Indian gooseberries (amla) were mentioned in Sangam Tamil literature 2000 years ago for their anti-aging properties. The king Adhiyamaan of Chera dynasty was famous for his munificence and he was regarded as one of the kadaiyezhu vallal (meaning last seven patrons) in the history of Tamil monarchy. In those days amla was a scarcely available fruit and it was believed to have anti-aging properties to prolong one’s life. The king as a patron of literature offered such a rarest & precious nellikani (amla) to an old poetess Avvaiyar rather than partaking it by himself. Avvaiyar rendered beautiful verses after receiving amla praising the magnanimity of king Adhiyamaan (you may click here to read those lines).
Nowadays amla fruits are available in plenty and we can enjoy the benefits of amla to the fullest by taking them raw. However if you find it too tart to chew raw amla, you can make sweet jam or spicy pickle to neutralize its tartness. Amla pickle tastes delicious with chappathi, puri, or curd rice. Now lets prepare nellikai oorugai:
First we need to prepare pickle masala as below. You can store this in an air-tight container and use for making pickle, tamarind rice (puliyodharai), tamarind curry (puli kuzhambu) or any other curry to enhance the flavor.
- Dry roast asafoetida & fenugreek (1/4 cup) seeds separately in a hot pan.
- Grind into a fine powder at room temperature.
Time Taken: 40 min
- Amla – 21 Nos
- Sesame oil – 1/4 cup
- Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
- Red chilli powder – 2 tbsp
- Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
- Coarsely powdered pepper – 1/2 tsp
- Fenugreek powder – 1 tsp
- Salt – 1 and 1/4 tsp
- Wash amla & steam for 10 min or till they become soft.
- When they reached room temperature, remove seeds and keep aside.
- Heat a pan with sesame oil in medium flame.
- Add mustard seeds, when they start crackling turn off the flame.
- Add red chilli powder & turmeric powder and give a nice quick stir.
- Add seeded amla and light the stove again.
- Saute amla in medium flame.
- Add salt and saute till oil starts oozing out.
- Add fenugreek powder & pepper powder.
- Mix them well and simmer for 2 min. and remove from flame.
- Store pickle in a dry clean glass jar when it reaches room temperature.
- To increase the shelf life of pickle, steaming is recommended as it does not have direct contact with water.
- Pepper is added mainly for flavor, not for the heat.
- You can also add a teaspoon of jaggery along with pepper, just to balance the heat & tartness.