Despite my advanced (advancing?) age I love Instagram. Any downtime (standing in a queue, riding the bus) I will scroll away on my phone, staring happily at hazy beaches peopled with the lithe and the tanned; folks’ daft dogs coming way too close to the camera; style parades of impossibly impractical shoes and smart city shorts. Sigh.
I don’t get jealous, but I do sometimes wonder how close to real life-perfect are these mesmeric images. Do these stunning people eating sushi in neon dens of cool have zits? Or suffer heartache?
Are there filters for these?
Most people engaging in this very hipster way of communicating to the masses are young. Sub-20 young, so properly young. But the great thing about Instagram is that no matter what your age, if you post it, they will come. I haven’t been on very long, nor do I have loads of followers, but it is one of my favourite ways to share ideas and recipes in progress. A lot of my recipes show up first on Instagram; and I also post mini recipes that will not make the blog (lots of breakfasts and juices, if you are interested).
Loads of savvy Insta users (IG-ers) post brilliantly edited images. Some of the food shots are just stunning; reflecting, I’m sure, clever lighting and editing. But me being me I prefer to bumble along with my rather crappy phone shots, employing little in the way of editing, or nous in hashtagging. Just like I don’t envy the stylish hipsters and their sushi den lifestyle, I don’t envy these sumptuous or intriguingly spare shots of food either. Inspired yes, but no, not jealous. Because, you know, everyone is just so nice.
Unlike Twitter, where it can get all fraught and angsty, Instagram is a loose collection of millions of people just posting stuff they think is cool, or clever, or cute, or hot. Of course, there are some nasty people posting stuff you wouldn’t want your granny to see, but mostly it is pretty amazing that I can view what people around the world are doing and photographing right now. The Insta in Instagram.
I also have been asking more questions on Instagram. Where I might normally ask a question on Twitter and get perhaps an answer or two, on Insta, this friendly posse of snappers will bless me with more than double that. Sometimes as many as a dozen answers or suggestions.
Just the other day I had a load of gooseberries given to me by a green-fingered and kind neighbour. These organic, allotment-grown orbs of jade beauty couldn’t just go in jam. As nice as jam is. I wanted to do something special; something sugar-free and highlighting the sour nature of these really lovely berries. And, like jam, I wished to make something that would last, and make me smile as I dipped into it with a sly spoon. I got quite a few suggestions, but the one from Sumayya popped out and grabbed me by the apron: pickle. And as she is Pakistani, I knew what kind of pickle she was meaning.
So, I looked out my trusty carrot pickle recipe for ideas (I really should post it) and tinkered until I think I got the flavour profile doing most justice to these beautifully tart fruits. So, thank you Instagram, thank you Sumayya. Incidentally cookery teacher Sumayya is an entrepreneur, making and selling gorgeous- sounding spice mixes. I’ve not tried any yet, but with names like marigold petal garam masala, I really should, shouldn’t I? A curry made with this blend would be just perfect with this pickle, wouldn’t it?
If you are on Instagram, do look me up (my ‘feed’ is in the sidebar to the right). Especially if you like breakfast! Btw, this pickle is great with scrambled eggs. 🙂
Pakistani Gooseberry (Amla) Pickle
This is more or less a ‘fresh’ pickle, to be eaten within three months of making and storing in the refrigerator. Longer lasting pickles – ones that undergo lacto-fermentation – are delicious but involve way more oil, salt and vinegar. And waiting! Such pickles usually entail obtaining mustard oil, which is difficult to get for most outside of the Indian subcontinent. The oil and salt are for preserving, so if you wish just cut out the oil and reduce the salt, eating this tangy refrigerated pickle within a week or two (I would halve the recipe if you were to do this).
Oh, and do adjust the heat to your palate. It’ll be just dandy without the added crushed chilli flakes. Don’t be afraid of the Kashimiri chilli: it is mild, fragrant and has the best colour for this type of pickle. But paprika and a little cayenne are good subs.
This delightful fresh pickle partners well with all Pakistani and Indian foods, as well as being damn fine on a crispbread with a little goats cheese!
½ kg (just over 1 lb) gooseberries – can use frozen
1 tbsp salt (it acts as a preservative and seasoning)
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 tbsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp minced ginger
1 tsp crushed dried jalapeno peppers, or other hot, unsmoked dried pepper (optional)
4 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder (mild and very flavourful) OR 1/2 tbsp cayenne + 3 tbsp paprika (sweet/mild)
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp asafoetida powder (use onion powder in a pinch)
1 tsp fenugreek powder (freshly ground preferred)
1 tbsp white vinegar
Extra oil for preserving if liked (unroasted sesame oil for preference)
Wash and trim the stalks and tails from the gooseberries. Pop them into a medium saucepan, add enough water to go halfway up the gooseberries and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for five minutes, or until they break down and most are burst. Drain away the liquid, but don’t press it. Set aside for now.
In a wok or karahi heat the oil. When hot, but definitely not smoking, add the mustard seeds. They will splutter and pop; stir and add the salt, garlic, ginger, hot pepper flakes, Kashmiri pepper or the cayenne and paprika combo, turmeric, asafoetida and fenugreek powders. Stir this for a couple of minutes then take off the heat. Stir in the vinegar and gooseberries; let cool a little before tasting from a dry spoon. Add a little more vinegar or chili if you like.
Bottle up in sterilized jars. This should fill 2 good-sized jam jars. Store refrigerated and only use a dry spoon when using: water may spoil the pickle.The recipe is easily doubled/tripled.