Mustard Oil and the Pickling Connection

Mustard Oil and the Pickling Connection

The pickling season is here and all across north India, you can see pickling jars… clustered on terraces, rooftops, balconies and window sills… delicious, mouth-watering Achaar maturing slowly in the hot Indian summer sun…. There are all kinds of pickles – mango, lemon, chilli… the only thing they have in common is the pickling medium: Mustard Oil.

Why Mustard Oil? For thousands of years, cold-pressed Mustard Oil has been used for pickling because it is a natural preservative. Yes, the reason why pickles don’t go bad after many months (even years, in some cases and climates) is because the fruits and vegetables are preserved by the Mustard Oil. In fact, in ancient times pickling was used as a method for preserving fruits and vegetables so that they could be consumed later, during the harsh winter months when these fruits and vegetables became scarce.

Mustard Oil has powerful antimicrobial, antibacterial and antifungal properties. This prevents the formation of any mould or bacterial growth in the pickles. Usually, food is spoilt by the growth of fungus, bacteria and harmful microorganisms. In the case of pickles, the Mustard Oil prevents this kind of contamination and keeps your pickles fresh and edible at all times.

Mustard Oil also gives pickles the power to stimulate the appetite and soothe the gastrointestinal tract, making Achaar a healthy and beneficial accompaniment for your meals.

Bon appétit!

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When Life gives you Lemons…

When Life gives you Lemons…

The Pickling Season is on in full swing all across north India. In an earlier post, we shared the recipe for the typically Punjabi Mango Pickle. Today, it’s Lemon Pickle… another Pan-Indian favourite!

But first let’s gather the ingredients that you would need:

  • Lemons: Half a kilogram
  • Mustard Oil: 200 ml
  • Mustard Seeds: 1 tablespoon
  • Peppercorn: 1 teaspoon
  • Red Chilli Powder: 1 tablespoon
  • Cumin Seeds (Jeera): 1 teaspoon
  • Fennel Seeds (Saunf): 1 teaspoon
  • Nigella Seeds (Kalonji): 1 tablespoon
  • Turmeric (Haldi) Powder: 1 teaspoon
  • Fenugreek Seeds (Methi): 1 teaspoon
  • Coriander Seeds (Dhania): 1 teaspoon
  • Salt: 2 tablespoon

Preparation:

Coarsely grind the Mustard Seeds, Peppercorns, Cumin Seeds, Fennel Seeds, Fenugreek Seeds and Coriander Seeds.

Wash the Lemons and dry them thoroughly. Cut them into small wedge-like pieces. Mix the pieces with salt and leave them overnight.

Method:

Heat the Mustard Oil in a pan with the flame set on High. Heat till the oil reaches its smoking point. Set the pan aside and let it cool.

Place the lemon pieces and ground spices in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the Nigella Seeds, the Turmeric Powder and the Red Chilli Powder. Also add some of the Mustard Oil to this mixture – and continue mixing.

Take a glass or porcelain jar and sterilize it using boiling water. Wipe it with a clean cloth and let it dry – make sure that it is completely dry. Now place you mixture of lemon pieces, spices and Mustard Oil in the jar. Add the remaining Mustard Oil making sure that all the lemon pieces are covered. In fact, the level of the Mustard Oil should be at least a centimeter above the lemon pieces.

Cover the mouth of the jar with cloth or muslin tied tightly around the neck of the jar. Place the jar in the sun for 15 days allowing your pickle to mature gently in the summer sun.

Your Lemon Pickle is now ready. Taste it! Savour it! Share it!

Essentials for Making Great Pickles

Essentials for Making Great Pickles

There are five good reasons why Grandma’s pickles were always perfect. You can use them as pointers for ensuring the success of your own pickling endeavours.

One: You must get the time right; wait for the right season. Pickling needs the bright summer sun along with dry heat. These are the reasons why the Pickling Season is on in full swing all across north India right now. A humid summer is not good for pickles. In fact, humidity and moisture spell doom for your pickles. If there is even a bit of unseasonal rain while you are pickling… well, you have to throw it all away and start again.

Two: This “no moisture” caveat leads us to the second point. The fruits (or vegetables) that you select for pickling must be cut and thoroughly dried. The traditional practice is to cure the cut pieces with salt and dry them in the sun.

Three: Get the right “equipment”. You will need glass or porcelain pickling jars. You will also need clean cloth (muslin is better) and some string to tied the cloth around the neck of the jar. The cloth allows the pickle to “breathe” and mature.

Four: Choose the right Mustard Oil. Mustard Oil is the preservative as well as the taste agent. Choose it well. Select only cold-pressed Mustard Oil (known as Kachchi Ghani). With its powerful antimicrobial, antibacterial and antifungal properties, Mustard Oil keeps your pickles healthy and free from any mould or bacterial growth.

Five: Keep it natural. This was the essence of Grandma’s secret recipes. She didn’t use cold-storage fruits and vegetables, packaged spices or refined oil. The best pickles are made with fresh fruits, freshly ground spices and cold-pressed Mustard Oil.

Do it like Grandma! Recreate the magic of her mouth-watering pickles.

Achaar – Punjabi Style

Achaar - Punjabi Style

All across North India, the mercury is climbing. As the summer sizzles and pops, there’s just one bright spot in the midst of all the heat and dust – the Pickling Season is here! Today, we are going to take a closer look at the traditional Punjabi version of the ever-popular Mango Pickle.

Here are the ingredients you would need:

  • Raw Mangoes: Half a kilogram
  • Mustard Oil: 300 ml
  • Mustard Seeds: 2 teaspoon
  • Chickpeas (Kabuli Channa): 100 gram
  • Red Chilli Powder: 2 tablespoon
  • Fennel Seeds (Saunf): 2 tablespoon
  • Nigella Seeds (Kalonji): 2 teaspoon
  • Turmeric (Haldi) Powder: 2 teaspoon
  • Fenugreek Seeds (Methi): 1 tablespoon
  • Salt: 3 teaspoon

Preparation:

Remove the seeds from the raw mangoes; cut the mangoes into long slivers or dice them roughly into cubes. Crush the fennel and fenugreek seeds.

Method:

Heat the Mustard Oil in a pan with the flame set on High. Heat till the oil reaches its smoking point. Set aside and let it cool.

Take a large bowl. To the mango pieces and the crushed fennel and fenugreek seeds add the mustard seeds, salt, turmeric powder, chickpeas, nigella seeds and red chilli powder. Mix thoroughly. Pour half the Mustard Oil (when it has cooled) into the bowl and continue mixing.

Put this bowl out in the sun for three to four days. Take the bowl in at night. After three to four days, pour the contents into a sterilized glass or porcelain jar. Add the remaining Mustard Oil, making sure that all the mango pieces are covered. The level of the Mustard Oil should be at least a centimeter above the mango pieces. Cover the mouth of the jar with cloth or muslin tied tightly around the neck of the jar. Place the jar in the sun for another 15 days.

Your Punjabi style Mango Pickle is now ready to savour… and to share!

Boman Irani is Awesome… as Usual

Boman Irani is Awesome… as Usual

Right now, Independence Day isn’t round the corner nor is Republic Day – but there’s a wave of patriotic fervour sweeping the country. That’s because of a movie making waves at the box office: Parmanu – The Story of Pokhran.

Boman Irani plays the role of the Principal Secretary at the PMO, in charge of a top-secret mission. He also acts as the narrator for important parts of the film. As always, Boman is totally convincing and in command of the role. Fans will be delighted to see a completely different avatar of Boman Irani in this movie. The suave bureaucrat in this film bears no resemblance whatsoever to the grizzled Virus (3 Idiots), the smooth-talking Lucky Singh (LageRahoMunnaBhai) or the menacing Vardaan (Don). That’s what is truly awesome about Boman Irani.

In its review, Mid-Day says that Boman Irani is “absolutely the highlight of the film”. This is a very special compliment given the short duration of Boman’s overall role in the film. He doesn’t have much screen time – but he has enormous screen presence.

There was a lot happening behind the scenes as well. John Abraham (the film’s protagonist) mentioned in a press interview that Boman Irani played an invaluable role during the making of the film by offering inputs, insights and suggestions. This rings a bell for all of us at P Mark Mustard Oil – because Boman did the same thing during the making of all our television commercials. His ability to deliver a brilliant performance in front of the camera and offer brilliant suggestions to the people behind the camera was instrumental in creating a series of highly memorable ad films.

The bottom line is that whether it’s a commercial blockbuster or a television commercial, Boman Irani is awesome… as usual!

Scintillating Saag!

Scintillating-Saag!

Today we travel deep into the rustic interiors of Punjab to bring you a traditional dish called Saag Paneer – a dish that draws the essence of its rich flavour from Mustard Oil. It has been a staple – and a favorite – across north India for thousands of years.

Here are the ingredients that you will need:

  • Green Spinach (Saag): 1.5 kg
  • Paneer: 400 gram, diced
  • Onion: 1, medium sized
  • Tomato: 1, puréed
  • Mustard Oil: 3 tablespoons
  • Ginger: Half a teaspoon, minced
  • Red Chilli Powder: Half a teaspoon
  • Coriander (Dhania) Powder: One teaspoon
  • Cumin (Jeera) Powder: Just a pinch
  • Turmeric (Haldi) Powder: Just a pinch
  • Garlic: 1 clove
  • Salt: to taste

Preparation

Blanch the Spinach by placing it in boiling water for a minute and then transferring it to an ice-water bath. After blanching, dry the Spinach on a paper towel and then purée it to a fine paste. Also purée the onion and garlic and keep aside.

Method

Heat the Mustard Oil in a pan on medium heat. Sauté the ginger along with the other spices. Add the onion and garlic purée, and cook till the onions take on a translucent, caramelized texture. Make sure that you don’t let the onions get burnt – that will ruin the flavour of the dish.

Now add the tomato purée, spinach purée and salt along with around 100 ml of water. Cook on a medium flame for around 5 minutes and then add the Paneer cubes. Stir for a minute or so and then cover the pan. After another minute remove the pan from the flame.

And your delicious Punjab-style Saag Paneer is ready to be served. This dish is usually eaten with Roti or steaming hot rice.

The Secret Ingredient

The Secret Ingredient

When American Chef John Broening visited India, he travelled extensively across Punjab and Rajasthan collecting traditional recipes from Indian homes and from Indian chefs. However, when he returned to the US and started preparing the dishes, they just didn’t taste the same. Something was missing. After quite a bit of trial and error, he discovered what the secret ingredient was: Mustard Oil.

Food writer and blogger Sudeshna Sengupta had a similar experience. She discovered a stack of her grandmother’s cookbooks hidden away in the family’s ancestral home in West Bengal. She’d always had wonderful childhood memories of her Granny’s awesome cooking; on discovering the notebooks, she eagerly looked forward to recreating those memories… and those flavours.

However, the first round of cooking was extremely disappointing. That magical flavour which Granny was known for was sadly missing. Sudeshna discussed the fiasco with her mother who remembered that Granny was extremely fussy about the cooking oil – it had to be Mustard Oil. That’s the mistake Sudeshna made; the recipes in the notebooks just said “Oil” so Sudeshna had used refined vegetable oil. Wrong choice! Once again, the secret ingredient was Mustard Oil.

From the fascinating curries of Bengal and the traditional dishes of Punjab to the wonders of traditional Kashmiri Waazwaan cuisine, the “secret ingredient” has always been Mustard Oil. With its characteristic taste, texture and pungency, Mustard Oil has always been a lot more than just a cooking oil in India – it is an integral part of the final flavour of the dish. It is a taste agent. It is a part of the experience of eating. And very often, in traditional Indian recipes, it is the Jewel in the Crown.