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Eggplant achar

April 21, 2010

The eggplants at my local market during the week were gorgeous large shiny purple beauties. And they were cheap. It wasn’t going to get better than this – it was time to get in a pickle.

During the winter I make a lot of curries, sometimes with meat, often with assorted vegetables like pumpkin, silverbeet and chickpeas. There’s always a good cucumber, mint and yoghurt raita, a basket of little crispy poppadums and a jar of chutney to go with them.

An Indian friend introduced me to some lovely pickles many years ago and I invariably return to her recipes when autumn arrives. One of my favourites is this eggplant achar.

Achar is the Hindi work for pickle. There are many varieties and they can be mild or extra spicy, sweet or salty. They add a wonderful dimension to a good curry. If you’ve got time to make your own, it’s definitely worth it.

I made the mistake of mentioning it was time to make my achar and elder son sent me a very subtle message: “Better make some extra for me.”

I ended up returning to the market and stocking up so I could double the recipe. Here is the original. It doubles easily.

Taste the achar after it has cooked about an hour and see if you would like to add more sugar. It’s a matter of personal taste. I don’t like it too sweet. The bottled pickle is best left for a month or so to allow the flavours to develop and mellow.


Eggplant achar

1.5kg eggplants
10 cloves garlic
75g ginger
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon red pepper paste
a few curry leaves
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
6 green chillies
130ml bottle sesame seed oil
about 1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons  salt

Rinse the eggplant and discard the stalk end. Cut into long slices then into small dice. Set aside.

Using a mortar and pestle or a small food processor, grind up the garlic, peeled ginger, turmeric and red pepper concentrate. If you’re using a miniature food processor, add a little of the sesame seed oil to get a smoother paste.

Using a large pot (I use a pasta pot or preserving pan for a big batch), heat the remaining oil and fry the paste with the curry leaves, cumin and mustard seeds and the deseeded, chopped green chillies.

Add the eggplant and about 1 1/2 cups vinegar and start simmering and turning the eggplant till it shrinks down a little. Then add more vinegar – not enough to completely cover the eggplant but enough so you can see it when you poke in a spoon. I use a mix of white and brown vinegar.

Add the sugar and salt and simmer until the eggplants are tender and the mix has thickened up.

Pour into hot sterilised jars and seal immediately. Makes about four jars.

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