In A Right Old Pickle

to get in a right old pickle – to be in a difficult situation.  But not to be used for very serious situations, like illness or death.  Save it for a tricky or awkward situation. For example, when you have lied to your boss in your job interview about being able to speak fluent Spanish, and your boss has now suddenly asked you to be the interpreter in an important meeting next week.  This has recently happened to one of my friends, who is now in a right old pickle. (Unless they can learn fluent Spanish in five days.)


Try saying piccalilli after three G&Ts1. Like so many British favourites, we nicked2 the idea of piccalilli from India.  But it was actually before the British were out there, because Piccalilli crops up in Lady Anne Blencowe’s 1694 Receipt Book, which has “To Pickle Lila, an Indian Pickle”, and it seems she was talking about a kind of radish called lila, (which we had to look up). The lila looks like a French bean and tastes like a radish, apparently.  You don’t see many of them around now (indeed neither of us has even tasted one) and that could be why we often put French beans in instead.


Actually, we eat piccalilli at any time of the year, with pretty much anything too, but at Christmas it gets wheeled out for the ham, the pork pies, the left over turkey, and so on. There are so many different piccalilli recipes, but this one comes from my very talented brother-in-law, Mark. Actually. I’m not sure he really wanted me to have it at all, as it took yonks3 to get it off him. And I can’t quite remember if I asked his permission to put it out to the general public, but here it is anyway.


The key is to keep the vegetable pieces quite big; at least as big as your thumbnail. And although some people say you have to keep piccalilli for at least 6 months before eating it, this one is fine to eat straight away.




Makes about 1.25 kg (3 lb)

  • 1 cauliflower (other recipes use a mixture, with carrots, french beans etc)
  • 300 ml (10 fl oz) malt vinegar
  • 3 large onions
  • 1/4 teaspoon chopped dried chilli
  • 8 large shallots, or 16 onions if unavailable 
  • 350g (12oz) Caster Sugar
  • 50 g (2 oz) English mustard 
  • 25 g (1 oz) ground turmeric
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper powder 
  • 3 tablespoons cornflour
  • 1 cucumber
  • 600 ml (1 pint) white wine vinegar 


  1. Cut the cauliflower into small florets. Peel and cut the onions and shallots into I cm (1/2 in) dice. Place in a bowl, sprinkle with 25 g (1 oz) of salt and leave to stand for 24 hours. Afterwards rinse in cold water and dry.
  2. Peel and de-seed the cucumber and cut it into I cm (1/2 in) dice. Sprinkle with a little salt and leave to stand for 10-15 minutes. Rinse in cold water, then dry and add to the onions and cauliflower. Make sure this is as dry as you can or it will ‘leak’ into the piccalilli.
  3. Boil the two vinegars together with the chilli and then leave to cool for 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve and discard the chilli.
  4. Mix together the sugar and remaining dry ingredients in a bowl. When the vinegar is cool, mix a little of it with the dry ingredients.
  5. Bring the bulk of the vinegar back to the boil, pour into the sugar mixture, and whisk until it is all blended together.
  6. Leave to cook for 3 minutes, then simply pour over the vegetables and mix well. Leave to cool. The piccalilli is now ready and can be put into sterilised jars and refrigerated, or served at once. It will keep refrigerated for at least a month, though I have found it will keep much longer than that, and also outside the fridge.



(1) G&T: Gin & tonic.  You knew that.

(2)  nicked – stole 

(3) yonks – a very long time

 (c) 2016 Kayte & Nicer Kate. Authors assert moral rights. 


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