And so I had only choices of going with abbreviations like Xtra, Xplore and as such for today's post. Initially I thought of xploring Andhra thali meals (full course meals) served on different occasions but I could not do it on time for today's post. However I have a recipe for a dish that is cherished in the state, is quintessentially Andhra and does the justice for the adjectives I have used in the title.
As the title suggests, today's recipe is about the spicy, hot Aavakaaya, a special green mango pickle from the region. Andhra state is known for it's spicy food and especially the spicy pickles are the pride of it's cuisine. Most of the people in Andhra start their meal with a pickle / spicy chutney. The pickles are not used to just perk up a meal but they are the starting course of the meal. A spicy pickle is mixed with rice and ghee and eaten as the first course, followed by a koora (usually a dry curry), pulusu / pappu / sambhar (lentil based stew), chaaru (rasam) and perugu/ majjiga (yogurt/ buttermilk) all eaten with rice. That is what a normal meal course would be in Andhra brahmin households.
Summer is meant to be the season of pickle making in the state, like the rest of the country. There are varieties of pickles that are made but the green mango based ones stand out among the lot. Aavakaaya of course takes the center stage and preparation of it is usually left to the elders or the seasoned cooks of the family. Aavakaaya preparation is highly regarded and falls under the 'complex recipes' zone since a large quantity of pickle used to be made from the scratch in olden days. However it is a staright forward recipe if made in small quantities.
The word 'aavakaaya' contains two parts, 'aava' and 'kaaya'. 'Kaaya' in general refers to any unripe fruit and in this case, it is the sour, green pickling mangoes. The word 'aava' is used in reference to the mustard powder base used in the recipe. 'Aavalu' in Telugu means mustard seeds while 'aava pindi' is the mustard powder. Besides those two ingredients, a measured quantity of chili powder, salt, and sesame oil also go into this pickle preparation. Aavakaaya is not for the faint hearted. It is fiercely spicy and has a strong mustard flavor. And people who are not acquainted with it may not appreciate the strong flavors, the first time they get to taste it. Besides, people may get shocked looking at the quantities of ingredients used in the recipe. However that chili powder and the mustard powder provide the base for aavakaaya.
Brahmin households never add garlic to the aavakaaya while other communities prepare a garlic version too. One of the variations of aavakaaya is prepared in coastal areas which contains jaggery as well and is called bellam aavakaaya. And there are other aavakaaya preparations where green mango is replaced with other vegetables. Dosavakaaya is prepared using the plump, yellow cucumber while tomatoes are used to prepare tomato aavakaaya. However they can't be stored for longer periods like the aavakaaya.
Care should be taken during the preparation of aavakaaya in keeping the work surface, the utensils/jars used and the ingredients all dry. A trace of moisture or a water drop will ruin the entire hard work. The pickle gets ruined in no time and would be fit for trash. The pickle has a long shelf life and usually at least a big ceramic jar of it is prepared in families. Whenever one feels like serving it, all they need to do is scoop out a portion and serve. Just remember to use a dry spoon and close the lid back properly. My mother ties the pickle jar tops with a thin cotton cloth and then close them with lids to ensure it is properly sealed.
Usually a lot of care goes in picking the ingredients for the pickle preparation. Firm, unripe pickling mangoes without blemishes are picked for aavakaaya making. Cutting the mangoes into pieces is a chore if a large quantity of pickle is being made. In the recent decades, the sellers offer to cut the mangoes as well for a small fee. A hot and rich colored, dried red chili powder is chosen in the preparation and nowadays the stores sell the chili powder meant for aavakaaya. My mother was telling me that she has been using the chili powder from Hyderabad in the recent years for its color and it was a news to me. When we were young, she would get the Guntur variety chillies milled and use it in the pickle. As far as the mustard powder goes, my mother sundries the black mustard seeds and grinds finely at home. And the oil base used for aavakaaya is always the sesame oil / nuvvula nune. Salt is one other important ingredient in pickle making and should be used as needed perfectly. If not sure, pickle can be tasted and adjusted accordingly. Some of the pickles get spoiled when salt is less. And the addition of black chickpeas is optional but I recommend it. The marinated chickpeas soak up the flavor of aavakaaya and also add a nice texture while eating aavakaaya annam.
The following recipe is of course from my mother and coincidentally the last time I called her that was a few days ago, she had just finished making aavakaaya. The following are the measurements she had used and I didn't try to scale down the recipe though it can be done. And luckily, I received a small parcel of homemade aavakaaya this month, thanks to my husband's SIL and that's what is pictured here. They are visiting us next week but the aavakaaya came early and on time for my today's post.
15 green pickling mangoes (the big sized ones)
4 cups hot variety red chili powder
4 cups mustard powder
3 cups salt
2 kg. sesame oil
Few tbsp. of black chickpeas (optional)
(If the mangoes are smaller in size, the quantities of other ingredients used need to be scaled down.)
* Wash and thoroughly dry the green mangoes. Make sure that your hands, the work surface, the ingredients used and the utensils used are all dry. (This is very important for the pickle's shelf life.)
* Chop the mangoes lengthwise into two, remove and discard the seeds. Chop the mangoes into 3/4 to 1 inch pieces.
* Add mango pieces, chili powder, salt, mustard powder, oil and if using black chickpeas to a big mixing bowl. Use a big spatula and mix thoroughly.
* Pour the mixture into a ceramic or glass jar and cover with the lid properly. Leave the jar in a dry place to sit. (Always store the pickle in a non reactive jar.)
* After two days, stir the whole mixture thoroughly one more time and close the lid again.
* Leave the pickle aside for a week after the preparation. It can then be consumed. Store the pickle jar in a dry place and always handle the pickle with dry hands and dry spoons.
* The mango pieces will have a crispy texture in the starting months where as they soften after a while. Aavakaaya looses it's vibrant red color and the fresh strong flavor after some time. It's natural and no need to worry. The pickle can be consumed for at least 2 years as long as it is properly stored. However people finish it off in a year as it is freshly prepared every year and fresh aavakaaya tastes better.
So far on my 'A - Z' Andhra Cuisine,
A for Alasanda Vada
B for Bellam Garelu
C for Chiyali
D for Dondakaaya Kaarapu Kaaya
E for Endu Kobbari Podi
F for Fine Biscuits
G for Gongura - Mamidikaya Pappu
H for Halwa Holigalu
I for Idli Karam Podi
J for Janthikalu
K for Kobbari Koora
L for Lauzu
M for Matikkaaya Kaaram Koora
N for Nimmakaaya Kaaram
O for Ottotti
P for Perugu Vadalu
Q for Qubani ka Meetha
R for Ragi Sangati
S for Satyanarayana Vrata Prasadam
T for Theepi Dibba Rotte
U for Usirikaaya Pulihora
W for Wadiyala Pulusu
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM# 63.