On the walk back home, I thought up a use for them. A redcurrant achaar. A very Indian pickle, with a very un-Indian berry. Back home, I handed the brown paper bag to Ma. And together we set out to fill a jar with pickle-ish things.
Tomorrow, Ma and Baba fly back to India. This time will be especially hard for Chotto-ma. For three months, she has been stuck to her Mamma like the flap of a well-licked envelope. She and Mamma have their own little world, their own secrets, furtive giggles, games only they understand and the most long-winded conversations you can imagine.
Chotto-ma: Mamma, are you going to cry when you’re back in India because I’m not there?
Ma: Yes, shona.
Chotto-ma: Will you cry a lot, a lot?
Ma: Yes, shona.
Chotto-ma: Ok then, could you cry enough to make a puddle? I’ll go and splash in it.
Her relationship with her Dada is different – she’s my father’s little helper; bringing him his shoes, taking off his knee-cap after his morning-walk, giving him his medicine after breakfast and sitting next to him on the bed telling him one of her long-winded stories. Of Good People and Not Good People and volcanoes and fantastic creatures.
What will she do without their ready ears? And ready arms. What will she do without the people who can’t be pickled?
Redcurrant Achaar (redcurrants pickled in Indian spices)
This is one of the best things I’ve bottled in a while. The pickle can be dolloped on anything – a lentil soup, a yogurt dip, or flatbreads. I’ve even used the pickled oil as a salad dressing. So good.
300 gm redcurrants
100 gm green chillies, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
10 large cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1/2 tsp turmeric
A mix of whole spices (also called Panch Phoran, available ready-made in any Indian or Middle-Eastern store)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp aniseed
1 tsp black cumin (black jeera)
Roast the whole spices on a dry pan, stirring constantly, till they give off a lovely, roasty smell.
Pound them coarsely using a mortar and pestle.
Put the redcurrants, green chillies, garlic, turmeric, salt and roasted spice mix in a jar. Cover half with sunflower oil, and the rest in mustard oil. The oil should cover all the ingredients.
Seal the jar, and let it sun itself on the window sill for 3 or 4 days.