Did you know about the secret magic potion of an Indian kitchen? Meet the multi-talented achar ka tel (pickle oil).

Garub no achar pickle oil powered akoori


It was raining heavily yesterday morning and the boys were happy to see me get up. Cats are not fond of the rains. Not Baby Loaf at least. I took out their food bowls and Baby Loaf and little Nimki ran together to eat.

Mornings in the #houseofcats


Seeing the rains, I decided to make an akoori for breakfast. The hot and spicy, runny (which makes it distinct from anda bhurjee) Parsi scrambled egg. There was some pav left from what Chris Kane of 'The Singing Home Chef' had sent along with her very robust chicken sukha the previous night, and that was perfect to pair the aloori with.

The one in the bottom row is garab nu achar while the Tarapori patio is in the bottle above. Lagan nu custard is a must in Parsi weddings, With sariya (sago papad).

Now do not treat this as an 'authentic akoori recipe', but here is how I made the akoori yesterday.

I heated a teaspoon of ghee in the wok. I then suddenly got the idea to add a teaspoon of the oil and masala from the garab nu achar that our friend Zinobia Schroff had recently sent along with her tarapori bombil patio and lagan nu achur. Zinobia's Parsi pickles are my favourite as the flavours in them are more balanced than the others that I have tried which turn out to be too sweet for my taste.

I then added a teaspoon of dhansak masala to the oil. Mangal is the brand we use at home. I did this the last couple of times that I made akoori and Kainaz really liked it.

Then followed finely chopped red onions, tomatoes and green chillies. I cracked an egg into the wok after this and gently whisked the egg. Added some salt, pushed the egg to the side (Parsis like it to be even runnier than what I made but you need to be a Parsi granny to get that right), and put the pav on the tava and toasted them on both sides. I added a few drops of the red oil from the pickle on to the egg at the end.

Garab means roe and the fish roe that Zinobia uses is that of bheeng. Something that my late father in law loved. Bheeng is our very own ilish (hilsa) and appeals to my Bengali soul too. No, Zinobia's pickle did not have a fishy smell in case you were wondering and the akoori turned out to be brilliant if I may say so!

It made for the perfect rainy morning breakfast with the soft pav.

Akoori breakfasts in the #MumbaiRains


We later took little Nimki to the vet for his follow up anti-inflammatory shot. He had sprained his front leg earlier this week. The initial diagnosis when we took the poor kitty to the vet on day one was 'possible paralysis,' but thankfully it was not so. Things went off smoothly this time around and the doctor said that Nimki is a lot better now. Guess the akoori turned out to be a lucky one!

Lots of drama in the #houseofcats


I am a big fan of using pickle oil in my food. This was right from my school days in Kolkata when I would add mango pickle to murgir jhol (chicken curry) to add variety to the dish which was made every weekend at home.

I used mango pickle as a seasoning base to stir fry chicken in after we had our own kitchen in Mumbai and when I began to dig into our pantry and experiment with whatever was there to liven up the menu. You can read about that here.

I had earlier used the same garab nu achar as well as Zinobia's Tarapore Bombil patio (made with dried Bombay duck and a tad relish-like) as a snack one evening with the buttery brioche of the Baker's Dozen and then the next with ragi crackers and the wholewheat lavash from the same place. Worked as well as a hummus would have or a liver pate would have to make for an excellent evening treat.

Yesterday was the first time that I used the oil and spices from Parsi pickle while cooking and I was happy with the way it turned out. This made me think about how excited I have got in the past about sourcing and using Asian chilli oils and pastes such as the Thai chilli paste, Hakka black bean chilli oils or the Malay chilli sambal.

Perhaps it's time that I use our own achar ka tel (oil of pickle) more often instead. I mean just think of the variety of pickles that we have in India, the variety of spices that go into them, the magic that fermentation creates with them... then think of using these as flavouring base or even topping and condiments. This can add so much flavour and colour to our drab lockdown lives. Don't you think so?

Lady Saradar's as K said last night


Now, let me tell you a funny thing before I sign off. Our friend Shaswati had cooked a fabulous meal for us last night. There were very indulgent cheese burst croquettes, rather hedonistic river prawns cooked in cashew paste, posto murgi (chicken cooked in crushed poppy seeds) which took me back to the cabin restaurants of Calcutta, hilsa cooked with pineapple (apparently a combination that the Ghotis of west Bengal make) and chicken kheema shingaras made in the air fryer.

Clockwise: anarosh ilish, kaju chingri, posto murgi, jhorjhore bhaat, beans salads


What was 'funny' about this?

Shaswati had spiked the mince filling of the shingaras with mango pickle oil! When I told her that this was the subject of my latest story, she told me that she often uses pickle oil and masala as a tadka (tempering) for her dals. Well, we did both go to the same college after all!

I do the same as a topping for a bland dals.

I am sure that there are a million ways in which achar ka tel (oil of pickles) can add colour to our lives. Tell me about your favourite ones.

Andhra tomato chutney, cheese burst croquette and kheema achari shingara


Appendix: A quick synopsis of some interesting food finds/ experiences over the weekend from my Instagram page: @thefinelychopped












I am conducting a workshop on 20th September on how to build your Instagram brand organically. Please do join if interested by registering here.



Postscript:

More than five months of the lockdown have passed and people are slowly putting their lives together. Many have got over their initial sock and lots of interesting things are happening now including in the world of food writing and content creation. One was feeling a bit overwhelmed on seeing this I must admit and I woke up yesterday questioning myself whether I have really achieved anything in terms of 'productive', read professional work, or am just slacking.

That is when this email from a reader reached me and I read it just before we set off to the vet. Just the reassuring note that one needed. Thank you J.


Hello Kalyan
I hope you are well. I have been reading a lot of your blog posts and listening to more of your podcasts and I haven't even started on your Instagram stories yet! 

So inspiring; makes me want to cook. I don't live in an area with easy access to a lot of the ingredients you use, at the moment, but I have lots of ideas once we get back to normal - whenever and whatever that may be.

The feast you made for K's birthday looked incredible. Definitely see the Bengali influences with all that fish and mustard oil. Are you sure she had enough cake though ;)

Also, like the idea of Foodocracykitchens, look forward to reading more. You are keeping busy, that's for sure! Thank you for sharing all the great content and giving us non-Indians a window into your tasty world.

Best wishes



Reading it made me feel better and the James Bong in me said, "we will live to write another day."  Thank you for your support everyone and my message to you is please take one day at a time. Try to advance over where you were yesterday. Don't compare yourself with others.

These are not my lines but something that we studied in our Buddhist studies and which made sense to me and something to strive for.





PPS: Talking of fresh starts, I am happy to have got a chance to share my thoughts in this lovely article on home chefs by Indulekha Aravind in the ET today and you could read that in the extract below:




Comments

Sanjay N Lulla said…
I have used the pickle oil and little bit of the pickle masala in making lacha parantha. Smear over the first time rolled out parantha and proceed to make the layers. I prefer the stuffed red chilli pickle oil and masala. The liti stuffing also uses the same.
I would like to tell you about one of the stray cats that has adopted me, Hari. Yesterday after rubbing himself on my legs, kissing my ankles he proceeded to eat. I then suddenly heard him making odd noises. It was like a hollow low weeping sound like waaaa waaa. His tail was down and wagging. He was standing straight when I saw another male cat peeking out of a corner. There was a standoff then a brawl. People came running to separate them,which they did. They complained that cats were getting dangerous etc. I explained that Hari was just protecting his territory and was warning the other cat off. All food in his territory were his and not to forget 4 charming female cats. On separation Hari came for some affection and resumed his supper.
People just don't understand animal behaviour and decide unjustly. These show offs are necessary for them to establish 'hunting and mating' rights.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@sanjay this pickle in paratha dough, stuffing seems like a fab idea. Some others have suggested it too
Thanks for sharing the story of your Hari om Hari. Hope he finds the right equation and equilibrium soon. Baby Loaf and Nimki show promise
Sachi said…
As a punjabi , we are so fond of eating mathris, the unsalted ones which is prepared at the time of karwachauth festival with mango pickle. Every punjabi will vouch for this combination. Your idea of ragi crackers with pickle has shown me some hope of enjoying the treat yet again as I have been recently diagnosed with celiac disease. The pickle oil is also used by us in making achaari bhindi and spicy alu baigan. I too love to garnish plain boiled dal with achar oil. How it transforms the plain dal.

I am so happy that Nimki is on the recovery road. My own dog whom I had picked up from street as a pup had injured itself and got paralyzed but the two months in the vet clinic and my daughters love and affection got the puppy back on its foot and now is a family member. We have adopted it and can't think of life without it.