A Noble Relish
Aged five sitting crossed legged on a dhurrie rug woven in Pakistan with soft cotton strands of rich pink, green, yellow, red, white and orange my brother and I would watch the ceremony of dinner being served. Dad would bring in a series of dishes with steamed lids and shiny little steel pots proudly glinting and reflecting the colour of our walls. Mum battled with the heavy orange curtains pushing them back to give the day its last chance of bathing our living room in light and checking that we’d scrubbed our hands of the day’s sport. Dad balanced glasses, plates, jugs and a little stainless steel container, possessing the dexterity of an octopus.
Mum would ladle thick spoonfuls of lamb and potatoes, and mixed vegetable sabzi coated in a dilution of oil and juice from the plum tomatoes. The smell promised sustenance and seconds. Chapattis were handed out and then dad would uncap the little steel container and liberate the bouquet of onion, lemon, lime, coriander and the sharp mix of thinned vinegar. Carefully placing the container away from any disturbance he would use a triangle of chapatti to spoon out the raw and fresh vegetables on to the side of his plate. I watched Dad chew and his sideburns wobbled as he cooled his mouth with the chilly salsa chaser. I’d mimic his facial expression of delight but it took years before I realised that Kachumber is possibly the most refined accompaniment to curry cuisine. Simple flavours, an elegant finish and easy preparation will mean you’ll want this dish by your side at every sitting.
I use red onionsfor this indian relish recipe as they carry a more refined flavour when eaten raw. Chop them into mini cubes and add the diced tomatoes together with their seeds and juice. Cut the cucumber into small pieces, then take the chilli, discard the seeds and finely slice the green skin. Thoroughly wash the coriander, remove the leaves and chop them with care. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl (I use a metal one for nostalgia), cover and refrigerate for up to an hour.
For the dressing, put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together until combined. Cover and leave at room temperature, allowing the various flavours to blend. When you’re ready to eat, jostle the salsa ingredients to aerate them, trickle the dressing all over it and muddle the mixture. This Indian salad should glisten and shine as a proud companion to any dish. Serves 4 as an accompaniment.
- 2 small red onions, finely chopped
- 3 tomatoes, diced
- ½ cucumber, cut into small cubes
- 1 long green chilli, de-seeded and sliced
- 2tbs fresh coriander leaves, chopped
- 1tsp white wine vinegar
- 1tbs lemon juice
- 2tsp olive oil
- 1tbs lime juice
A recipe from the Urban Rajah's Curry Memoirs cookbook. Due for release in Spring 2013, from Headline Publishing.