeric, ground mustard, amchur, garam masala, and sugar. Stir.
3. Stuff each chile individually with this mixture.
4. In a heavy pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. You can use any oil, but if you have a chance to source mustard oil from an Indian grocer, I would recommend it. It has a distinct smell and taste profile, but adds so much flavor to this recipe.
5. Add the chiles. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
6. Turn off the heat and remove the pan from the burner.
7. Add any leftover masala and stir gently. Let the peppers sit for 15 minutes until they cool slightly. Then, transfer the mixture to a glass container and let it sit with the lid off until completely cooled.
8. Seal the container and refrigerate. This will last 4-6 weeks. Just be sure to always use a clean, dry spoon to dole it out.
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