Welcome to #NotAnAd, where we post enthusiastically and without reservation about things we’re obsessed with from the world of food.
Mealtimes, for me, are often just an excuse to ferry condiments into my mouth. When it comes to sauce, chutney, and pickle, if I could eat small dollops straight from the jar at all times, without getting fired from my food writing job or dumped, I would. Chips without salt and vinegar? Useless potato sticks. A cheese toastie without Lea & Perrins, caramelised onion chutney, or Frank’s RedHot sauce? Solid milk on bread. Precious, veggie nuggets without a generous gloop of ketchup and mayo to dip? Breaded Quorn chunks. I am a slave to the condiment.
Another meal I am reluctant to eat without a bathing of condiments, is curry. Despite the dish being so delicious and varied that it can satisfy everyone from children in Goa to middle-aged men in Reading who subside off bacon sandwiches and Double Deckers, I can’t help but reach for the stainless steel tray of sauces that adorns most British curry house tables. Whether I’m eating a dhal makhani, straight-out-of-the-fryer bhajis, or at home with a plate of supermarket samosas, all I want to do is go to fucking town on the raita or mango chutney. Hey, I’ll even throw some lime pickle or coconut chutney in the proverbial mix if I can get my hands on it.
But there’s another condiment, one so perfectly oily, sweet, and fiery, that it satisfies every culinary requirement. You’ve also probably never heard of it. This mysterious, God-tier condiment? Aubergine pickle.
The Patak’s Aubergine Pickle, or “Brinjal Pickle” as it is traditionally known, is not your generic British curry condiment. It’s a niche Patak product, only available in supermarkets serving areas with large South Asian communities, meaning it can be hard to come by. According to my personal records, a corner shop in Clapton has been known to stock it, as well as a supermarket off Brick Lane. Despite its scarcity, my love of aubergine pickle transcends meal times, resulting in such memorable moments as: me trying to rename my uni friend WhatsApp group as “aubergine pickle appreciation society,” or spooning the pickle into my mouth using a stale oatcake I have in my desk drawer as I write this.
From exterior appearances alone, aubergine pickle looks like your regular store-bought condiment. The packaging is generic—the same green-and-purple of all Patak’s products. Except there’s one thing that makes it stand out, and that’s its ability to take every element of the perfect pickle—fruity sweetness, a spice—and make it oily. This is due to the aubergine being fried, rather than soaked in vinegar like most British pickles.
As with anything in life, it is this key, oily component that elevates aubergine pickle to a God-level tier of condiment. On the bottom, you’ve got own-brand ketchups, Salad Cream, and piccalilli (???). In the middle, there’s HP Sauce, Tabasco, and mayonnaise; and at the top, there are those small pots of garlic mayo that you can only get with takeaway pizzas. Then, right in the heavens, is aubergine pickle. I would dip my pizza crust in this. I would have it in a pie. Hell, I want to eat it like a yogurt or soup. The deliciousness of a chutney but sort of ... dunked in a lot of oil? Perfect with a saag paneer and a cheese toastie? There is truly no better jarred food accompaniment.
Until the day I can acceptably carry a jar of aubergine pickle around with me as a snack, I will continue to use my meals as an excuse to finish half a jar of the stuff. You can’t stop this love. The aubergine pickle appreciation society lives on.