You say like you’re sneezing

You know what I’ve discovered is irritating? Having a post ready, but not publishing it because there’s something else that just has to be released first. I’ve had something ready for weeks, but it’s just sitting there, in my drafts, because of this very post.

“So, what is this about?”, I hear you ask. To this, I can only cower, cringe, and whimper “something I’ve already written about”.

The indignity of it all! Recycling material? Sure, the great minds of past and present have done so, but I am nowhere near great enough to get away with such a feat.

Ah! But I have not un-cowered, de-cringed, and (firmly) stated that I wrote about this in another language. That’s right! Let us remember that I had warned you all about non-English posts (mostly in Portuguese, but there might be the occasional French). I also said that all non-English posts would either be rewritten or translated into English. Turns out I’d rather rewrite things, which leads to many procrastination possibilities (I have exams! I can’t write for my blog when I have exams… that would be… nuts…).

If you can understand Portuguese (or have a lot of patience and access to Google translate), you’ll know this is about Achar, an Indian pickle, typical of the once Portuguese state of Goa. Nowadays, achar seems to be used as a blanket term for Indian pickles. Also, even though I always heard it being pronounced “ashar”, I always imagine it as “atshar”. Hence, the post’s title.

Making achar is dumb easy, albeit time consuming. It takes all of four ingredients: limes, lemons, chillies, and (just in case you have it lying around) some strong alcohol (to be put in the pan!).

First, you get about 8 limes and cut them in quarters. You put them in a bowl with multiple pinches of salt (don’t be stingy!) and leave them overnight. If it’s winter, just put them by a window—it’ll do a better job than the fridge.

If you’re like me, then you’ll forget about something you’ve left in the fridge. Don’t (worry). I left it there an extra night and it was fine.

Now that you’ve remembered the limes, transfer the to a pan and cover them with lemon juice. 7 lemons were squeezed in this endevour. Their bodies were given the rightful funeral of their people (Bin!) and their sacrifice never forgotten.

Next, you remove the stalks from a handful of chillies and add them, whole, to the pan. The mixture was brought to a boil and left to simmer at low heat. I didn’t bother covering the pan (read, I couldn’t find the lid), but follow your gut here.

Once the chillies have been thoroughly cooked (read, limp) remove the lime quarters and put them aside. I made the mistake of using chopsticks for this procedure. I suggest you do the same—it’s very entertaining, according to my housemate. Blend the chilly/lemon juice mixture and don’t even think of removing the seeds; the idea is to have a spicy sauce. If you really want to go old school and use up some calories, feel free to remove the chillies and grind them with a pestle and mortar.

Once you’ve made a mess of everything (and received disapproving, yet bemused, looks from any housemate present) put everything back together in the pan and in low heat. Now, if you happen to have some firewater in the house (like grappa), add a small glass. I just so happened to have cachaça, which I purchased in Portugal. I just thought “Hey! Cachaça goes well with lime! Why not?”.

Enter panic mode.

The pot smelt like caipirinha*! Sweet Lord, what had I done?! For ten minutes, I paced the length of my kitchen imagining scenarios where it would be appropriate to slab a delicious Brazilian drink on my pork chops. Ten minutes I spent pacing the length of my kitchen, occasionally stopping to sniff at the pot and hoping that I was simply imagining the smell. At minute eleven, it disappeared; there is a God after all.

Now the smell of boozy beach parties had been replaced by the smell of success; of spice; of burning nostrils! Now, the only thing left to do was to wait for the achar to thicken and jar it all up. Keep the limes! They’re tasty and add a zesty zing to whatever you’re eating it with. The good thing is that it’s a “quick spice”; a wave of heat that fills your mouth and retreats, instead of a mounting volcano that will erupt in your pants. It’s easiest to have it with Asian food, like stir fires or curries (those, however, might bring about the volcano effect), but I’ve added it to a basic salad and it worked out really well, so be creative.

*Note: Also known as “capriana”. Here’s looking at you, Mamrie (love me, please?)


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