It was first week of May, 1976. I was travelling with three other friends by the Bombay Janata Express train from Mangalore to Bombay via Arakkonam-Guntakal-Raichur. Our train reached Raichur station in the afternoon, it was burning hot outside as we hurriedly stepped out of the compartment and ran towards the vegetarian refreshment canteen.
They served us piping hot meals with spicy sambar, daal and tasty side dishes. I tasted the green chilli pickle that was hot, spicy, tangy and full of flavours. It was like dynamite blast in my mouth, but the lemony tang made me ask for more! I must confess, that was one of the most memorable meals I had, and the first, if not the best green chilli pickle I tasted!
Same year same month, I visited my sister's home in Shivamogga. As I narrated my experience to her, she had a surprise for me! She went into the store room and came out with a big bottle full of green chilli pickle! She said she made it herself, following the recipe she got from a relative. No need to elaborate that the chilli pickle was awesome, because my sister is a perfectionist when it comes to cooking. My sister also had told me then, that the main ingredients apart from green chillies were lemon juice, salt, mustard seeds, methi seeds turmeric and hing.
I very well remember the taste and flavour of the two pickles I had that year and I being a lover of pickles and spicy treats, decided to make green chilli pickle when I had chance. That chance never came my way, for Meena is not a fan of pickles. Besides, we used to get two or three different kinds of pickles every year from my mother, and I was the lone eater who used to have them over the year myself!
Two weeks ago, our door bell rang, my ex Bank colleague friend Munjandira Appaiah Venu appeared with a bag full of lemons from his family estate in Madikeri! He said, since I am fond of pickles, I can make any good pickle with them. There were around 32 of them.
I told Meena that I am making two kinds of pickles using them. One is 'Kanchi' or the salted lemon pickle while the other is green chilli pickle like the ones I tasted at the Raichur railway station and also the one made by my sister. Meena didn't object this time, as she can very well understand how useful lemon kanchi is for those who are down with illness. She also knew how much I love chillies! Besides, ever since my mother became aged(and subsequently left us two years ago), I have started making pickle at home myself, but never thought of green chilli pickle, because we get 'Presto' green chilli pickle here. Presto pickle has added vinegar and I wanted it with lemony tang.
So here I am, with this recipe, which I formulated on my own. Green Chillies are abundantly available and so are lemons. It's the season. Weather is also on the cooler side, favouring consumption of spicy pickles. You can savour this with Congi, curd rice, rice and daal or even with idlis, dosas or chapatis.
Hope you all will like it and have a blast!
Green Chillies(Slim long ones, preferably Mysore or Byadgi) - 400Gms
Lemons - 8
Mustard Seeds - 1 Tbsp
Fenugreek(Methi) Seeds - 1 Tsp
Asafoetida(Hing) - A generous pinch
Sesame Oil(or Refined Sunflower Oil) - 3 Tsp
Turmeric powder - 1 Tsp
Rock Salt - 1/2 cup or 1/3 cup salt
Wash, wipe, cut and deseed lemons and extract juice.
Heat a shallow pan and dry roast salt for 3-5 minutes on medium low flame.
Powder the salt in a mill, if using rock salt.
Wash the green chillies thoroughly, wipe them dry with kitchen cloth, remove the stems and cut each green chilli into 2-3 pieces lengthwise.
Apply roasted powdered salt and keep for 2-4 hours.
Heat 1 tsp oil and roast mustard seeds until they splutter, roast fenugreek seeds and hing, allow to cool.
Dry grind the roasted spices into a coarse powder.
Heat 2 tsp oil and lightly fry the chopped salted green chillies on slow heat for 2-3 minutes, taking care not to turn them white.
Mix in the masala powder, turmeric powder and lemon juice.
Allow to cool down completely.
Fill into dry airtight bottle and keep for a week at least(preferably for 2 weeks), in a cool and dark place.
Mix the contents with a dry spoon every alternate day.
Green Chilli Pickle will be ready for consumption.
You can preferably store this pickle in a fridge to retain freshness and crunchiness of the chillies.