Here lies my ode to Piccalilli where I will say Piccalilli as many times as I can, mainly because, as a word, it is perfectly delightful. Piccalilli, Piccalilli, Piccalilli. Piccalilli is England’s interpretation of the Indian pickle, a saucy mix of exotic fruit and spices perfect to cradle our English cottage-grown veg. I came late to Piccallili. Passing it in the condiment aisle in the supermarket I’d find myself grimacing at the yellow jars. I was wary of it for a long while with it’s neon-acid yellow, it’s great lumps of crunchy cauliflower and it’s pungent piquancy; yet these are all the same reasons as to why I’ve fallen for it now.
After discovering Tackleman’s (not even an advertisement it’s just really good) with it’s charmingly homemade quality, I now often find myself reaching for a jar of the neon. It not only looks fantastic, glowing brightly in its bowl, but has a glorious punch, goes great with cheese and the vegetables retain their shape and crunch unlike most other condiments.
We’ve had a small glut of cauliflower (one day I will learn to sow successively), our beans have begun producing, onions have been harvested and we’ve had our first chillis too. What better way to marry them all together than in a piccalilli. I like the idea of being able to point and say ‘you see that bean? I grew that. That cauliflower? Yes that was lovingly tended to by me into it’s fine state of maturity.’ The Piccalilli, it turns out, is the perfect condiment for the gardeners’ narcissism.
I started by soaking my dear, sweet, lovely, harvested vegetables in salted water overnight. The recipe I vaguely adhered to, called for pulped mango (which I didn’t manage to grow myself… perhaps one day), which gave it a gorgeous sticky, silky, sweetness. Also, poured in was a deluge of fragrant spices; mustard, cumin, nutmeg and of course the bright yellow turmeric.
And now to eat; crusty bread, thick slices of cheese, a sliced apple perhaps, all wearing crowns made up of shining dollops of Piccalilli. A perfect accompaniment to a perfect working lunch. Piccalilli- my favourite condiment… until plum chutney season starts that is.
- 2 large cauliflower , cut into florets
- 2 bulbs fennel , cut into chunks
- 6 green chillies , seeds still in, sliced
- 200 g fine green beans , chopped into short lengths
- 150 g runner beans , cut into short lengths
- 300 g shallots , chopped
- 1 red onion , chopped
- 2 handfuls sea salt
- Dash of oil
- 2 heaped tablespoons mustard seeds
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons turmeric
- 1 nutmeg , grated
- 2 tablespoons English mustard powder
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 500 ml white wine vinegar
- 2 apples , grated
- 1 can of mango pulp (or hand pulped mango if you prefer)
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 3 cloves garlic , crushed
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 4 bay leaves
Salt all the vegetables overnight
Reach for your biggest saucepan.
Add the oil to the pan, then fry the mustard seeds, cumin, turmeric and nutmeg for a couple of minutes. Lower the heat, and add the mustard powder, flour and a splash of vinegar. Stir well to make a thick paste. Add the remaining vinegar and 100ml water, stirring all the time to make a paste. Add apples, mangoes, sugar, garlic, oregano and bay leaves. Cook for 2–3 minutes.
Drain the vegetables and add them to your fragrant, spicy paste and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the vegetables begin to release juices.
Spoon into sterilised jars and close the lids tightly. Leave for around 4 weeks to mature into the best piccalilli you’ve ever had; you’ll be proud as punch.