Friday, May 11, 2012
This is a small part of an e-mail I wrote 2 years ago, soon after I wrote this post, to a few of my very special childhood friends. We were a group of 3 girls and 2 boys and their friendship was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
Do you remember our summer holidays? The months of April and May when the sun shone with all its might and we roamed aimlessly around the neighbourhood, barefoot, with nary a care in the world.
Except, of course, our exam results.
Tell me, do you remember those little white lies we told each other of how well we had done in our exams, only to sheepishly hang our heads in shame when our mothers got together and bemoaned our dismal results?
Do you remember the games we used to play? I know how that sounds - games we played - but back then, it simply meant lagori, dabba ice-spice, chor police, dodge ball, carrom, statue or colour - colour, to name some. We could play all day long; in fact, the day isn't just long enough to accomodate all our games, we used to complain!
Of course, there were times when we would fight. Bitterly. Loudly. Physically. We would take sides, split into groups, and declare a cold war.....only to reconcile a few hours later, and start playing again, as if the fight had never happened. Playing, fighting, reconciling - it was all so easy then.
Do you remember us glugging down glasses of cold panha, kokum sherbet or Rasna after playing in the hot sun, and egging you M, to burp? Louder, louder, we used chant. And you would oblige us every single time.
We would all collapse into giggles. We would laugh so hard that we would get hiccups. So we'd drink some more juice to get rid of the hiccups, and start with the 'burp' game again.
Do you remember landing up at odd hours at each others' houses, demanding to be fed? With our mouths stuffed with food, and without any regard for the feelings of the aunty feeding us, we would start loud arguments about how our respective mom was the 'world's best cook'.
Do you remember the races we had? No, we never had running or cycling races. We competed to find who could eat a ripe mango the fastest. We would soften the mango between our fingers and suck on it, the juice dripping down on our already stained and muddy clothes. K, your 'white' petticoats would take quite a beating! We never savoured the taste then, all we wanted was to eat as fast as possible.
And, do you remember looking up at the skies towards the end of May when the monsoon clouds would start to gather? We couldn't wait to get wet in the first monsoon showers, and yet the first showers would always sadden us a little. For with the first showers also came the realisation that our schools would reopen soon, and we would have to wait a whole year for the fun to begin again.
"Oh what a vacation we 've had", we would say over and over again. "We are never going to forget it".
So tell me....tell me that you still remember. Because I....I have never forgotten.
I have said this before and I don't mind saying it again. No matter where I live, no matter what the season it is there at that time, to me the months of April and May will forever mean summer holidays.
And mangoes. Lots of mangoes.
And amrakhand. We preferred amrakhand over shrikhand and when the mango season was at its peak, there would be amrakhand at the table almost every other day.
Amrakhand is simply mango pulp mixed together with chakka or hung curd and sweetened with a bit sugar. Making it is very easy but it does need some pre-preparation.
Making chakka or hung curd:
Chakka or hung curd is nothing but yogurt from which excess water has been drained off.
To make hung curd, you will need a muslin cloth and a bowl. Place the muslin cloth over the bowl and pour the yogurt in the centre of the muslin cloth. Tie up the muslin cloth tightly with a string and suspend it over a hook. ( I suspend mine over a door knob) and place the bowl directly under the cloth. This is important, else you will end up with a puddle of whey!
After about 4 hours, open the muslin cloth and gently mix the yogurt, tie it up tightly once again and suspend it for another 4 hours. At the end of about 8 hours, you should end up with a creamy yogurt, almost like cream cheese.
(Don't discard the water strained from the yogurt. You can use it in your curries or to knead dough; I use it to make dugh).
Once you have the thick and creamy hung curd, making amrakhand is a breeze.
Hung curd: 2 cups
Fresh mango pulp: 1.5 cups - 2 cups ( see 'notes' below)
Cardamom powder: 3/4 tsp
Icing sugar: 2 tbsps, or to taste
Salt: a pinch
for garnishing, optional:
Chopped nuts: 2-3 tbsps
Mango cubes: 1/2 cup
Make mango pulp by pureeing mango cubes in a blender.
Place a sieve over a bowl, put the the hung curd and the mango pulp into the sieve and mix together with a spoon.
You could mix the two directly in a bowl, but passing it through the sieve ensures a smooth, lump - free, glossy amrakhand.
Add the cardamom powder and the salt. Do a taste test and add sugar as needed. I sometimes don't need to add any sugar, the sweetness from the mangoes is good enough for us.
Let it rest in the refrigerator for atleast a couple of hours before serving in order to allow the flavours to mingle.
Garnish with nuts and serve the traditional way, with hot puris.
Or, if frying puris is as tedious for you as it is for me, fold in a few mango cubes and serve it as a post meal dessert. Absolute manna from heaven!
Canned mango pulp is very easy to get these days. It doesn't matter. Make amrakhand with fresh mangoes only. For nothing else can match the taste of fresh mangoes in amrakhand.
The colour of your amrakhand will depend on the type of mango used.
Use pulpy as opposed to juicy mangoes. In India, Alphonso mangoes work best. Here in Johannesburg, I used Heidi mangoes.
If I am serving the amrakhand with puris, I use 1.5 cups of mango pulp for 2 cups of hung curd in order to get a thicker amrakhand. I increase the mango pulp to 2 cups if I am serving it as a post meal dessert to get a more intense mango flavour.
It is not just about the ingredients or the recipe, good food happens when it is served with love!!