When I was staying with relatives in Mumbai a few years ago, I was lucky enough to eat the most exquisite, wholesome, simple Gujarati food you can imagine eating. This was all thanks to my cousin’s wife Bharti; not only is she a superb cook, but she’s also extremely conscious of cooking and eating food that is wholesome and pure. She unfortunately had breast cancer a few years ago, but thankfully it was early stage and she is absolutely fine now. However, the experience of illness as serious as cancer increased her interest in natural ways of healing the mind, body and spirit. She,like many in India, has an Ayurvedic specialist whom she consults regularly. She also practices yoga daily, goes for long walks, and buys the purest, freshest foods, including seasonal fruits and vegetables, something that is very easy to do in India. Everything is still consumed seasonally there, as most fruit and vegetables are bought at market stalls run by the growers.
On the first day of my stay, as I sat at the table for lunch, Bharti put a jar of pickle down next to me. I asked her what it was, as I had never come across it before. She was actually surprised I didn’t know haldi (turmeric) pickle from my mother, as it’s extremely popular in Gujarati households. I think why that might be is that my mother certainly wouldn’t have been able to buy turmeric root in England when she and my father moved here in the 1960s, so of course we never ate it. Actually, it’s only recently started to be sold in grocers shops. My mother also tells me that when she was growing up in Gujarat, her family cook didn’t make it-perhaps it wasn’t much cared for by her family.
I was glad I was introduced to it that day in Mumbai, as I utterly fell in love with it. I now make it regularly, especially in winter. I have to say though, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, as turmeric has a very distinctive, bitter taste, but you have to try it and decide. We all know the huge health- boosting benefits of turmeric; It has been part of Ayurveda and Indian cuisine for millenia. This pickle provides the same anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antioxidant benefits we know are contained in the dried, ground turmeric we are all more familiar with using. I love the colour, the texture (like fresh ginger), and the fresh, clean taste of the root. I’m not exaggerating when I say that when you eat it, you will literally feel its healing effect, especially if you have a sore throat or sinus/cold symptoms. I love to have it on my plate to accompany any vegetarian Indian meal; a couple of teaspoons of it is plenty, as any more might cause it to overpower the taste of your lovely vegetables or dal.
250g fresh turmeric root
A tsp salt
The juice of around 3 of the freshest lemons ( have another lemon at hand in case you need more juice)
It might be a sensible idea to wear disposable gloves for this, and place your ingredients and jar on some old newspaper, as the turmeric will stain anything it touches! Wash and peel the turmeric root and thinly slice into rounds. Put them in a lidded glass jar and sprinkle the salt in. Now add the lemon juice of however many lemons you need, to ensure it fully covers the turmeric in the jar. Screw the lid on tight, and give it a good shake.
Put it in the fridge and leave it to settle for a few days before first eating.
It should keep in the fridge for a month or two.