I am sharing this recipe because it is something super easy & fast you can make to add to a meal which will take it from ordinary to something really special. Pickling vegetables need only take 10 minutes and they add wonderful acidity & depth of flavour to allsorts of dishes and snacks without much effort. Don’t think pickled onions, although they are a great thing they are way too strong for most dishes. Quick pickled vegetables should be crunchy and still taste like themselves but with an acidity from the vinegar which does not overpower.
I often make some to add a bit of depth to a starter. For example, the photo above is scallops marinaded in wasabi with pickled fennel. The scallops are rich & creamy, the wasabi adds heat & the pickles give crunch and acidity. They are great with a terrine, or any cold meats, cheeses, seafood, grilled meats and even spicy dishes such as a curry.
The amount of pickling time will depend on the vegetables, how you cut them and the flavour you want to achieve. I often pickle radishes as they take on the liquid easily and we always seem to have them in the fridge. Thin slices only need about 5 minutes in the vinegar to have a lovely acidic flavour but retain a crunchy texture. I eat them with sushi, on salads, with cheeses and on sandwiches.
The pickling juices can be kept in a jar & used whenever you like. Some vegetables take longer than others but with a bit of practice you will be able to get them just how you want them for a particular dish. The following recipe uses rice wine vinegar because it is acidic but not as intense as a white or malt vinegar. Use any whole spices appropriate to the recipe or whatever you have on hand. I always add mustard seeds and sometimes other aromatics according to the dish. Bay leaves, peppercorns, coriander seeds, cassia bark, star anise, dried chillies and garlic are all great additions.
Whether or not you blanch the vegetables before pickling really depends on the veg. I always blanch onions for a minute to get rid of their acidity & create a cleaner flavour. Radishes, cucumber, mushrooms etc do not need it but harder veg benefit from a couple of minutes in boiling water as it allows them to start to absorb the vinegar straight away.
Quick Pickled Vegetables
150ml rice wine vinegar
100ml white wine vinegar
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1. Place all the ingredients into a saucepan & place over a medium heat & stir to dissolve the sugar. That is basically it. Now you have the pickling solution you can add whatever vegetables and additional spices you like.
2. Some vegetables need to be blanched in salted water before pickling. For example the fennel I used above. Bring a saucepan of salted water to a rolling boil & prepare a bowl of iced water on the side to refresh the vegetables. Slice them, in the case of fennel a 2mm thickness gives a good crunchy texture. Drop the sliced fennel into the boiling water & leave for a minute then drain & quickly place it in the cold water to cool thoroughly.
If I am pickling thickly cut veg or hard veg like carrots I blanch them for about 3 minutes.
3. Pour the cooled pickling vinegar over the fennel and leave for around 15 minutes.
Soft veg can be pickled in 5-10 minutes, especially if you want them to remain crunchy and for their own flavour to still come through.
Hard veg can be pickled for hours or even days just bear in mind that they will get softer the longer you leave them.
Once you have finished with the pickling liquid, strain it & keep in an airtight container ready for the next time. Happy Pickling!