How to make my mother’s Punjabi mango pickle, the best in the world

Chef-restaurateur Sunil Ghai shares three pickle recipes: mango, garlic, and aged lime

Sunil Ghai in his Pickle restaurant on Camden Street in Dublin

Sunil Ghai in his Pickle restaurant on Camden Street in Dublin

 

Pickle for me is like delicious butter with bread. I remember going to school and carrying my lunch box, which would always be a paratha, a wholemeal griddled bread layered with butter, and sometimes stuffed with potatoes or other veggies. But one thing was always there and that was a pickle of some sort. I always used to have finished my lunch even before the break started.

My mother makes wonderful pickles and I have grown up in her kitchen seeing her mixing the spices and making a huge variety of them. I still have a mango pickle that she made 18 years ago. It has gone a little bit salty, but I can still taste loads of sweetness and of course her love and care in there too.

Aged lime, mango and garlic pickles at Pickle restaurant, 43 Camden Street Lower, Dublin 2. Photograph: Alan Betson
Aged lime, mango and garlic pickles at Pickle restaurant, 43 Camden Street Lower, Dublin 2. Photograph: Alan Betson

A good pickle is a necessary accompaniment to the majority of the food from north India. Their use is almost essential in the region during the hot summers when the physical activities come down to a low level and consequently the flow of the digestive juices is inhibited. Pickles stimulate the appetite and promote good digestion. They are also delicious and that helps too.

These family recipes are almost 24 years old. The mango pickle is quite sentimental for me. It brings back a great childhood memory I have of being a commis chef to my mother. I remember buying raw mangoes from the vegetable market for her to make pickle. She would require 25-30kg of raw mangoes, and she would go through each one thoroughly to check it was perfect. I know I am biased, but I would say my mother makes the best Punjabi mango pickle in the world.

Our aged lime pickle is a real favourite in Pickle restaurant. It goes so well with fish dishes and it keeps for up to six years – the older the better. We started making garlic pickle just for ourselves in the restaurant, and then when we gave samples to some regulars to try, the response was very positive, so now this particular pickle is a favourite of many of our customers.

A top tip: Don’t use a wet spoon for any pickles you make at home as the moisture will encourage mould to grow.

Aged lime pickle. Photograph: Alan Betson
Aged lime pickle. Photograph: Alan Betson

AGED LIME PICKLE

Ingredients
6 limes
50g salt
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 star anise
4 small green chillies
125g brown sugar
1 tbsp ground ginger
45-60ml water

Method
1. Cut the limes into quarters. Put them in a wide, flat bowl and sprinkle the salt over them. Leave until next morning.

2. Heat the mustard seeds, fenugreek, star anise and chillies in a dry frying pan.

3. Cover with a lid because the seeds will sputter. When the sputtering subsides, remove from the heat and put aside.

4. Strain the liquid from the limes into a pan. Add the sugar, ginger and the water and boil until the sugar dissolves. Leave to cool.

5. Put the limes and the roasted spices into a preserving jar, mixing them well.

Pour the cooled sugar mixture over the limes. Cover and keep for six to eight weeks before using.

Garlic pickle. Photograph: Alan Betson
Garlic pickle. Photograph: Alan Betson

GARLIC PICKLE

Ingredients
250g peeled garlic gloves
1 tbsp salt
3 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns, crushed
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp nigella seeds
1 tsp chilli powder
¼ tsp ground asafoetida
600/700ml rapeseed oil

Method
1. Peel the garlic and check that it is free from blemishes.

2. Put the whole cloves together with the salt and spices into a preserving jar.

3. Cover with oil and put on the lid.

4. Place the jar in a warm place – near a heater or stove, on the boiler or in the sun if it is hot enough.

5 Stir a few times a day for five days. Leave for at least two to three weeks, still in a warm place, before using.

Mango pickle. Photograph: Alan Betson
Mango pickle. Photograph: Alan Betson

MANGO PICKLE

Ingredients
500g raw mango cut into ½ inch dice or wedges
100g salt
For the pickle masala:
1 tbsp red chilli powder
2 tbsp turmeric powder
2½ tbsp brown mustard seeds
1½ tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp fenugreek seeds
1½ tbsp nigella seeds
1 tbsp salt
1 litre rapeseed oil

Method
1. Rub the cut mangoes with salt and keep it a warm place for good six or seven hours.

2. Toast all the spices listed above individually and then crush them in a mortar and pestle.

3. Mix all the spices to make a pickle masala and set this aside.

4. Take a deep mixing bowl and mix the mango and the pickle masala gently using both hands. Add half of the rapeseed oil to it and put this mix into an earthenware pickle jar or glass jar.

5. Keep it in a warm place for good three to four weeks and add the rest of the oil gradually over this time.

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