One of my biggest takeaways in 2017 was from Samin Nosrat’s book, ‘Salt Fat Acid Heat’. Right at the start of the book she urges us to not use more salt to amplify flavour in our foods, but to use salt better. Being good friends with your salt is a lot like being friends with your oven-if you know how much salt you need to use in a dish, it’ll go a long way to make you superior at cooking. How fine or how granular your salt is, how much time it takes to dissolve, and whether you want the salt to be known in a dish-it’s all about understanding the salt available to you. For example coarse salt takes longer to dissolve in water and you’d have to use more of it than finely packed table salt.
Another very important point that Samin touches upon is how we don’t need to use iodised salts in our food anymore as long as our diets are diverse enough to include dairy and seafood. When switching to other forms of salt in the kitchen, my grocer found it strange that I was asking for non-iodised salt, and instructed me not to because iodised salt is “healthier”. This got me thinking about how my own salt-white and colourless, refined and bleached to reach this stage-was healthy. No matter how fresh or seasonal my food was, I was still feeding my family salt which had none of its natural properties intact, and this was deeply troubling to me because salt is something we use everyday. “The only thing you should be adding to your food when salting it, is salt”.
The switch to Puro salt, while only slightly more expensive than brands available to me, was a rock salt that didn’t change the taste of the food and I could still use it as an exact substitute, which is what drew me to it in the first place. While Puro still does have iodine, it’s only in traces and naturally occurring. You can actually make out your salt crystals with Puro, as opposed to refined salt that comes out of a packet. It’s got a rosey hue to it and I prefer it to my regular table salt. You can buy Puro salt here.
Us Sindhis pickle the year round and come winter, we make a mixed vegetable achaar and a carrot achaar with red carrots and green garlic that’s very popular. This year I decided to switch my regular salt with Puro instead. Scared that it would change the taste of the achaar, I made a small batch of it and it tasted perfect and no different from the stuff I had grown up eating. I also made a brine using Puro salt and I found I could get the same pleasantly saline results but by using less salt in this case, which was perfect. I used this brine to pickle fresh green peppercorns for a week at least before using it to make Andy Baraghani’s Green Peppercorn sauce to pour over fish.
Red Carrot and Green Garlic Pickle
Yield 1 kilo of pickle
The trick to getting any pickle right is to taste as you go. Under salt and under season in the beginning, and adjust as you go.
Red seasonal Carrots 1 kilo, cut into batons
Green garlic 2 small bunches, green parts only
Mustard powder 1 1/2- 2 tsp or alternately just pound the fresh yellow mustard seeds
Puro Salt start with 1/2 tbsp and add more as needed
Turmeric 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder (Kashmiri preferably because of its colour) 1 tbsp, plus more
Vegetable oil 1 tbsp (optional)
Water start with a cup and go from there
Take a large mixing bowl and add to it the carrot batons, green garlic, mustard powder 1/2 tbsp of Pure salt, turmeric, red chilli powder and the vegetable oil, if adding. Mix everything together by hand till all the carrots are coated in the masala and the carrots have started to release some of their own water.
Taste for salt and spice. Account for some extra water being added later, so at this stage its okay if it’s saltier. If it’s not, add more salt.
Pack the carrots in the container you’ll be pickling the carrots in. Rinse out the bowl and your hands with water and add it to the pickling jar of carrots and close it. Keep it in a terrace garden or out in the sun for two days at least before tasting it.
For the Green peppercorns in brine, add 100g of washed green peppercorns to a long jar. Mix together 1/4 cup lime juice, 1/4 cup Puro salt, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder and 2 cups of just boiled water. Taste and adjust the salt. It has to be quite salty. Add 1 tsp oil over the jar before lidding it and keep it in a dark place for 3 days at least.