In these cooler, shorter, winter days. The evenings are long and there is plenty to do. Winter is the season for citrus. I have made 20 jars of marmalade so far, so now its time to make lime pickle. A good lime pickle is a great accompaniment with curry, it needs to be salty, sweet, sour and chilli hot.
We have plenty of limes on the tree, so I slice them up length ways into 1/8 segments, salt then and then leave them covered for a day or two to soften.
A few days later, when I find the time. I’m fasting today, so there will be no dinner, that leaves a bit of time to make up the pickles. The wood fired stove is cranking away in the kitchen, even though we aren’t planning on cooking anything tonight. We light it because it’s frosty outside and going to get a lot colder overnight and we want the room warmed up and the hot water heated as a by-product.
I start by dry roasting some fenugreek seeds which smell so exotic, but taste of ordinary dried green garden peas unless they are roasted. Roasting brings out a lot of that wonderful aroma and changes the taste to something that is so much more interesting. It also makes them very easy to grind up in the mortar and pestle.
Next I heat a little olive oil in the frypan and add various spices and seeds, like black cumin seeds, mustard seeds and coriander seeds. Once they start to pop, I keep the seeds moving by flipping the pan and add black pepper corns. Once I feel that they are sufficiently heated and softened, without having them popping out of the pan and all over the floor. Not too much heat and keep them moving. I add all the other ingredients. The salted lime segments (de-seeded), some of our roughly chopped chillis, two sprays of our own home-grown curry leaves. Thank you Toni Warburton for the gift of the curry leaf plant some years ago!
I also add half a dozen roughly chopped cloves of our ageing garlic. A couple of teaspoons full of cumin, coriander, and ginger. I keep this moving for about 10 minutes on a low heat until the lime skins are a little bit softened and can be chopped in half easily by pushing down on them with a wooded spatula. Not such an accurate measure of cooking time, but it works for me. I want them slightly softened and not too leathery. This also give a bit of time for the flavours to meld in together.
It seems to work. If it is still a little dry, I add a little bit more oil, or the juice of a lemon or two, or lemonades, or limes, or both. If it is still a bit too sour, I add a little bit of the white death sugar. If you add the juice of the lemonade lemons, you don’t need as much sugar. I try and use a little salt as possible, but a small amount is necessary to get it to taste right, otherwise it is just too bland. I’m not very good at making lime pickle yet, as I only get to do it once or twice a year, during this winter season when the citrus is in such profusion. If I were to do it more often, I’d get better at it, but I don’t need so much lime pickle. Two or three jars are enough for a year.
So many of the things that we attempt here are just like this. We never get to be any good at most of the things that we do because we do so much, there just isn’t time. However, the point is not to be the best at doing something, or ever particularly good. The point of our endeavour here is to be as independent and self-reliant as we can be. Getting better at doing something only comes with repeated practice. This just isn’t possible here with most things – apart from weeding!. So I am resigned to being a bumbling amateur at most of the things that I do. Sometimes I daydream of being competent at one or two particular things, but on reflection, I realise that it is more important to keep the big picture in focus and stay horizontally diversified across all my interests. The more things that I do for myself, the less I need to spend. The less that I spend, the less I need to work. The less time I spend working for money, the more time I have to do things for myself. This cash-minimising self-reliance is a vicious circle.
All this thinking is making me hungry! Actually, these cold nights are just right for a warming curry. if only we had some lime pickle!
Cooking something that you don’t know anything about is always a great big experiment. A bit like life really.
Miss curryleaf Murraya King and her curry-wallah