Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Dry Mango Dates Pickle

I think I have mentioned in one of my old posts that my grandparents used to have couple of mango trees in the front yard.  One used to bare lot of sweet mangoes.  But the other mango tree was prone to diseases and yielded only few sour mangoes.  They were mostly used as green mangoes.  Some of the green mangoes from that tree was used to make the salted dry mango.  They were cut into small pieces with the skin;salted with rock salt and sun dried for weeks to get the dry mango called 'Unnakka Manga'.  These dry mango pieces are the tangy nuggets  that comes handy during off season.  It goes into many curries when you need to give some mango tang to the dish.  A small bit goes a long way.

I remember my grandma used to store it in big earthen pots called 'Bharani'.  She used to open the lid with great care to avoid any mold or fungus growth.  Drying mangoes on the special mat made out of Pandanus leaves was a regular scene in most of the house during those days.  Enjoying the bountiful sweet mangoes and playing on  the swing tied to the mango tree are some sweet nostalgic memories I still cherish.

I always make sure to get a small bag of dry mangoes from India during my visits.  I keep them safe in cold dry place and use them like a rare luxury item.   They store well in the sealed containers. 

The most favorite thing I make out of it is this Dry Mango Dates Pickle.  The hot, sweet and tangy Dry Mango Dates Pickle pairs well with Biriyani.  There are some recipes, you just eye ball and don't bother to write down the measurements.  Its back in your head kind of thing.  I thought it was about time to write it down and share it on the blog so that it will be useful for everyone.   And when its on the blog, its easy to share.  Hope you can give this recipe a try.  Please do tag me on instagram or facebook if you are making it.  I would love to hear from you.

Yields - 16 oz bottle of pickle

1.5 cups - dry mango pieces
4 cups - water
1 cup - pitted dates cut into long slices (4 pieces)
20 cloves - garlic cut into thin slices
1.5 inch - ginger chopped/cut into thin slices

Pickle mix
1.5 tsp - hot chili powder (heaped tsp)
3 tsp - kashmiri chili powder (heaped tsp)
1/4 tsp - fenugreek powder
1/4 tsp - asafoetida powder
1/2 tsp - turmeric powder
2 -3 - dry red chili
1/2 tsp - black mustard seeds

2 tbsp - vinegar
1 tbsp - brown sugar/grated jaggery
4 tbsp - oil/sesame oil
2-3 sprigs - fresh curry leaves
salt to taste

  • Wash the dry mango to remove any impurities.
  • Soak it in 4 cups of water for at least 2-4 hrs or overnight.
  • Drain the soaked mango and reserve 1.5 - 2 cups of water.
  • Heat 4 tbsp of oil in a kadai/pan and add the mustard seeds to it.  Wait till the mustard seeds splutters.
  • Add garlic and cook for a minute.  Add the ginger pieces and dry chili.  Saute till the garlic and ginger turns light golden yellow color.
  • Add the sliced dates pieces and saute for a minute.
  • Its time to add the powders now.  Add turmeric, chili powders, fenugreek powder and asafoetida powder.  Make sure the flame is on low.  Cook till the raw smell goes away.
  • Add the drained mango pieces and mix well.  Add salt to taste.
  • Add 1.5 cups of water to it.  Give it a good mix; cover with a lid and cook on low to medium heat for 10 minutes till the dry mango gets softened.
  • Open the lid and check the consistency of the pickle.  If needed, you can add more of the mango water to it.  Make sure to cook it well.
  • Add 2 tbsp of vinegar, 1 tbsp of brown sugar/jaggery and curry leaves to the pickle.  Mix well and let it cook for another minute.  Turn off the flame and let it cool completely.
  • Transfer the pickle to a clean dry jar with a tight lid.
  • Store the pickle in the refrigerator.  You can enjoy it with Biriyani, rice or even Indian flat breads.

  • Make sure to wash the dry mangoes well to remove excess salt and any impurities.
  • Make sure to check the salt after adding the mango and mango water.  Sometimes the dried mangoes are too salty that you don't need to add extra salt in the pickle.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Greek Chicken Souvlaki With Tzatziki Sauce And Rice Pilaf

Summer is short where we live, so we made best out of it every year.  June, July months are the months of food festivals and carnivals in our area.  Many churches and cities throw their food festival around this time and we attend them with a bunch of our friends every year.  Its a good time to enjoy some good food with friends along with the outdoor activities most of the festivals provide.

There is a Greek Orthodox church close to our house and their food festival is around this time of the year.  We enjoy their Chicken Souvlaki and their yellow pilaf very much.  The good food, music and the traditional dance performed by their youngsters are the highlights of their food festival.  We miss all the food festivals this year.  So on July 4th weekend, I decided to make the Souvlaki and rice and surprise the kids.  It was a hit and kids loved it and they agreed that it was juicy, tender and packed with flavors just like how we get it at the festival.  

Souvlaki means meat on skewers.  Its similar to the kabobs.  The flavors are just to the point that you would like.  The overnight marination makes the chicken breast juicy and tender.  The recipe is simple and has only few ingredients.  The buttery rice pilaf is the perfect combo for the Chicken Souvlaki.   The Tzatziki sauce is a perfect dip for fresh cut vegetables.  We enjoyed it with some cucumbers.  Hope you will give these recipes a try.

Chicken Souvlaki
yields - 12 Souvlaki

4 - chicken breast
2 big gloves - garlic minced/grated
1 tsp - salt
1 tsp - dry oregano
1.5 tsp - freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp - olive oil
Juice of 1 medium size lemon

  • Trim the fat from the chicken breast; wash & pat dry with paper towel.
  • Cut the chicken breast into 1 inch cubes.
  • Add the chicken pieces, grated garlic, salt, ground pepper, oregano, olive oil and lemon juice into a stainless steel/glass bowl and mix well till everything is coated well on the chicken pieces.
  • Cover the bowl and let it sit for at least 4 hrs or overnight.
  • If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 1 hr.
  • Thread the chicken pieces on the prepared skewers.
  • Set the indoor/outdoor grill on medium heat and cook the chicken on each side (4 sides) for 5 minutes.  It will take up to 20 minutes or till the outside is lightly browned and inside is no longer pink.
  • If preparing the skewers on a stove top, use the grilled cast iron pan for better results. Use a low to medium heat for cast iron pan. Rotate the skewers every 5 minutes till all the sides are cooked and lightly browned and the grill marks appear.
Rice Pilaf
Serves 4-6 people

2 cups - long grain rice (I used Uncle Ben's long grain rice)
4 cups - chicken broth (I used Orrington Farms Broth base $ seasoning)
1 tsp - lemon juice
3 tbsp - butter
use salt to taste if the broth is sodium free
1/2  tsp - freshly chopped oregano

  • Add all the above ingredients except oregano in a sauce pan and cook till it starts to boil.  
  • Lower the flame and cover it with a lid.
  • Cook till all the water evaporates.  Fluff it with a fork.  
  • Garnish with fresh oregano leaves.
Tzatziki Sauce

1 cup - Greek yogurt/hung yogurt
1/2 - English cucumber
1/2 clove - grated garlic
1 tbsp - chopped mint leaves
1 tbsp - olive oil
salt to taste

  • Peel the half English cucumber and grate it.  Add a pinch of salt to the grated cucumber and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Squeeze the excess water that oozes out from the cucumber.
  • Mix the cucumber with yogurt, grated garlic and chopped mint.  Add salt to taste.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hr before using it.

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