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Frenchie and the Indian Journey

18 Aug

Neither Frenchie nor Yankee, this post was born from a terribly bland French peach clafoutis and a pressing desire of wanting to travel far, far away.

You know how it is – it comes out of the oven, it’s beautiful and appetizing yet flavorless and a huge disappointment. It happens.

While the peach clafoutis was baking, I was reminiscing about my December 2009 trip to India, going through photos, feeling the warmth of the Indian people through the portraits I took, looking at the colors on my screen and yearning for kofta lamb meat balls in a tomato yogurt sauce with garlic naans.

Despite the fact that I was smelling peaches and sugar coming straight out of the oven, my nose could only focus on memories of stuffed okras, Kashmiri chicken and a leafy saag paneer on the side.

The science of scented memories. Always fascinating.

Slowly, the walls of my apartment disappeared. So did the entire city of Boston. And I was transported back in the center of Jaipur.

The activity in the streets brought a distinct cacophony to my ears that one can only experience in India.

Buses, bikes, pedestrians, cars, motorcycles, cows, carriages, carts, small trucks – all in the streets at the same time.

It’s an ever-moving maze.

I see myself navigating through narrow lanes in Delhi.

The many bazaars display rich smells and vibrant colors along the way and I remember them all. It’s a chaotic and noisy journey through carts and merchants selling anything and everything.

Smiles, looks, head nods, and sparkling eyes – the many faces of India that I encountered are forever engraved in my mind.

Smells of a rich spicy curry at one street corner. And then masala chai across the street. I think I am going to sit for a lamb korma somewhere.

My palate is working overtime trying to discern the flavors of India.

Coriander, cumin, cardamom, coconut, poppy seeds, chillies, cloves, ginger, cashews, cinnamon – it’s an explosion.

Explosion. I hear a beep…

The sound of the oven timer brings me back to Boston. Clafoutis is ready.

As I am looking down at this warm clafoutis and trying it for the first time, I know it’s not a recipe I will post. But I still have to eat it.

Yet, flavors of cardamom continue to haunt my daydream.

So be it! I will bring Indian flavors to my boring French dish and sweeten my dessert experience with apricots in a cardamom syrup along with a refreshing almond sarbat drink.

And do not ask me for the bland peach clafoutis recipe – I won’t share it!

This post is dedicated to my India travel companions J & J.

Apricots in cardamom syrup / Apricot compote (adapted from Wickramasinghe and Selva Rajah):

1 cup (150 g) of dried apricots

2 Tbsp of sugar

2 Tbsp of chopped almonds

1 inch (2.5 cm) of sliced ginger

3 cardamom pods

1 cinnamon stick

Soak the apricots in 1.5 cup (350 ml) of water for 2 hours.

In a saucepan, bring the apricots, sugar, almonds, ginger, cardamom and cinnamon to a slow boil. Simmer and reduce to a compote thick syrup – it should be reduced by half.

Remove the cardamom pods. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate.

If you prefer not to have any pieces in your compote, strain it to remove the ginger and almonds as well.

Almond sarbat (adapted from Wickramasinghe and Selva Rajah):

A great refreshing Indian drink perfect for summer.

1 1/4 cup (105 g) of ground almond

2 cups (385 g) of sugar

6 cardamom pods

5-7 drops of almond essence

5-6 drops of orange blossom water

a pinch of cinnamon

In a large saucepan, cook over low heat the almonds and sugar with 1/2 cup (120 ml) of water. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves.

With a pestle and mortar, grind the cardamom pods with 1 Tbsp of water. Add to the almond syrup mixture including the pods.

Stir constantly until the syrup thickens. Remove from the heat.

Strain the almond syrup through a sieve to discard any cardamom pods pieces. Cool.

Breaking the top, scrape the almond sugar with a fork to break it in pieces. Add the almond essence and the orange blossom water. Mix.

In a long glass, mix 2 Tbsp of the almond sugar with water and crushed ice. Add a pinch of cinnamon on top.

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