Saturday, 13 December 2014

Chuvannulli Achar: Kerala Style Pickled Shallots

I know it has been months since I left that last blog of mine. While I did intent to take a break from blogging as things got somewhat stale and boring, the move to a new blog, the purchase of this domain name and the outrageous way of neglecting this place were totally unplanned. Curiously however, I never stopped working on the various components that make up this blog of mine - from to collecting props to working on my photography to fine tuning some recipes - everything had gone on more or less as before, except that the platform onto which all these must have gone in remained relentlessly neglected.

I do realize that I have failed to give you a proper welcome to 'The Smokey Chimney'. The space was made public soon after the bare bones had gone in and the link was published at THDK (which is my previous blog - The Humpty Dumpty Kitchen - for those who don't know.) too. I hope I haven't made you all so fed up :)
Anyway, that is enough dithering for a first post!  Let's talk about the recipe now.

I have always begun my blogs with one of my Mom's recipes and I was determined that it will be no different this time. This recipe for pickled shallots is something that I found in my Mom's old recipe book. In fact, this is the first recipe in that old and tattered blue bound notebook that she had left behind for us.
The measurements in her book are usually in metric or in even older systems and it is something that I have to tinker with when I'm working on her recipes. May be I should buy a kitchen scale rather than resorting to conversions. Or may be not, since cup measurements are I feel, more convenient.
In any case, I have converted what was a pickle recipe for a kilo of shallots into one for just two cups of shallots. (Do note that this makes a small quantity and I make it this way since The Techie will not touch vegetarian pickles at all.) In addition to scaling down the recipe, I have omitted the coriander and slightly deviated from the method jotted down by her. Nevertheless, the pickle turned out really well and I hope it will do for you too.


  1. Shallots, peeled and cleaned - 2 cups
Spice Powders:
  1. Kashmiri Red Chilli Powder - 1/2 tbsp.
  2. Turmeric Powder - 1/4 tsp.
  3. Fenugreek Powder - 1/4 tsp.
  4. Asafoetida Powder - 1/8 tsp.
  1. Mustard Seeds - A generous 1/2 tsp.
  2. Ginger, julienned - 1 tbsp. 
  3. Green Chillies - 2 or 3, cut into two or three slices.
  4. Curry Leaves - From a stalk
  5. Tamarind Paste - 1 tsp. 
  6. White Vinegar - 2 tbsp.
  7. Jaggery, grated - 1 heaping tsp. 
  8. Gingelly Oil - 1 tbsp. + 2 tbsp. (This is Indian Sesame Oil and is different from the darker Toasted Sesame Oil. You cannot substitute one for the other.)
  9. Salt
  10. Water - 1/2 cup, boiled and cooled. + enough to make a thick paste out of the powdered spices.

Heat up a pan and add a tablespoon of gingelly oil. When the oil gets heated through, add the shallots and saute them. Stir them around once in a while till the outer skin begins to take a brownish shade. Take care not to burn them. Keep aside to cool.

Once cold, separate 1/4 cup of the sauteed shallots from the lot and grind the rest of them to a paste without adding any water. (It doesn't have to be too smooth.)

Add enough water to make a thick paste with all the spice powders except asafoetida and keep it aside.

In the same pan that was used to saute the shallots, add the rest of the oil and heat it up. Add mustard seeds and allow them to sputter. Now add the ginger and stir around for a few seconds. Follow with the green chillies and curry leaves and saute them for a few seconds. Now add the ground shallot paste and saute till oil can be seen glistening on the surface of the paste. 

Add the paste made with the spice powders and stir around. Take care not to burn. Stir frequently and when the oil separates, add the tamarind paste, jaggery, water and salt. Bring the gravy to a rolling boil and add the shallots that have been kept aside followed by the powdered asafoetida. Stir to coat.

Keep the gravy on a simmer for a couple of minutes and then switch off.
Allow the pickle to cool down and then transfer to a clean jar. As it rests, the oil from the gravy will float to the surface forming a protective layer.

Allow the pickle to rest for a day at room temperature before refrigerating and/or using it.

Serve with rice/flat breads.
  1. The amount of shallots to be ground is a personal choice. I prefer a lot of gravy with less of whole shallots. My mother's recipe leaves more whole shallots in the pickle. You can most definitely adjust the amount to your taste.
  2. Though the pickle can be kept at room temperature for a few days, it is better to keep it in the refrigerator especially if you have hotter climates in your area. 
  3. If unopened, it will last in the refrigerator for at least 3 weeks. (One you start using it, the pickle will need to be finished off within a week or so.)


  1. Hi Priya,
    Congrats on the blog's new home. I am extremely glad to see you back in action.I feel like entering a cozy new home fully furnished and functional as I look around Smokey Chimney. Thadiyil thirtha oru nalla veedu.Really loved the attention to detail.
    Starting the blog with Mom's recipe book- what a noble thought Priya. Yummy ulli achar.
    All the best and hope you will continue to post with same vigor.

    1. Meena, thank you so much :) I'm so glad to have you here! It is also thanks to your occasional prodding that the blog has finally come to life :)

      And I'm happy to hear that 'thadiyil theertha' description - exactly what I was hoping to accomplish. Hoping that there won't be any prolonged breaks here anytime soon :)

  2. These shallots look amazingly tasty! There are so many flavors and spices in this pickle. I'm so glad to have found your blog and will definitely be checking out more of your posts.

    1. Thank you so much Amy. Do let me know if you try the pickle out and don't hesitate to shout out if you need any help. And of course, happy to come across your blog - you have quite an amazing space out there.

  3. Congratulations on the new blog and welcome back to blogging. What an interesting recipe! I use shallots a lot and grow some in my garden, because I like them a lot. I would love to try your recipe, if I can find the ingredients. Thanks for the note about the different types of sesame oil.

    1. Thanks a lot, Simona. Oh it's so great that you have shallots in your garden. Wish I had some space to grow something here.

      I'm very glad that you like the recipe. Hope you will be able to find all the ingredients in your area. I will be happy to help if you need any clarifications regarding the recipe/ingredients. And of course would love to hear how it turned out for you if you try it out.


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