Indian weather is conducive for gardening through out the year and hence the word "summer bounty" can be hardly used to refer to the backyard produce like we do here in US. In India, the summer season is almost synonymous to pickle / papad preparations. Despite the busy schedules and modern approach of healthy lifestyles, one doesn't shy away from the high oil, salt laden pickles since they can perk up even boring meals. Every household has their own ritual of pickle / papad preparations during summer so that they can enjoy the hard work later on, through out the year. And the preparation process of these spicy pickles vary from region to region and the best thing is they need no refrigeration. They stay fresh for a year or two, given that they are stored in a ceramic or glass jar and dry spoons / ladles are used while handling the pickles.
We come from Andhra, where pickles are a must for every meal and so, I couldn't let go the "seasonal recipes" theme without posting a pickle recipe. And so here is one of the important pickles from the region, chintakaya pachadi. It is prepared using chintakaya, the raw tamarind and hence the name. I usually get my stock from my mother and and the preparation pictures taken during one of my India trip were on my old hard disk and I could not locate them now. And so, there is going to be no pictorial presentation.
Preparing the base:
* Usually raw tamarind is bought in kilograms. It should be absolutely raw and taste sour. Wash the tamarind to get rid of any dust and other stuff sticking to the husks. Spread them on a cotton cloth and allow them to sundry until no trace of water is left.
* Grind finely the raw tamarind without bothering about the husk, seeds and all, adding salt and turmeric. (For about 4 - 5 kgs of tamarind, about 2 Tbsp of turmeric powder is needed.) Traditionally a stone mortar was used for this but now you can use blender / mixer. Just remember that the mortar / grinder should be dry. No water anywhere near the pickle preparation. Store it covered in a ceramic jar for a couple of days.
My mother depends on her eyes / palate while preparing any dish and so it was hard to get any measurements from her for this recipe. She had promised me that she will remember to measure the ingredients next time she prepares and so I will update the salt quantity later. However she mentioned that when we taste the ground tamarind, we will know whether the salt is enough or not.
* After 2 days, remove the strings, pieces of husks and seeds present, as much as possible. You don't have to go crazy over this. There will be always some stuff left even thorough cleaning. At this point, you can taste, add salt if needed and grind once again. Store in a ceramic jar. This forms the base and can be stored at least for a couple of years. I have five years old stuff which is neatly sealed and still looks like fresh one.
You use a small quantity of the above base to prepare the pickle whenever you need it. The below method is how my mother prepares it. Some use sesame seeds and peanuts as well.
1/2 cup prepared tamarind base (above recipe)
1/2 tsp salt (or as needed)
20 - 22 red chillies (The quantity is not a typo. However it depends upon the spiciness of the red chillies used and so adjust accordingly.)
1 tbsp oil, 3 - 4 tsp urad dal / skinned blackgram, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp coriander seeds, asafoetida
* Heat oil and add mustard seeds and urad dal. When the dal starts turning reddish, add coriander seeds, asafoetida and red chillies. When the coriander changes a shade darker, turn off the stove. Let it cool.
* Add the toasted ingredients, prepared tamarind and salt if needed, and grind it coarsely. Don't be tempted to add water to grind but if you are preparing this in smaller quantity, you can but remember to refrigerate it. Serve it with hot steamed rice and ghee.
Chintakaya Pachadi, Cabbage Curry and Bittergourd Gojju served with Rice.