The preparation of this lemon pickle is very quick and simple – the time is in the natural drying process. It is sweet, sour and spicy all at the same time and complements cheese and pasta as well as curries. It really is sunshine in a jar.
By Reena Pastakia
London is sweltering in a heat wave at the moment and Reena Pastakia has been making the most of it by making batches of her family’s lemon pickle. The preparation is very quick and simple – the time is in the natural drying process. It is sweet, sour and spicy all at the same time and complements cheese and pasta as well as curries. It really is sunshine in a jar.
- 5 unwaxed lemons
- 5 teaspoons chilli powder (less if your chilli powder is very hot)
- 3 teaspoons turmeric
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon asafoetida
- 250 grams sugar
- 2 tablespoons light tasting vegetable oil
- Place the lemons in a pan and cover them with water. Place a lid on the pan and bring the water to a boil. Let the lemons simmer until they are very soft – in the region of 20 minutes.
- Drain the lemons and let them cool until they are easy to handle.
- Now cut each lemon in half lengthways. Cut each half into three or four strips and then cut each strip into bite-sized pieces.
- Arrange the lemon pieces on a plate and place them in the sun to dry. They are ready when the skin has become slightly firm and you can see the sugar from the lemon starting to crystallize on the surface of the skin. There should still be some moisture in the lemons as you don’t want the pickle to be too tough. The length of time this will take depends on the weather and the size and variety of lemons. I made these on a glorious sunny day and they had finished drying within 4 hours.
- Now place the dried lemon pieces in a mixing bowl and add all of the remaining ingredients. Stir well. Taste the pickle and add more chilli or salt if required.
- Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to one side. Give the pickle a quick stir if you are passing by. You will notice the consistency of the pickle change with time. It is ready when the sugar has dissolved completely and the mixture is runny. Again the time this will take depends on various factors but don’t be surprised if it takes 2-3 days.
- When it is ready, place in a clean dry jar and store in a fridge.
Reena grew up thinking Indian cooking was a dark art where the quantities of spices required in each dish were innately known to a chosen few. It was only after she married an Englishman with a voracious appetite for Indian food that she started phoning home for cooking tips. She started her blog (coconutraita.com) in an attempt to document her family’s recipes and make Indian cooking accessible to all.