Summer is the best time to make brinjal dishes in Tamil Nadu as we get excellent kanmai kathirikkai (eggplant grown in dried water bodies). When I was a young girl in Palayamkottai, my mother used to make vattral as a way of preserving brinjal. I don’t have the facilities for that now in Chennai, so I decided to pickle the brinjal. There are several Tamil recipes for brinjal pickle that are very spicy. I wanted a pickle that was not spicy and could be served with a wide variety of dishes from any part of the world. I created this recipe by borrowing concepts from meat-based pickles, making this a very unusual vegetarian pickle that is also easy to make. The bottles empty in no time in my home 🙂
Chennai summer – which begins in March 🙂 – is still roasting us, but that also means that mangoes are available in plenty. This year also I received mangoes from my neighbours. I was looking for new recipes as I had exhausted my family recipes. I found this interesting recipe for mango chutney in the 1,000 Indian Recipe Cookbook. I was fascinated by the use of onion seeds (kalonji in Hindi) – we don’t use these in Tamil Nadu. When I first tried out this recipe, I found that the flavour of cumin and onion seeds dominated the chutney so much that we could eat it only with curd rice. I have reduced the amounts by half to one-eighth to suit our palate. Though the chutney is spicy, the amount of sugar used masks the strong spicy flavour. This chutney is ideally suited as an accompaniment to Chicken Biriyani, Tomato Biriyani, and Turkey Biriyani.
I found very good quality limes in the food stores – though the prices have not come down much 🙂 Since the limes were so fresh and luscious, I decided to make this Sweet and Sour Lime Pickle. I have been making this pickle for the last 35 years as my husband loved it. He always wanted a sweet and sour pickle and would also ask for it. I developed this recipe and, as the years went by, I modified it till I arrived at the perfect balance of flavours which was loved by the whole family.
May is the month when neighbours share the mangoes from their trees with their friends, and I received several varieties of mangoes. This Festive Unripe Mango Pachadi is very popular in my family. Though this also has jam-like consistency, it is called pachadi because it is tempered with mustard in ghee. We always serve it with Biriyanis, Pulavs, and Kuska Rice, or quite often with the humble sambar rice.
In Chennai all the mango trees are heavy with ripening mangoes, but we also get unripe mangoes in all the stores. This is the time to make a variety of mango pickles. I found this recipe in my notebook, but it does not belong to my family. I must have received it either from a friend or copied it from a tattered Tamil recipe book. I am unable to give credit to the author, but I salute him or her for such a delicious pickle where none of the flavours dominate.
Sambar is a dhal and vegetable curry with gravy and its own specific spice mix. It is a staple in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, each state having its own variation of the spice mix. For instance, in Karnataka a small amount of jaggery (molasses) is added, and in Andhra Pradesh the sambar explodes with chillies. Tamil Nadu has a variety of sambars; this is my mother’s recipe to which I have added roasted coconut to enhance the flavour.
If you have mango trees in your home, you are familiar with the pain of having a huge crop of mangoes in summer that you don’t know what to do with. There is a limit to how many mangoes you can distribute to family, friends, neighbours, or anyone who accidentally drops in. This mango jam comes to the rescue as it keeps for a long time, and goes with a wide variety of dishes.