Saturday, August 16, 2014

Frozen.....in history

Contrast..one thing that has always entertained mankind. 

And elements of contrast in food are as fascinating today as they were always.They always leave food memories..whether it is the contrast of textures when you bite into pani-poori, or contrast of flavors when you appreciate the fashionable flavor of sea salt caramel or the contrast of temperatures when u finally hunt down that ice cream flavor that you were craving for ,on that hot summer afternoon.
                    Cold and sweet has been the human culinary endeavor from centuries. Around 2400years ago Persians figured out that ice tasted way better when it was sweetened and textured up with vermicelli. 200 years later the Chinese were freezing a thick mixture of rice and milk in the mountains up north and enjoying it with fruits. Chinese can also be credited with making the first ice cream /sorbet machines that use the principle of depressing the freezing point by adding salt petre. This technique as the story goes was Marco Polo’s “inspiration” that he transferred to the Italian gelato makers. It's from this point on that the hero of today’s story, “contrast” took over.
                     Sicily went under Arab rule and the Arabs got hooked to the chilled dessert that finally beat the heat for them. Arabs were perhaps the first to use milk as a major ingredient in the production of ice cream. They sweetened it with sugar rather than fruit juices, and perfected the means of commercial production. As early as the 10th century, ice cream was widespread among many of the Arab world's major cities, including Baghdad, Damascus, and Cairo. 
                     From here the cold confection found a way into Moghul hearts. Initially it was the boats full of ice and snow that landed in Lahore that created much folklore and later it was the mules in Jahangir’s service carrying snow from the Himalayas down to Delhi. It’s in Jahangir’s time that a Persian cook presented a faloodeh recipe that later got adapted to the Falooda!!



The ice cream that we know and crave for today had to wait till mid-1800s to be born!!
Oh and here’s a Persian Indian Freeze recipe
Subza-Faloodeh :


Ingredients :
1 cup hot water
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp rose water
¼ cups subza seeds (tulsi seeds) soaked in water
2 lime wedges or 1tsp lime juice


Method :
1. Dissolve the sugar in the water. 
2. Then add the rose water and let it cool in a freezer.
3. Soak the subza seeds for at least half an hour.
4. Blend/ crush the sweet ice to a sorbet texture, add the lemon and the subza.
Top with sour cherries....


The Toddy Trail …. Story of the deft and the experienced.. and more about uncle jack


Visiting Sri Lanka , kerala and Goa in a single trip makes you aware of the culinary common threads that cut across political boundaries and of a natural resource that has been sacredly utilized for centuries “coconut palm”, of the many bounties that it has to offer , one can write a book . Today we will just talk about toddy.
Unfortunately ,Outside of the regions where it is consumed toddy is a very misunderstood drink and ingredient associated with village drunkards and incidents of methanol poisoning .Yet seeing it up close and personal one realizes that its just a case of us humans overdrawing and misutilizing what nature has has given us .
The legend of toddy starts very early in the morning with toddy tappers deftly climbing trees to collect the sap that has been drawn overnight into earthen pots, shaving off the bud and sealing it with black clay all this is achieved in a minute and a half per tree, deftness and experience at its best . a toddy tapper tends to between 60 and a 100 trees every morning . “neera” or the sap that gets collected if drunk immediately has no Alcohol .It stays well in the refrigerator for a day if lemon Juice is added to prevent fermentation . From the trees it goes to the Toddy shops or the place where I am taking you, the kitchen!
Actually let’s take the toddy to Goa and into the Kitchens of Jack Pilerne , a 74 Year old Portugese Goan and yet another deft and experienced culinary artist . Jack has an amazing sense of precision and perfection when it comes to cooking and all things food. From making toddy fermented jaggery cakes to “sannas” the Goan morning bread Jack shows a keen dedication to following the recipes to the T. The reason ?, it’s the only way to make food “smile at you”  he says  , we cooked a lot of happy food together but what I really loved came last , the art of making toddy vinegar , in the typical “suraahi” like vessel where toddy is left to ferment for a day and then two “one inch” pieces of red hot brick tiles (not 1 mm bigger or smaller as per Jack ) are dropped into the vessel and its sealed and left for six months to get  premium Goan toddy Vinegar that is the base for almost  all Goan Portuguese Masalas .
Toddy was the wine of Ancient India and has been used in cooking forever, it means a lot of things to a lot of people, but after this trip, to me it means deftness, precision and love.. after all treating people nicely and the way they should be treated makes them smile at you ,why not treat food the same way . Thanks Jack
Next time you go to kerala grab the Non Alcoholic morning nectar and try this drink



“neer” Orangine
Toddy nectar (non Alcoholic) 100 ml
Orange Juice pulpy                   70 ml
Orange Pulp                                ½ cup
Sunza seeds soaked                            1tsp (optional)
Mix all ingredients and serve chilled
You could try this with watermelon juice and muddled watermelon for a perfect summer cooler