The cold has finally subsided, giving way to a spring like weather. The blankets and woolens are rolled back into the closet for next season. The windows are kept open all through the day, without the fear of cold air braving into our head. Until all of a sudden the sky turns to a neon orange, visibility goes down to zero and our little apartment is flooded in dust. We sigh, we go to bed promising each other to wake up to watch the sun rise if the country wasn't bathing in dust storm.
M drags me out of bed, at 5.00 a.m., eyes still misty from the unexplained often hazy dreams of the night. My hair can use help too, they deserve some attention I ponder while brushing my teeth. M knocks on the door ever so lightly, as though not to interrupt the silence of beautiful morning. Hurry up, we will miss the set rise, he mumbles in his excited voice. He is the most efficient alarm system, I forgot while making the half hearted promise at night.
Sunrise is indeed beautiful. Those precious few minutes when the sun lays its first rays on the earth, asks you to slow down and inhale the beauty of the moment. That moment of inspiration that the warm rays bestows you with will make you think better, write better, say better and be better. We all need that. Followed by a warm cup of coffee and a couple hours of leisure sitting at the cafe makes us ready for yet another long week.
What we also need is achaar (or achar) at all times of the year. One that accompanies our meals for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Achaar is the Hindi word for pickle, a condiment without which Indian meals are often considered incomplete. Made with fruits and vegetables and often stuffed with oil and spices, pickles can range from extremely spicy to sweet ones. Natural preservatives like sugar, salt, oil and vinegar are used to give it long shelf life.
This particular pickle has no oil instead it depends on the vinegar, sugar and acidity of the fruit to give it long shelf life. Every year we make it with lime or lemon but this time around when kumquats are ample I gave them a spin and it turned into a fabulous sweet, spicy and fruity pickle.
Sweet and Spicy Kumquat Pickle
2 cups water
1 cup kumquats, halved*
2 tbsp white vinegar
1/2 - 3/4 cup jaggery or sugar**
1 tbsp red chilly powder
1 tsp salt
* Try to get as many seeds out as possible
* You could use all sugar, all jaggery or a mix of two for sweetness.
In a deep bottom saucepan, cook the water and kumquat for 15 minutes or till the kumquats are softened.
Add jaggery, salt and red chilly powder and let it cook for another 15 -20 minutes till it is thickened and kumquats are soft all the way through. Add in the vinegar.
The sweetness and spicy ratio is a personal preference. After the achaar has cooled make sure to taste it for sweetness, salt and spice. Just add whatever component you want to and reheat it. Cool and store in sterilized jars.