Brinjal Pickle, Goan style
To pickle something means to preserve it and when you preserve vegetables, fruit, or meat/seafood with spices, salt, and oil it turns into a pickle. While these are not healthy by definition, when you make them at home, pickles can be much healthier than what you can buy from a store. And definitely tastier, for sure.
One of the vegetables that were easily available right through the lockdown was the small local brinjals. After eating them every week in a myriad ways - poriyal, stuffed with masala, fried like begun bhaja, roasted for pasta and bakes, as a side with biryani, I finally, for the first time ever made a traditional Goan style brinjal pickle, using a family recipe from my paternal aunt. Due to the pandemic, I was blessed to have my 89-year-old mum around to guide me through the process and to make sure it was not too salty or oily like store-bought pickles are. This pickle has a lovely balance of hot, sweet, and sour and tastes great as a side with anything. We’ve made it several times since it’s a pickle you can make all year round. You can also make it with tendli/ivy gourd/kovakkai or as a mixed vegetable pickle!
1 kg brinjal
2 + 1 teaspoons salt
3/4 + 1/2 cup oil
2 sprigs curry leaves
4 tablespoons sugar
Ingredients for Masala paste
2-3 pods garlic (50g)
2” ginger (25g)
15 Kashmiri dried red chillies, deseeded
1.5 tablespoons turmeric powder (haldi)
2 teaspoons red chilli powder (use a hot variety if you wish)
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
1.5 teaspoons cumin seeds (jeera)
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi)
1/2 cup + 1/4 cup vinegar
Cut brinjals in small 2” pieces. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt and let it sit covered, for a few hours. Drain, removing all the water completely.
In a deep pan/kadhai, flash fry the brinjal in 3/4 cup oil till light brown. Set aside. Reserve the oil and the pan.
Immerse the chillies in 1/2 cup vinegar and let soften. In a spice grinder, first grind the dry spices and set aside. Then grind the chillies in vinegar, followed by the ginger, garlic, and all the dry spices. Grind to make a fine paste, using the remaining 1/4 cup vinegar.
In the same deep pan, heat the remaining 1/2 cup oil, toss in the 15-20 curry leaves, and then fry the masala paste for 15 minutes on a low fire until fragrant and cooked.
Add in the sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and the brinjal pieces and cook for another 15 minutes till done.
Taste for salt, sugar, vinegar, and chilli powder and add more if needed.
When still warm, spoon into clean, sterilized bottles. You should get a little more than 2 x 500ml bottles. Store in the refrigerator.
Chef’s note: We are a family that likes mildly spiced food, so I use Kashmiri chillies. You can up the heat, by using spicier chillies of your choice or a mix of mild and hot chillies.