Cauliflower and Unripe Papaya Pickle is not only a ‘pickle’ but also a kind of relish, and even a vegetable curry, at least my daughter and I treat it so. I thought I would post this now that cauliflower is in season in Chennai. Though unripe papaya is not usually available in the market, you could always ask your vegetable vendor to get you one. Unripe papaya is also known as green papaya.
My mother’s brother was in the Indian Air Force, and his wife a teacher in air force schools. They were posted together all over North India. Lakshmi Athai (aunt) was exposed to recipes from various cultures from her association with other air force wives. She was a resourceful and efficient cook, adapting her cooking to what was available locally, and to different situations.When my uncle’s family travelled south by train for the summer vacation, Lakshmi Athai used to make chapathis and this pickle for the almost three-day long journey, as the vinegar in the pickle would keep it from spoiling.
My mother had got the recipe from Lakshmi Athai, but never made it. I made it for the first time in 1984 when my papaya tree crashed in cyclone and unripe papaya was scattered all over our garden. I standardised this recipe, omitted the green beans which my aunt had included, and increased the proportion of small onions which are crunchy and provide a piquant flavour.
Both cauliflower and unripe papaya are very low in calories, protein and fat. Cauliflower is a moderate source of vitamin C and choline, but very little is known about the nutritive value of unripe papaya. I came across an online source saying unripe papaya is a good source of potassium. If this is true, both cauliflower and papaya in this pickle contribute a fair amount of potassium. In Tamil Nadu, unripe papaya is believed to have the potential to cause abortions as it contains the proteolytic enzyme papain(which is used to tenderise meat) and is avoided by many. However, unripe papaya is used by lower-income groups in the preparation of vegetable curries.
- 1 large Cauliflower
- 1 medium Unripe Papaya
- 15 Green Chillies (stalks removed)
- 1 ½ C Sambar Onion (small pink onion), peeled
- ¾ C Vinegar
- 2 T Salt, or to taste
- 1 ½ C Gingelly Oil (Sesame Oil)
- 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
- 1 ½ T Mustard Seeds
- 1 ½ T Cumin Powder
- 1 ½ T Kashmiri Chilli Powder
- ½ tsp Turmeric Powder
- ¼ C grated Ginger
- ¼ C grated Garlic
- Place the mustard seeds in a small jar of a mixie or blender and pulse at speeds 1, 2 and 3 for 10 seconds each. Add the rest of the ingredients listed under Grind together and a tablespoon of the vinegar and pulse till you have a smooth paste.
- Break the cauliflower into small florets. Wash in salted water. Drain.
- Remove the skin and the seed portion of the papaya. Cut the flesh into 1 cm cubes.
- Boil a litre of water in a large pan. Add the papaya and the cauliflower. Boil for exactly one minute. Remove from heat. Drain and spread in a colander to cool.
- Heat the oil in a large kadai or wok. Add the mustard seeds. Lower heat as soon as the mustard seeds crackle.
- Add the green chillies. Immediately add the ground masala (paste). Stir on low heat till the oil separates.
- Add the onion and stir for a minute.
- Add the salt and the rest of the vinegar.
- Bring to boil.
- Add the papaya and cauliflower. Stir and immediately remove from heat.
- Cool and bottle.
- If mustard powder is available, use that instead of mustard seeds.
- Whole green chillies, when added to hot oil, will swell quickly and burst causing hot oil to splatter . Therefore, lower the heat when you add the chillies and add the other ingredients quickly to prevent accidents.
- If you don’t like the taste of gingelly oil, you can always use any other vegetable oil.
- I use Kashmiri chilli powder for its milder taste and rich colour.
- This pickle can be kept at room temperature only if the oil covers the vegetables. Otherwise, store in a refrigerator.