Close-up of bae.
Close-up of bae.
Photo by Kate McLean

Perfect Pairings: Nirav Sweet Lemon Pickle, Amul Ghee, and Toast from Pondicheri Bake Lab + Shop

If you want to feel like Maria-doing-spins-on-the-mountain during breakfast, than this toast, butter, jam combo is a good bet.  For toast, sub the whole wheat sesame seed loaf from Pondicheri Bake Lab + Shop, 2800 Kirby, Suite 240 (available by pre-order); for butter, Amul Ghee; and for jam, the Nirav brand of Sweet Lemon Pickle. Leave it to the Indian culture to pack every bit of flavor into every single molecule and then jar it all up. Sweet or savory; a good pickle always brings the spice.

This perfect pairing comes from Anita Jaisinghani, chef/owner of Pondicheri in both Houston and New York City. The first stop she recommended was Parivar Grocers in the Mahatma Gandhi district for Nirav brand pickles and ghee.

The Sweet Lemon Pickle and Extra Hot Methia Lemon Pickle are sweet and spicy respectively; two different wavelengths of sour, both LOUD. While initially in search for Nirav lime pickle, I could only find lemon. She explained they're very similar, but lemon pickle is more common because they have a larger rind, and for those who enjoy this treat, it's all about the rind.

A tale of two pickles; Extra Hot Methia Lemon and Sweet Lemon.
A tale of two pickles; Extra Hot Methia Lemon and Sweet Lemon.
Photo by Kate McLean

For breakfast, the Sweet Lemon Pickle was top choice. The texture is more like jam than jelly; please don't make me explain the difference. Lemon peels and sugar are cooked down to a sweet, spoonable consistency that's packed with flavor from the addition of chili powder, cumin, and other spices. The Extra Hot Methia Lemon Pickle has ground and whole lemon rind that's also packed with spice. Both are a wake-up call for taste buds.

The gentleman at Parivar Grocers recommended the brand Amul Ghee, which comes in a can. Jaisinghani also confirmed that while she makes her own, this was a good brand and in fact comes from her hometown, Gujarat.

Ghee is clarified butter; which means it's butter that has been cooked to where the milk solids evaporate or are strained out. When butter is thrown into a hot pan, it browns; that's the milk solids burning. When ghee or clarified butter hit a hot pan it smokes without burning; i.e. the most flavorful way to sear things.

One of my favorite parts about the Indian, Ayurveydic culture is how they recommend a spoonful of ghee every day. Jaisinghani explained that as our bodies get older, they dry out. Ghee helps with that; she also said that many of her patrons in New York City will swing by in the morning just to buy a little portion of ghee.

I don't know what makes my heart thump more; that recommendation or the obscene amounts I spooned on top of the toasted slice of freshly baked loaf. If there isn't a small pool of ghee under your toast; well, there should be.

Ghee-he-he on toast.
Ghee-he-he on toast.
Photo by Kate McLean

When it comes to bread, it's all about ingredients. Pondicheri Bake Lab + Shop is a vendor you can trust because for one, they don't use commercial yeast. Their whole wheat, seeded loaf is delicious as toast or as is. Sesame seeds on the outside, spongy, dense interior, it weighed a little less than the two-pound jar of pickle.

Remember, if you find the loaf of your dreams, get two so you can throw one in the freezer— it will come back to life in the oven. That was not a metaphor for dating.

But for real, keep your freezer stocked— you never know when the Roca brothers and their entourage are going to swing by your after party. You never know.

At Parivar Grocers,6655 Harwin, in the Mahatma Ghandi District of Houston, a one pound jar of Amul Ghee costs $7, and two pound jars of Nirav pickles cost $5 each. At Pondicheri Bake Lab + Shop, 2400 Kirby/ Suite 240, a pre-ordered loaf of whole wheat sesame seed bread costs about $12.

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