Earlier this month, legendary chef and food writer J Inder Singh Kalra – better known as Jiggs Kalra – passed away. This recipe is a tribute to him. It’s a traditional pickle that he perfected: a Prawn Pickle known as Jhinga Achaar in India.
There are a lot of ingredients to be gathered, so let’s get started:
Prawns, medium sized: 1 kilogram
Mustard Oil: 1 litres
Onions: 200 grams
Jaggery (Gur): 150 grams
Ginger Paste: 3 tablespoon
Garlic Paste: 3 tablespoon
Fenugreek (Methi) Seeds: 1 teaspoon
Fennel (Saunf) Powder: 2 teaspoon
Cumin (Jeera) Powder: 1 teaspoon
Nigella (Kalonji) Seeds: 2 teaspoon
Turmeric (Haldi) Powder: Just a pinch
Asafoetida (Heeng): 1 teaspoon
Red Chilli Powder: 2 teaspoon
Black Cardamom (Ilaichi): 5
Green Cardamom (Ilaichi): 10
Black Cardamom (Ilaichi) Powder: 1 teaspoon
Green Cardamom (Ilaichi) Powder: 2 teaspoon
Bay Leaves (Tej Patta): 2
Vinegar: 300 millilitres
Salt: To taste
Wash the prawns and devein them. Let them dry for 10 to 15 minutes.
In a bowl, mix the red chilli powder, turmeric and salt. Add half the ginger paste and half the garlic paste. Mix well to create a paste. Coat the prawns with this paste. Keep aside for at least 30 minutes.
Peel, wash and grate the onions.
In a separate bowl, pour in the vinegar. Add the jaggery and stir till it dissolves in the vinegar.
Wash and sterilize a glass or porcelain pickling jar and wipe it dry. Make sure it is completely dry before you use it.
Heat the Mustard Oil in a pan on a Medium flame till it reaches its smoking point. Deep fry the coated prawns for around 2 minutes. Remove the prawns from the oil. Strain the Mustard Oil into another pan and heat on a Low flame.
In a frying pan, add the cardamoms (black and green), bay leaves, asafoetida, nigella seeds and fenugreek seeds. Sauté in Mustard Oil on a Medium flame for around 30 seconds. Add them to the pan containing the strained Mustard Oil.
Next, add the grated onions and the remaining ginger and garlic paste. Stir for around two minutes. Now add the cardamom (black and green) powder, fennel powder and cumin powder. Stir for another minute or so. Now add the jaggery-vinegar mixture, raise the flame to High and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook for around 2 to 3 minutes.
Finally, add the fried prawns and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the flame off and let the mixture cool.
Carefully pour/transfer the contents into the large pickling jar that you had sterilized and dried earlier. Cover the mouth of the jar with a clean, dry muslin cloth and tie it firmly with a cord around the neck of the jar. Put the jar out in the sun (ideally in a place like a terrace, a balcony or a window sill). Remember to bring the jar indoors at night to prevent moisture from setting in. Repeat this process for two days. Then remove the muslin cloth and close the jar with an airtight lid.
Your Jhinga Achaar is now ready. Enjoy it. Relish it. Savour it. But do remember to consume it within 60 days. Since the prawns cannot be completely dried, the residual moisture will affect the life of the pickle. So finish it quickly – which isn’t a very difficult thing to do!