Spicy aubergine & tamarind pickle

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If you crave a sticky, spicy, smoky pickle then look no further: this will have you diving back into the jar! Perfect as an accompaniment to Indian food, or simply served with cheese, this recipe is both easy and satisfying to make.

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I first tried aubergine pickle (Brinjal pickle) in an Indian restaurant a few years ago and it was a revelation: sticky, spicy and sour but with a rich caramelised flavour, I kept going back to the bowl for more!

Understandably the restaurant wanted to keep their recipe secret, so I had a go at making my own version of it: and this is a pretty good approximation to the restaurant’s chutney.

I have also worked my way through many of the commercial brands: a couple of them were quite pleasant, but none had anything like the depth of flavour I wanted.

Going smokier with the flavour

I have made many batches of this pickle, but I sometimes like to smoke some of the ingredients first, which gives a wonderful extra dimension to the pickle.

Whenever I have smoked the vegetables, I used applewood chips and smoked the onions, the chillies and some of the aubergines for about 10 minutes before leaving them to cool in the smoker. This given a gentle smoky flavour without going acrid.

Recipe: aubergine & tamarind pickle – makes about 6 jars

  • 3 medium aubergines, about 900g in total
  • 2 large onions, peeled
  • 400ml white wine vinegar
  • 400ml soft brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black treacle
  • juice and finely grated zest of 2 limes
  • 80g dried apricots
  • 3 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 3-4 fresh red chillies, including seeds (depending on how hot you like it)
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons black onion seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sweet cinnamon powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
  • 2” piece fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

(1) Put all the ingredients, apart from the aubergine, into a food processor and blitz to a smoothish liquid.

(2) Transfer the mixture to a large pan and bring slowly to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

(3) Roughly chop the aubergines and put the pieces into a food processor: this is easier done in batches. Blitz for a few seconds at a time to get then finely chopped: if some of the aubergine goes pulpy, or if there are some chunkier pieces, it really doesn’t matter.

(4) Add the aubergine to the pan and give it a good stir. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down to the lowest setting, letting the mixture simmer gently for about 45 minutes or until very thick, without any trace of liquid.

NB: give it all a stir from time to time to prevent it from catching on the base of the pan.

(5) Spoon carefully into sterilized jars and seal.

Author: Philip

Finalist on Britain’s Best Home Cook (BBC Television 2018). Published recipe writer with a love of growing fruit & veg, cooking & eating.

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