Indian Water Pickle and Paratha

I used to love my Mother’s Indian Water Pickle, eaten as a child with freshly made, flaky, buttery Paratha and a daal. It’s a North Indian classic. Like most pickles, it’s a way of preserving  veg into the winter months. But let’s face it, it works any time of year.

This particular pickle uses carrot juliennes, cauliflower florets, fresh garlic, green and black peppercorns, turmeric, mustard seeds, green or red chilli, nigella seeds, fenugreek seeds, salt, and a shallot.

For the veg you could use what’s to hand – capsicum peppers sliced, or large radishes as well a carrots and cauliflower. It’s up to you. But like most things in life, keep it simple, and it will work.

One large carrot and half a small cauliflower ought to do the trick, and for the rest, around a tablespoon of them will do. I tend to use two green chillies, but you can use one green and one red, or just one of whichever you prefer (green is best in my view). The shallot can be cut into fine rings. A tablespoon of garlic is around two or three cloves, finely chopped. Try and go for something really fat and fresh rather than garlic that’s been hanging around. If you don’t have green peppercorns, just make sure you’re generous with the black ones. Some people like to add a little sugar (a teaspoon would do).

Smash the spices up a little in a mortar and pestle. Add them to the veg. Mix the ingredients well. Then boil around a pint of water. Add it to the mixed ingredients and let it cool. This will blanch the veg and allow the flavours to blend. Once cooled, put it into sealed jars – this should be enough to make around 4 jars of pickle. After 24 hours in the fridge it’s ready to eat, just spoon out the good stuff, (and leave the water behind), and eat it with a freshly made Paratha. The taste should be savoury, and hot with the crunchy consistency of blanched veg. Stored in the fridge the pickle should be good for four to six weeks, but it rarely lasts that long hereabouts!

Paratha is a type of unleavened bread made in North India. It’s a filling and delicious treat, rich with butter.

This recipe for making Parathas will serve up a couple of portions, scale it up as needed:

  • 500 mg of whole wheat atta (flour)
  • 2 tablespoons of melted butter
  • a quarter teaspoon of salt
  • around 125 ml of water (set aside a little more if needed)
  • some butter for the flat iron griddle you’ll cook the Paratha on
  • Mix the lot together to a bread dough consistency, mouldable into shapes, but not watery

Now – Take a small ball of dough and work into a slim cylindrical roll of about 4 inches length. Dust the rolling surface with flour and then coil it and roll it. Brush on some melted butter. Repeat, joining two layers together. Now fold in half and roll, then fold in half again and roll again into a squarish size.

Heat the griddle. Make sure there’s some melted butter in it. Slap the Paratha on, you’ll know it’s cooking as you see it rise. Turn the heat down if needed to ensure consistent cooking and turn occasionally till golden. It’s not cooked if it’s grey, it should be golden. If there are grey bits, just press down on this for 30 seconds or so to hasten the cooking process in that spot.

Serve with the pickles and a simple flavoursome daal. You could also serve it up with another favourite, lemon pickle.

To make a savoury stuffed Paratha

I prefer a savoury stuffed Paratha. Some like it sweet. The sweeter style of Paratha is a Mughlai classic, influenced more by the Persian sweet tooth than the Indian love for savoury flavours. Sweet stuffed Paratha works less well with this kind of pickle, but is a better companion to something like a sweet lime or mango chutney. You can stuff a sweet Paratha with crushed almonds and dates.

Savoury Potato Paratha

I stuff Parathas with a mixture of potatoes and spices.

Take a couple of medium sized potatoes and boil them. Mash then down with some ground, toasted cumin and a sliced green chilli as well as the green stalks and leaves of a 5 or 6 stems of fresh coriander. Add a pinch of salt. Mash finely and mix together.

You could use the remaining half of your small cauliflower as a substitute for the potato.

Make the first layer of the Paratha as described above. Then add a generous tablespoon of the spicy mash, spread it evenly, add the next layer of Paratha and cook as above.