By Aatish Nath – The Times of India
Home chefs are cashing in on a new demand for pickles that are made with meat Kairi, already tangy, takes on an ability to have you involuntarily squint when eaten pickled.
The unripe mango, floating in coral red oil, along with mustard and fenugreek seeds, is what most people think about when you mention achaar, but a new breed of home chefs is introducing city folk to a wholly different meat-based pickle -inspired by regional recipes and some imagination.
Gitika Saikia, who originally hails from Dibrugarh in upper Assam, has been hosting North Eastern meals at her home in Juhu.Seeing the demand for her pork pickle (the recipe, she confesses, is her mother-in-law’s), she was soon doling out the piquant meat to friends and lunch attendees. She soon decided to extend her business and started selling it, along with other vegetarian variants. Saikia, however, cautions, “It’s a North Eastern pork pickle, so it’s not like other varieties such as the spicy Goan pork pickle. This doesn’t contain any masalas.”
In fact, the ingredient list is relatively short and consists of a little vinegar, mustard oil, bhut jolokia (which she sources from back home), ginger, garlic and onions. Due to the low amount of vinegar used, the pickle can only keep for about 40 days. Using technology to her advantage, this and other (vegetarian) pickles from her, can be ordered on yummade.in, a website that allows home chefs to connect with customers.
Also on Yummade is William Pinto, who makes pickles under the name, The Pickled Chick. As the moniker suggests, he makes only chicken pickles in five different styles. A former chocolate maker, he made the switch to savoury pickles in 2012.Pinto explains, “I started making Kerala-styled pickles from my family’s recipes.”
He now prepares Andhra, Punjabi and Goan versions of pickles, along with a chicken balchao spread, “that isn’t as spicy as his other variants”. The recipes for all his offerings have come from observing flavour profiles from each region and trying to match his pickles to it. With a three-month shelf life, the pickles are a hit with paying guest students and those who want their meat fix without the headache of cooking a meal.
In fact, one of the reasons Pinto started the venture was because he wanted meat in the fridge, “after a hard days’ work”. He shares, “I’m a hardcore non-vegetarian and I need my chicken and pork at the end of the day.” Returning home and finding no meat in the fridge got him started on pickling chicken and his venture has only grown. Says Pinto, “I only started in May of this year with Small Fry Co’s Bombay Local and the response has been great,” smiles Pinto, who will be spending this weekend in Pune, at a farmers MARKET for home chefs.
Zinobia Schroff seems to have an innate knack for spices. A Parsi caterer based in Dadar, her reper toire of pickles extends from the popular prawn to the harder-tosource fish roe (she makes it with eggs from bhing also known as hilsa) and chicken, mutton, pork and bombil (Bombay duck). For those looking for a lip-smacking preserve of a particular type of fish, she pickles most types that can be found in local waters. The monsoon is the best time to source the roe needed to make her garbh nu achar, but it’s been getting harder to find and more expensive these days. Schroff says, “I keep getting standing orders for the bhing roe preserve, but in recent years, I have had a hard time keeping up.” This monsoon season, though, she managed to make more than enough, and has bottles left for the taking. Prices vary from Rs 250 a for quarter kilo of chicken or pork, to Rs 550 for 250 gms of the bhing roe pickle. Schroff, who had spent her childhood watching her grandmother pickle, ensures that her variants are all preservative free.
Artisanal, small batch pickles, may seem to be too off the moment, but these three pickle makers aren’t trying to cash in on any trend. For Saikia, it is a chance to showcase the often overlooked cuisine of India’s North East, while Schroff prefers to prepare most of her pickles in the Parsi style even if she hasn’t learnt the recipes from anyone in her family. The spurt in flea MARKETS and pop up bazaars too has allowed interested chefs to test out recipes and concepts before setting up busi nesses. Insia Lacewalla, who runs Small Fry Co, the company that regularly hosts weekend bazaars under the name Bombay Local, says, “Most home chefs have started pickling in response to customer demand. The knowledgeable consumer is always looking for something new, and these pickle-makers have cashed in on the demand.”