Meen achar(Fish Pickle)

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Meen achar or Fish pickle: In Kerala, it is very common to find some form of fish in your meal. Though fish pickle/meen achar is not a popular item from the place I come from, it is quite a hit in the Southern-Mid Kerala regions. I first had fish pickle when my roommate got it from her home after our semester break. And it was quite delicious ๐Ÿ™‚ I had it another time at a friend’s place for dinner few months ago.

I didn’t ask anyone for a recipe as such. My mom prepares shrimp/prawn pickle at home and its to die for ๐Ÿ˜‰ So I just modified that a little and tried to make fish pickle my style. I figured that for any pickle/achar, there are few things that you can use in permutation-combination and all of it tastes good ๐Ÿ˜€ Those ingredients are mainly, fenugreek, mustard, asafetida, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, green chilli and vinegar. The must use ingredient is red chilli powder ๐Ÿ™‚ From my couple of experiences with fish pickle, I saw that ginger, garlic and curry leaves is something thats used in it. My mom uses only garlic for most kind of pickles. So I thought of going for these additions. For a first timer, I wasn’t disappointed ๐Ÿ˜› This recipe is posted after my attempt a second time. The first time, I did a blunder!!! I made the pickle using catfish. Now, if you plan to make fish pickle, use more harder fish like King fish/Neimeen or Tilapia or even Salmon. Catfish was too soft for a pickle. After deep frying, the fish pieces should be little hard. Thats helps in preserving the fish pickle for a longer duration or may be thats how the texture should ideally be!!!

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INGREDIENTS:
Note: Cup used for measurement is US measurement cup, 1 cup = 237 ml

Fish(I used Neimeen/King fish) – 200 gm
Garlic – 4 nos, chopped
Ginger – 1 inch piece, chopped
Curry leaves – 1 strand
Green chilli – 2 nos, slit
Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
Fenugreek powder – less than 1/4 tsp
Kashmiri chilli powder – 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder – 1/2 tsp
Vinegar – 1 tbsp
Salt – to taste(apprx. 1 tsp)
Boiled water – 3/4 cup
Oil(Sesame preferred) – 2 tbsp

For fish marination and deep frying:-
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Kashmiri red chilli powder – 1/2 tsp
Salt – 1/2 tsp
Oil – as needed(apprx. 1 cup)

METHOD:
1. Wash and clean the fish and cut it into small 1 inch cubes/pieces. Drain the water well and dry it with paper towel if needed(this will prevent the oil from spluttering when you fry the fishes).
2. Marinate the fish with turmeric powder, kashmiri red chilli powder and salt mentioned under ‘For fish marination and deep frying’ section. Keep aside for an hour or so.
3. Heat oil in a deep frying dish/pan and deep fry the marinated fish pieces in batches(about 10 pieces at a time). Fry (in medium high flame) till the fish pieces have cooked well and drain the oil using a paper towel and keep aside.
Note: The oil should be really hot before you put the fish pieces for frying. Else, the fish pieces will absorb lot of oil. This is the case while deep frying anything. If the oil isn’t heated well, it leads to a lot of oil absorption.
4. For making the pickle, heat oil in a saucepan and put mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter, put curry leaves and let it splutter. Reduce the flame to medium.
5. Put chopped ginger and chopped garlic and slit green chillies. Saute till the garlic and ginger turns light brown.
6. Now add the fenugreek powder, red chilli powder and kashmiri red chilli powder. Saute for few seconds. Make sure that the red chilli powder doesn’t burn.
7. Add 1 cup of boiled water. Put the fried fish pieces and salt into it and mix well.
8. Remove from flame and pour the vinegar into the saucepan and give a good mix. At this point, do a taste check and add more salt or vinegar per your taste.
9. After the pickle cools down, transfer it into a jar and store in the refrigerator.

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Cherry Achar(Pickled Cherry)

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It is the season of berries and cherries ๐Ÿ™‚ Some of our friends had gone for cherry picking couple of weeks back. And they shared some of their picks with us too ๐Ÿ˜‰ Well, who wouldn’t enjoy relishing freshly picked cherries..they were spotless and so fresh, that you could eat as many as you can..Well, did you know that eating cherries can put you to sleep?? ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Ya, so if you know of someone who finds it difficult to sleep, like DD ;-), give some cherries at night and they will have a sound sleep.

We finished our cherries that our friends had shared with us, the very same day, they gave it to us. But that left us wanting for more fresh cherries. Guess what?!!! We ended up buying a lot more of cherries from the store. And since the expert wasn’t with DD ๐Ÿ˜› , he failed to recognize that the cherries he bought were over ripe. They were too many in number too ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I didn’t want to waste all those cherries. I had to come up with some innovative idea of using up these cherries, which I would otherwise end up putting in trash!!! So I thought, why not try making some achar with these cherries. It is a good way of preserving the cherries and being Indians, we enjoy eating achar with absolutely anything!!! I loved this pickle and for a change, I made it sweet and sour. Of course, the sweetness from cherries would have been enough, but I had to put some jaggery to bring in that flavor I wanted ๐Ÿ™‚ I am glad I could increase the shelf life of those cherries ๐Ÿ˜‰

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INGREDIENTS:

Cherries – 600 gms
Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
Fenugreek powder – 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves – 2 strands
Garlic – 15-20 pods, sliced
Green chilli – 2 nos, slit
Red chilli powder – 1 – 1.5 tsp(depending on how spicy you want the pickle to be. I used 1.5 tsp)
Kashmiri red chilli powder – 2.5 tsp
Jaggery(grated) – 2 tsp
Vinegar – 4 tbsp
Oil – 3 tbsp
Salt – to taste (apprx. 1.5-2 tsp)

METHOD:

1. Wash the cherries and wipe them with a kitchen towel to dry them up. Keep aside.
2. Heat oil in a saucepan and put mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter, put curry leaves and let it splutter. Reduce the flame to medium.
3. Put sliced garlic and slit green chillies. Saute till the garlic turns light brown.
4. Now add the fenugreek powder, red chilli powder and kashmiri red chilli powder. Saute for few seconds. Make sure that the red chilli powder doesn’t burn.
5. Add 1 cup of water and let it boil. Add the grated jaggery into the water and let it boil till the jaggery melts.
6. Now put the cherries and salt. Cook in medium high flame, till the cherries soften up and start to tear up easily.
7. Remove from flame and pour the vinegar into the saucepan and give a good mix. At this point, do a taste check and add more salt or vinegar per your taste.
8. After the pickle cools down, transfer it into a jar and store in the refrigerator.

Serve with rice or with absolutely anything whenever you want to have a spiced up side with sweet and sour element!!!

Coriander Powder

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I do not want to write too much story about this post. However, I have to mention one thing here. If you are used to using store bought coriander powder, switching to a home-made coriander powder can be a turning point in your whole cooking experience. It was the case with me.

I used to make everything using store bought coriander powder. Once I made my mom’s bhindi/okra fry and it was nowhere close to what she prepares, though I had taken time to fry it well like she does. Then I asked her what could have possibly gone wrong and she brought to my notice that it could be the difference due to the coriander powder. Immediately, I got the coriander powder recipe from her and the secret ingredient is the ‘fenugreek seeds’. It was a whole new revelation to me that something that small can make such drastic difference. Ever since, I have always got bhindi/okra fry just perfect.

INGREDIENTS:

Coriander seeds โ€“ 2 cups
Dry red chillies โ€“ 8 nos
Fenugreek seeds โ€“ ยผ tsp

METHOD:

1. Heat a pan and dry roast coriander seeds, dry red chillies and fenugreeks seeds together. Keep sauteโ€™ing.
2. You would know that the coriander seeds are getting roasted when you hear the popping sound. Fry in medium-high flame till the popping sound almost stops and you start getting a nice aroma of coriander seeds(Another way to identify when to stop dry roasting would be when you see the color of the coriander seeds going brown, not dark brown ๐Ÿ™‚ ).
3. Grind into fine powder in a dry grinder/mixie.
Notes: The dry red chilli gives a good color to the coriander powder and the fenugreek seeds adds aroma to the spice mix.

Puli Inji

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Puli in my native language means Tamarind or sour. In this context, it means tamarind. Inji means Ginger. So now you know what Puli Inji could possibly mean. It gets a perfect blend of sweetness from jaggery, sourness from tamarind and its fair amount of hot and spicy touch from Ginger. This is another placeholder in the ‘Sadya Ila’ (Feasts in Kerala are served in banana leaf and Ila means leaf) along side other pickles during Onam. Though it is served in a very minimal quantity(less than a tsp), an onam sadya is incomplete without puli inji.

You will find various versions of this item going from south to north Kerala. Towards the south, it is called Inji Puli or Inji curry. There might be slight variation in taste too. The difference could be in the proportion of ginger and tamarind used or in the consistency of the item. Well I know that I have got my perfect proportion for Puli Inji and that is given below ๐Ÿ˜› My friend suggested me to mention that it has a good shelf life. You can store it in the refrigerator and it will stay fresh for 3-4 weeks.

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INGREDIENTS:

Ginger(grated) โ€“ 1/4 cup
Jaggery โ€“ 1 cube (30 gms)
Concentrated tamarind paste โ€“ 2 tbsp
Green chilli โ€“ 3 nos
Mustard seeds โ€“ ยผ tsp
Red chilli powder โ€“ ยผ tsp
Asafetida โ€“ ยผ tsp
Curry leaves โ€“ 8-9 leaves
Coconut oil โ€“ 1 tbsp
Salt โ€“ to taste (apprx. ยฝ tsp)

METHOD:

1. Heat coconut oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds to it. Once it splutters, add grated ginger and chopped green chillies. Also add the curry leaves.
2. Fry ginger till it looses its moisture and becomes light brown.
3. Now add the tamarind paste and jaggery. Pour ยฝ cup water and melt the jaggery. Saute occasionally. Add more water if required.
4. Once jaggery melts, add red chilli powder, asafetida and salt.
5. Continue to cook in medium heat till it reaches the right consistency. It should be a thick paste and not watery.

Note: If you are not using tamarind concentrate, you would have to soak 2 gooseberry sized tamarind balls in 1 cup warm water. Squeeze the tamarind well and use this tamarind water. In this case, you will not have to add extra water to melt jaggery. Also, you will have to cook it longer to get it to the right consistency.

Garam Masala

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Has it ever happened to you that you used to use a particular brand of something and you were so used to and accustomed to it and suddenly, one fine morning, the product is no longer available in the market. The company one day for some ‘weird’ reason stopped manufacturing it!!! Well it has happened with me more than once and not just in food varieties, in shampoos too ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

One such case is the garam masala. My mom used to make her own garam masala for her cooking. And I knew the taste and aroma of it. I tried many brands but didn’t find anything close to what she would make. But voila! at last I found one brand which had the same exact aroma and taste of what my mom used to make. Now that brand became my default brand for almost all spice mixes and specifically garam masala. But this time when I went to get this from the store, I didn’t find it in the store. I thought may be the store doesn’t have the stock and it will be available next time I go or I could easily find it in other grocery stores. After all, there is no shortage of Indian grocery stores in the Bay Area! But alas! my hopes were shattered, when I found out after a search of about 3 months in almost all the Indian grocery store that they no longer make this product. I was so disappointed.

I tried my luck with couple of more brands but those also turned out to be major disappointments. Then one day I thought why not try making it myself. After all, I have all the required whole garam masala with me. So I tried and guess what, I am NOT going back to any stores anymore looking for a good brand of garam masala.

If you are doing what I used to do, trust me, try making the spice mixes at home. It doesn’t take much effort or time. But what you would get after 5 mins of your effort is simple amazing. You would never get the same aroma from any store bought spice mixes. And garam masala is one of the easiest to begin your experiments with making spice mixes.

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INGREDIENTS

Cloves – 15 nos
Cardamom – 7-8 pods
Black cardamom(optional) – 1 nos
Cinnamon stick – 3 inch
Cumin seeds – 2 tsp
Bay leaf – 1 nos
Fennel seeds – 3/4 tsp
Shah jeera(optional) – 1/2 tsp
Star anise – 1 nos
Coriander seeds – 3 tbsp
Black pepper – 1 tsp
Mace – 1 nos

METHOD

1. Heat a pan and put all the ingredients in it. Dry fry these spices in medium flame.

2. They will crackle while frying. Once the crackling sound stops or the spices turn light brown, switch off the stove.

3. Let the spices cool down.

4. Grind these to a fine powder.