Piccalilli

Piccalilli

This ‘Indian pickle’ is like edible potpourri, a chutney-ish
jumble of chopped vegetables and spices, pickled in vinegar.
Not much to look, but a tasty addition to many a meal.

Origins
Even the Oxford English Dictionary can’t fathom where the word ‘piccalilli’ comes from, classing it as of ‘uncertain origin’. The spelling has varied too: peccalillo, pickalilly, pickylilly... It was also once called Indian pickle, which nods to its roots – it seems to be an Anglicisation of India achar (pickles), mixing the new spices arriving from the Empire with English ingredients. The first known recipe was printed in Art of Cookery in 1758.

MAKES 3 TO 4 JARS

You’ll need
500g (1lb) cauliflower florets
2 onions, peeled and
chopped
100g (3½oz) French beans
Salt for brining
2¾ cups (700mL) malt vinegar
2 tbs coriander seeds
Pinch salt
3 tbs English mustard powder
3 tbs plain flour
1 tbs ground turmeric
2 tsp ground ginger
¼ cup (50mL) cider vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and
crushed
200g (7oz) granulated sugar

Cooking Method
1 Put the vegetables in a large bowl, sprinkle over a layer of salt, mix well, cover and leave for 24 hours.
2 Rinse the vegetables well with cold water, then pat dry with a dish towel.
3 Put the vinegar, coriander seeds and salt in a large pan and bring to the boil. Add the cauliflower and onion; simmer until slightly softened.
4 Meanwhile, put the mustard powder, flour, turmeric and ginger in a bowl; whisk in the cider vinegar until smooth, then set aside.
5 Add the beans, garlic and sugar to the pan; stir until the sugar has dissolved then drain over a bowl to collect the vinegar.
6 Put the mustard mix and vinegar back into the pan. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.
7 Return the drained vegetables to the pan. Add more sugar and water if necessary to give a thick consistency, then take the pan off the heat.
8 Decant into sterilised, sealable jars. Store for 3 months in cool, dark place before eating.
TIP You can chuck in any vegetables you want – use what’s seasonal, and what you like – just make sure they are all even bite-sized pieces.

Tasting notes
FĂȘtes, fairs, country-shows – piccalilli is a stalwart at these traditional affairs – and a jar of this garish relish might be found loitering at the back of many an English cupboard or fridge – possibly untouched. It’s a bit of a Marmite: most either love or hate its curious, vaguely curried crunch of seasonal veg, which may include cauliflower, beans, onions and small cucumbers. But order a ploughman’s lunch and take the plunge – a platter of English cheese, crusty bread, crisp celery, and perhaps a slab of ham, are the perfect canvas for a daub of piccalilli. Its mild yet discernible turmeric and mustard tang enhances the flavours – not to mention adding a splash of colour, too.

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