This is my obligatory annual cranberry post. When I told my mom I was out of ideas to use cranberries this year, she gave me her thokku recipe. A thokku is a sort of spicy relish, similar to an Indian pickle or achar. The difference lies in the fact that achar usually has more oil and is carefully cooked till almost no moisture remains, both of which greatly extend its shelf life (usually several years). A thokku is a quicker South Indian version.
My mom makes a mean tomato thokku, cooking tomatoes with a handful of choice spices (usually turmeric, red chilies and fenugreek). Tart and tangy fresh cranberries are an excellent choice for thokku.
Thokku and achar is usually made with sesame oil. This oil adds excellent flavor and also helps extend the shelf life. If you use vegetable oil or anything else, there is always a chance of the oil turning rancid. But if you are simply making a small batch and not planning on storing it further than a couple of days, feel free to use any neutral oil of choice. A few mustard seeds, a pinch of asafoetida (kaayam or hing) and freshly ground roasted fenugreek seeds are added to the hot oil. All these ingredients are either extremely pungent or bitter on their own, but add them to the hot oil along with the spices and cranberries and you have a uniquely flavored cranberry relish.
The entire process takes 15 minutes at most. Cranberries cook down really fast. Add a bit of tamarind and jaggery (or brown sugar) to balance the flavors. Once everything is cooked down and you see them all lump together with a little oil separating at the sides, the thokku is ready.
Unlike an achar, I would store thokku in the refrigerator, just to be safe. Be careful to use a dry spoon every time you take some out, and you can stretch it a couple of weeks.
Thanksgiving is my most favorite American holiday. I love its significance regarding family, blessings and gratitude. I am infinitely thankful for life’s many blessings and only pray for the good health and happiness of my loved ones. I love planning an Indo-American Thanksgiving meal. We usually roast a chicken and make a couple of sides like a savory pulao or some kind of flatbreads. The kiddo always demands the traditional potatoes and corn as well. That is usually the hubby’s domain. This year, this cranberry thokku will go perfectly with the Indian inspired meal I have planned.
This thokku also goes well with just some plain rice and curd or hot rotis and dal. It is the perfect balance of spicy, tart, tangy and slightly sweet. Grab those seasonal packets of cranberries and make this quick thokku for the family.
- Sesame oil - 2 tbsp
- Mustard seeds - ½ tsp
- Asafoetida - a pinch
- Fenugreek powder - ⅛ tsp, made coarsely ground roasted fenugreek seeds
- Turmeric powder - ½ tsp
- Red chili powder - 1 tbsp
- Cranberries - 12 oz, fresh
- Tamarind - 1 tbsp
- Jaggery - 1 tbsp, grated (or use brown sugar)
- Firstly, lightly roast 1-2 tsp fenugreek seeds and grind coarsely in a mortar-pestle or spice grinder. Set aside. If you have ready-made fenugreek powder, you can use that.
- Soak tamarind in 2 tbsp warm water for a few minutes, extract pulp, strain and set aside. Alternately, you can use 1-2 tsp of bottled tamarind paste.
- Heat oil in a large skillet. Add mustard seeds and allow them to sputter.
- Then add asafoetida, fenugreek powder, turmeric powder and red chili powder. I like to do this by quickly lifting the skillet away from the heat, so that the spices do not burn.
- Add cranberries and mix well to coat in the spices. Cook on medium heat till the berries pop and you are able to mash them with the back of a ladle.
- Now add the extracted tamarind water and jaggery. Mix well and cook till the liquid evaporates and the thokku lumps together. You will also see some oil separating at the sides.
- Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Store in a glass jar with an airtight lid. Refrigerate it for best results. Serve with rice, flatbreads and grilled/roasted meats.
Make some cranberry thokku and keep this amazing condiment on hand for those lazy days when all you can do is made some rice or roll some rotis. Just add a bit of thokku on the side.
Meanwhile, here is wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving. This birdie was painted by the kiddo, who also insisted on taking this picture himself. I mounted the camera on the tripod, showed him how to zoom and focus the camera. He did a good job, right?! I am so thankful to have that little human being in my life!!
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