With age, dwindling senses and increasingly limited mobility (not helped by the cold weather), food comes to play an important part of the daily routine. My mother, a good cook in her time, has abdicated from the kitchen and seldom interferes with the menu. But she is curious each day as to what is being prepared for lunch, has comments on the preparation and frequently reminisces about meals and recipes of the past. Recently, while discussing my trip to Lucknow, she remembered the stuffed red chilli pickle that my maid there used to make in the winters. And just a few days later, I saw these absolutely lovely red chillis in the vegetable market. So, I picked up some…….
The chillis sat around for a couple of days, with my mother prodding me that they would go bad. I had made this once before and vaguely remembered the ingredients, some of which I knew was not in the house. Fortunately in the Delhi December weather nothing goes bad – and today I finally downloaded a recipe and got the required ingredients from the market. The crucial one was the sarson ka tel (mustard oil), an ingredient not found on a South Indian kitchen shelf.
I dry roasted the saunf, Kalaunji, jeera, methi and sarson and ground the mixture to a coarse consistency. To this I added turmeric powder, aamchur, heeng and salt and made it into a paste using the mustard oil. The chillis were already cleaned and dried – their tops were sliced off and the insides removed carefully.
These were then carefully filled with the masala and made to stand vertically in a wide mouth bottle. Mustard oil was poured generously on top of each stuffed chilli and then some.
Now there are 2 lovely Treo bottles with 8-10 stuffed chillis apiece, waiting for some sunshine. My mother anxiously came out of her heated room, every now and then to check on the progress. She also insisted on tasting the masala. Now, she is anxious to eat the pickle – and I too am anxious to see how it will turn out. But even more, I am looking forward to her excitement and joy when she finally gets to eat it.