Food, Recipes

Queen of pickles

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The Swedish members of my family know me by the name Miss Gherkin, owing to my fondness for said preserve.

This weekend I felt I had truly earned the moniker, when I bagged first prize in the pickle category at this year’s Lambeth Country Show. (Placed third for my embroidery too, but that’s another blog.)

The annual event is pretty much your usual agricultural/horticultural/community show, but with added spice, given its London location. So there’s sheep shearing, jousting and falconry displays, all mixed up with African drums and goat curry. Plus funfair rides, fudge and scrumpy, stalls selling tat and those exhorting you to join your local library. It’s all very neighbourly.

And, of course, there’s the horticultural show bit, where members of the public bring in their homegrown, homemade stuff to be judged.

I had a hard time determining what to enter, cos I do a lot of preserving. Annabel Langbein’s spicy Indian-style tomato pickle won out, partly because I’d grown the tomatoes myself, and also as a nod to multicultural Brixton. Turned out to be a good choice, seeing as it won over the judges too.

Verily I say unto you, I *am* a domestic goddess. The judges have spoken.

Anyway, here ’tis, the prizewinning pickle, tomato kasundi.

225g green ginger, peeled
100g garlic cloves, peeled
50g green chillies, sliced in half lengthwise and seeds removed
2.5 cups malt vinegar
1 cup peanut oil
2 tablespoons turmeric
5 tablespoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons chilli powder
5 tablespoons mustard seeds, ground to a powder
2kg tomatoes, washed and chopped
2 and a quarter cups sugar
1.5 tablespoons Maldon salt

Puree the ginger, garlic and chillies with a little of the vinegar to make a paste.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Add all the ground spices and fry until fragrant.

Add the pureed paste, tomatoes, the rest of the vinegar, sugar and half of the salt (check near the end of cooking to see if more is required).

Cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the oil floats on the top (about half an hour).

Ladle into sterilised jars while hot with a thin film of hot oil on the top of each jar, to stop the top from drying out, and cover with screw-top lids.

Leave for a couple of weeks to allow the flavours to develop before using. Stored in a cool place, kasundi will keep indefinitely.

Makes about 2 litres.

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