Spice up your life

I am always fond of pickles. And a good pickle always reminds me of India. It is all because of one book, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. No, this beautifully written novel has nothing to do with culinary art, but the first chapter called Paradise Pickles & Preserves opened the whole story so marvellously that the name just stuck in my head. If you love reading, I do recommend this book. For now, let us go back to the topic of pickle…

Good pickles start with good ingredients. Keeping that in mind, I visited the farmers market and got 3 kilos of wonderfully ripe roma tomatoes just to make the Spiced Tomato Chilli Pickle. The recipe I used is from Australian (and my) beloved chef Christine Manfield, which is based on the southern Indian tomato kasaundi. While keeping all the Indian ingredients and method of preparations, Christine added fish sauce, a Southeast Asian element to the pickle. And it worked. The fish sauce lent another dimension of saltiness and sweetness to the pickle, something that salt alone might not have. The fish sauce I used is fermented from anchovies, which is lighter, sweeter and less salty than the one made from cuttlefish.

This pickle has everything that I love. The bright red colour can brightens up any day. Opening the jar, the aroma of Indian herbs and spices awakes your senses. Tasting it, and the flavour is beyond words. Everything is just well-balanced. The sweetness, sourness and spiciness blend together to create a versatile condiment. Do not be fooled by the colour and aroma, though. The spiciness of this pickle is just gentle enough to warm up the palate, which makes it a perfect accompaniment to a range of dishes, not just Indian cuisine.

Ever since I made it, my flatmate and I have been using it for every dinner. We paired it with our poached chicken, grilled beef or simply steamed vegetables. It was perfect to dip in fried pastries, too… I also used it to spice up the chicken mixture topping for the pastry as pictured above. It was so good for lunch, giving a boost of flavour in the middle of a working day.

I would love to submit the Spiced Tomato Chilli Pickles to the Weekend Herb Blogging, an event created by Kalyn of Kalyn´s Kitchen. The host of this week is Anna from Anna’s Cool Finds.

Spiced Tomato Chilli Pickle

Recipe by Christine Manfield

Ingredients (for 500-600ml)
4 tsp of brown mustard seeds

125ml cider vinegar

8 tsp of cumin seeds; roasted and grind to a fine powder

125 ml vegetable oil

A pinch of freshly ground cloves

2 tsp of turmeric powder

8 tsp of finely chopped ginger

10 cloves garlic

10-12 small red birds eye chillies

2 kg ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled and quartered

75g of pal sugar/jaggery shaved

60ml fish sauce


  1. Cook mustard seeds in vinegar over moderate heat for 10 mins, then set aside for 2 hours.
  2. Heat oil in a heavy based pan, fry the ground turmeric, cumin, cloves until fragrant. Remove from heat.
  3. Process the mustard mixture with ginger, garlic and chillies in a blender until smooth. Add to oil and spices.
  4. Add tomato. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently for 1 hour or until the tomato has broken down and the sauce is quite smooth.
  5. Add palm sugar and fish sauce. Cook for a further 30 mins. Taste, adjust seasoning if necessary.
  6. Spoon into sterilised jar, cover with a film of oil. Seal when cooled.
  7. Keep in the fridge for one month.

Spiced Chicken Puff

  1. Cook chicken with onion. Add seasoning and a few spoonful of tomato spiced pickle.
  2. Thaw 2 sheets frozen puff pastry for 5-10 mins. Layer them together & cut into 4 squares. Score a 1 cm border in each square.
  3. Add some ricotta cheese, spoon the mixture to the middle. Bake for 15 mins or until golden brown.


14 Responses to Spice up your life

  1. Lydia says:

    I too loved The God of Small Things — such an elegant book. Your pickle looks wonderful. I love the color.

  2. Gattina says:

    Thanks for the tip of using fish sauce, I actually don’t know some made from cuttlefish, I’ll check their label next time, thanks Anh!

  3. Kalyn says:

    I love the idea of combining Indian and Asian flavors this way. The tomato pickle sounds just wonderful. You always come up with the best ideas!

  4. Asha says:

    WOW!! That is one cool combo Toamato pickle!Looks fabulous and soo red!Good job Anh.Love the Puff finger food too.You are a great cook!:))

  5. Anna Haight says:

    I loved the book – The God of Small Things – and find this pickle recipe amazing. I’ve never made pickles and this tempts me beyond resistance! Thanks for participating in WHB!

  6. Susan says:

    Mmmm the addition of the fragrant clove and ginger must be lovely. I adore pickled dishes, and yours sounds delicious.

  7. Gattina says:

    Anh, me again :) :) I’ve checked KC and missed your pm, sorry!

  8. Anh says:

    Lydia, thank you. I love the color, too!

  9. joey says:

    Yum! I love Indian food and all its condiments! This sounds really good…I’ll be bookmarking it :)

  10. Helene says:

    Your recipe is extraordinary. I love pickles, and yours is a must try. :))

  11. Sandeepa says:

    Even me loved that book, very powerful writing

  12. Anh says:

    Joey, thanks. :)

  13. Anonymous says:

    hi, i wud like to try making this pickle. What is pal sugar ? Can i substitute with castor sugar and how much should i use? Thank you

  14. John says:

    Found your blog on Google and have enjoyed reading your posts. Nice work!

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