While Tom made piccalilli, I thought about pickles in Rushdie and Arundhati Roy, and then spent a happy couple of hours investigating the condiment’s eighteenth-century origins. The earliest instance I could find of a recipe resembling what we now know as piccalilli, was in the 1768 edition of Hannah Glasse’s Art of Cookery, where it is listed as Paco-Lilo. I also discovered a picca-lillo recipe in Mary Smith’s Complete Housekeeper (1772). In numerous other eighteenth-century cookery and housekeeping books, it appears as Indian Pickle: a name which gives you some sense of its obvious colonial-imperial origins, and explains the mangos of these early recipes.


Recipe for Indian Pickle, from Susanna Macinver’s, Cookery and Pastry, as Taught in Edinburgh by Mrs Macinver (1784)

As Indian Pickle morphs into piccalilli in nineteenth-century cookbooks, so the colonial fruits disappear from the recipes, which predominantly feature domestic produce: cabbages, cauliflowers, apples, plums. Turmeric is still crucial, though . . .


. . . and in Tom’s version, the chillis are definitely key.

This stuff really is delicious, and bears no resemblance to that cornflour stuffed, radioactive-looking gloop that goes under the same name at the supermarket. Tom says it is definitely at its best with some home made bread, a good cured ham, and a tasty ale. I’m off to test this proposition. Cheers.