Sunday, July 22, 2012

The colour of sunshine

I woke up late this morning. (Incidentally, in these places, late is 7 am, and if you stay in bed past eight, amma will come in and check your temperature.) The dog of course woke me up at 5:30, but that doesn't count as waking up any more. I blearily shuffle him out while he nips at my ankles. I let him out and head back to bed again for another blissful hour, or on rare days like today, an hour and a half. By the time I woke, amma and appa were back from their morning walk and on their second cups of coffee. The dog lay quietly panting on the floor, with the air of someone who wasn't going to move till called for breakfast. I had the kitchen all to myself, and instead of making myself coffee, I set about slicing mangoes.

One advantage of living in the north is that even though summer comes late, the mangoes stick around longer. The mangoes ripen as the sun travels up the length of the country, and here in Delhi, I get to try them all. The monsoons have come, bringing worryingly little rain,  but the markets of Delhi are still full of mangoes and will be for a few more weeks yet. I've waxed embarrassingly lyrical on this blog before on my love for mangoes. Suffice to say, it only grows stronger each year. This time around, I've mostly been eating them whole, tearing off their skins and feasting on their flesh. Sometimes though, I can be a little more civilised. 

The mangoes I had in the fruit basket were a little past their prime. They still smelled floral, but with a hint of astringent. They tasted sweet but with a somewhat insipid sweetness. I decided it didn't matter and puréed them with honey. The honey turned the colour of the purée -already very bright- into shocking orange. Then I turned on the ice cream maker and swirled in my puree with yoghurt. Appa came wandering in and we discussed the news over the noise of the machine. 

Fifteen minutes later, I was scraping out great gobs of sunshine-coloured frozen yoghurt, to set and then serve after a satisfying Sunday lunch. 

Summertime mango frozen yoghurt
As for the recipe, I'm afraid I can't give you exact proportions here. It was seven in the morning and I hadn't had any coffee. Still, here's what I remember:

Take three mangoes of the small and fibrous variety. It's good if they have a couple of spots here and there that make you disdain eating them as they are, because I still hold that the best way to eat a perfect mango is raw, with your hands, juice running down to your elbows. Peel off their skins. If they're the small, fibrous variety that I recommend, the skins should come off easy. If they're not, you're on your own, you maverick. Cut the flesh off the seeds and scrape as much as you can off, using a blunt knife. Purée this flesh in a blender with a pour of honey. Err on the side of too much honey; freezing dulls the sweetness. Then turn on your ice cream maker and pour two cupfuls of low-fat yoghurt into it. I suppose high-fat would be better, but we seem to have made 'fat' an evil word these days and I'm as susceptible to social conditioning as anyone else. Pour in your purée and watch in fascination as the yellow swirls into and eventually blends in with the white. After about twenty minutes that you'll spend discussing politics over the noise of the ice cream maker, scrape out the contents of the bowl into a tupperware container and place it in the freezer to set up firmly. Shamelessly lick the bowl ice cream maker's bowl, refusing to share even with the dog. 

Serve after a hearty lunch, preferably on a Sunday when you can go sleep it all off later. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Date nut bars

I was sitting in a rather boring science class when I dreamed these bars up. The air conditioning was set to Arctic and I was hungry. I started thinking of roasted almonds, lightly dusted with salt. They didn't do it for me, so I switched to caramelised almonds in sugar. Somehow by the end of class that mutated to almonds and dates in a sticky chocolatey goo (incidentally, if you must have goo, it might as well be chocolatey, no?) stuck firmly atop a buttery biscuit.

That was in the last week of summer, when the temperatures rose to 46 degrees Celsius and at three in the afternoon, after slipping on melted butter and cussing a blue streak, I had my bars. I gave up eggs a while ago and it's a constant challenge to find other ingredients to substitute for them in my baking. For standard-issue date and nut tartelettes, a mixture of egg and sugar is used to bind everything together. I could've simply used sugar, but then I ran the risk of it getting too sweet or too hard. I thought about what it was in the egg that was so perfect for holding reluctant nuts together and realised it was the protein. Now, malt has protein too, of the wheat gluten sort. Malted drink mixes also contain sugar and chocolate flavouring. All it took was a little water and butter mixed with Bournvita and I had a substance as thick and goopy as my heart could desire. I chopped up some roasted almonds, peanuts and dates, mixed them with the Bournvita and spread it all on a disk of shortbread. This went into the oven until the top was scorched slightly and had settled into a decided crust.

After waiting for it to cool, I cut my disk into slices and shared one with the dog. He licked my hand in search of crumbs afterwards and hung around me chummily for the rest of the day.