Bael ka Sherbet

by Nirupama Khunnah

Aegle marmelos or BAEL, is a naturalized species of tree native to India. The bael fruit has a smooth, woody shell with a green, gray, or yellow peel. The shell is so hard it must be cracked with a hammer. The fibrous yellow pulp is very aromatic. The fruit is eaten fresh or dried. If fresh, the juice is strained and sweetened to make a drink similar to lemonade. It can also be made into sherbet.

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In the system of Ayurveda the use of bael is prescribed in diseases such as gastro intestinal diseases, piles, oedema, jaundice, vomiting, obesity, pediatric disorders, gynecological disorders, urinary complaints and as a rejuvenative.

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Besides the wide medicinal utility the plant and its certain parts (leaves and fruits) are of religious importance since the tree is regarded as one of the sacred trees of Indian heritage associated with Shiva.

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The Bilva tree in the Shiva Purana

According to the Shiva Purana (7 AD) the Bilva tree is the manifest form of Lord Shiva himself, while all the great tirthas (pilgrimage places) are said to reside at its base. One who worships the shivalingam while sitting under the Bilva, claims this great epic, attains the state of Shiva. Washing the head by this tree is said to be the equivalent of bathing in all the sacred rivers. One who performs Bilva pooja with flowers and incense achieves Shiva loka, the abode of pure consciousness, and has happiness and prosperity bestowed upon them. The lighting of the deepak (lamp) before this tree bestows knowledge and enables the devotee to merge in Lord Shiva. The Shiva Purana also claims that if the devotee removes the new leaves from one of the branches of that tree and worships the tree with them, they will be freed from vice, while one who feeds a devotee under the Bilva will grow in virtue.

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Sri Bilva Shtakam (v. 6–7)

Born from the breasts of Goddess Lakshmi, the Bilva tree is ever dear to Mahadeva. So I ask this tree to offer a Bilva leaf to Lord Shiva. To have darshan of the Bilva tree, and to touch it, frees one from sin. The most terrible karma is destroyed when a Bilva leaf is offered to Lord Shiva.

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The famous Bilvashtakam extols the virtues of the Bilva leaf and Shiva’s love for it. The tree has been held sacred for many millennia and offerings made to Shiva are incomplete without Bilva leaves. There are many symbolisms attributed to this leaf ~ the trifoliate leaves or tripatra are believed to represent various trinities – creation, preservation and destruction or the three syllables that make up AUM, the primordial sound that resonates Shiva’s essence. The three leaves are also considered to indicate Mahadeva’s three eyes, or the trishul, his emblematic weapon.

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Mrs.Nirupama Khunnah, an avid gardener, is passionate about all the flowers, trees and shrubs that grow in her garden. Growing up, there was a Bael tree in her backyard. All through summer, her family made Bael Sherbet for the family members and visiting friends. She continued the tradition when she started a family of her own. This recipe is a throw back to the times of no Colas and bottled drinks. Everything was freshly made from seasonal produce. The availability of Bael is April to June, just the right drink for the time of hot summer winds.

Her recipes for home-made Sherbats from seasonal local Indian fruits are a treasure and need to be preserved. These Fruit Sherbets are known for their cooling properties. They are also rich in natural minerals required by the body to replenish water content and minerals lost due to sweating in the severe hot summer months.

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The hard shell of the Bael is really tough and needs to be broken with a hammer. The inner soft, yellow pulp is gently scooped out into a bowl.

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Although the pulp has a naturally sweet taste, to make it into a Sherbet, more sugar needs to be added.

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Clean drinking water is added so as to soak the pulp and get the sugar to dissolve.

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The soaked pulp and sugar is left as is for 4 to 5 hours, so as to let the sugar dissolve and the pulp to soften.

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The secret of the deliciousness of her Sherbet comes from her gently mincing the soaked pulp with her fingers. If the pulp is mashed violently, the taste will turn bitter.

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The straining step is just as important. She just lets the syrupy liquid strain through a fine strainer. If mashed against the mesh, the liquid will lose its beautiful golden colour. Instead of the clear transparent liquid, it will become opaque and heavy.

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Bael ka Sherbet

Ingredients ~
1 medium size Bael
250gms sugar
1 lt water

Method ~
1. Crack the Bael and scoop the flesh into a bowl.
2. Add the sugar and 1/2 lt water, cover and leave for about 4-5 hrs.
3. Gently knead the flesh of the Bael and strain through a sieve into a clean bowl. Do not rub the flesh in the sieve, just let the juice drip naturally.
4. Put the flesh of the Bael from the sieve back into the original bowl, add more water and knead again. Strain like this 2-3 times till you feel all the taste has been extracted. The juice should be clear, not cloudy.
5. Refrigerate and use within 2 days or the juice ferments.
6. Pour half a glass of the concentrated sherbet into a glass and top with cold water or soda. Serve with ice.
7. Alternatively, use with lemon juice and salt instead of sugar.

 

Shahtoot ka Sherbet

by Nirupama Khunnah

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Black Mulberry or Morus nigra are thought to have originated in the mountainous areas of Mesopotamia and Persia and are now widespread throughout Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, India, Pakistan, Syria, and Turkey, where the tree and the fruit are known by the Persian-derived names toot or shahtoot  (king’s or “superior” mulberry). Jams and sherbets are often made from the fruit in this region. ~ Wikipedia

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Much to my amazement, there are many Shahtoot trees growing all along the roads in Gurgaon. My staff took me around to find the best berries still on the branches. It was such a pleasure to photograph the fruit right on the tree. A city person like me shared their excitement in foraging for the berries and getting a basketful back home to eat and make into sherbet.

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The ripe fruit of Shahtoot or Indian Mulberry is edible and is widely used in pies, tarts, wines, cordials and tea. The fruit of the black mulberry, have the strongest flavor. Mulberries are acutally a good source of raw food protein, a rarity in the fruit kingdom. They are also a good source of magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, iron, calcium, vitamin C, and fiber. One of the mulberry’s greatest health assets is it’s high concentration of resveratrol, an antioxidant currently being studied for its effects on heart health. An ancient fruit of Asia, the mulberry is touted in medicinal folklore as a remedy for ringworm, insomnia, arthritis, and tapeworm.

007Home-made Sherbets from Seasonal Local Indian Fruits is a specialty of Nirupama Khunnah. Family and guests are served these delicious, healthy drinks in the summer months. Lazy evenings are enjoyed by all in her cool garden, sipping these home-made drinks, enjoying the breeze of a large old fashioned garden pedestral fan.

She keeps the recipe simple, using just the fruit and lemon juice. Gently straining the muddled mixture is a must to get a clear sherbet.

 

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Fruit Sherbets are known for their cooling properties. They are also rich in natural minerals required by the body to replenish water content and minerals lost due to sweating in the severe hot summer months.

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Shahtoot ka Sherbet

Ingredients ~

1/2kg Shahtoot
3 tbsp sugar
3 lemons, juice
Salt to taste (rock salt if you prefer)
1 lt water

Method ~

1. Remove the stems from the Shahtoot and wash gently.
2. Place the berries and sugar in a blender.
3. Add 1 glass of water and blend till fine. Thin the paste with more water.
4. Strain through a fine sieve.
5. Add the remaining water, salt and lemon juice to taste.
6. Serve with lots of ice.

 

Meetha Narangi ka Achar

by Nirupama Khunnah

The Narangi or the Round Kumquat is an evergreen tree, producing edible golden-yellow fruit. The edible fruit closely resembles the orange but  is much smaller, being approximately the size and shape of a large olive. The fruit is small and usually round but can be oval shaped. The peel has a sweet flavour but the fruit has a sour centre. The fruit can be eaten cooked but is mainly used to make marmalades and jellies.

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The plant is native to south Asia and the Asia-Pacific region. The earliest historical reference to kumquats appears in literature of China in the 12th century. They have long been cultivated in India, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia. It is grown as an ornamental plant and can be used in bonsai. The plant symbolizes good luck in China and other Asian countries, where it is kept as a houseplant and given as a gift during the Lunar New Year. Round kumquats are more commonly cultivated than other species due to their cold tolerance. ~ Wikipedia

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‘Narangi’ refers to the colour orange in the Hindi language. The round kumquat is called ‘Narangi’ in India because of its orange colour peel and its close resemblance to an orange.

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Nirupama Khunnah is proud of her skill in making pickles. For her, pickle making is a round the year activity. In India we have a large number of seasonal fruits and vegetables which every household converts into pickles to spice up  meals and snacks. She is passionate about the pickle recipes she has inherited from her mother and aunts. Her pickle recipe book is a treasured item, which she will bequeath to the person she thinks worthy of it.

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Here she shares with us a recipe for a Meetha Narangi ka Achar, which she spices with chilli powder. This is an original recipe her aunt shared with her. For convenience sake and due to bad weather in the winter months in recent times, she warms the pickle on the stove every morning to hasten the cooking process. She says that while making her morning tea, she warms the pickle to body temperature and gives it a good stir. She then tries to keep it in a well-lit or sunny area for the rest of the day.

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Meetha Narangi ka Achar

Ingredients ~

½ kg narangi/round kumquat
½ kg sugar
65 gms salt
1/4  tsp hing/ asafoetida
1 tbsp red chilli powder

Method ~

1. Cut the narangi into halves around the centre and take out the seeds.
2. In a steel vessel, add the sugar, salt and hing to the cut narangi pieces.
3. Cover the vessel with muslin cloth and place in a sunny corner. Take care that it is in a covered area so that no frost can fall through the cloth.
4. When the juice turns syrupy and thick, add the chilli powder. This will take about 1 ½ -2 weeks.
5. Place in a glass bottle and keep in a dark place.

Bhuna

by Nirupama Khunnah

‘Bhuna’ a humble snack made of puffed and beaten rice, roasted gram and peanuts tempered in fragrant mustard oil, spiced with salt, ground turmeric, coriander, red chilli and mango powder is a favourite of the ‘Khunnah’ family.

DSC01223Nirupama Khunnah, married at age 19 into the large Khunnah family was the oldest of the five daughters-in-law. Extremely traditional, the family consisted of three generations. With regular visits by relatives, the women of the family were perpetually in the kitchen cooking snacks and full meals. Bhuna, a staple snack was always available.

6The ‘Bhuna’ recipe has it’s origins two generations before Nirupama Khunnah married into the family. The recipe has lasted through the generations due to its delicious taste and easy availability of ingredients. There was a reluctance to part with the recipe from mother-in-law to daughter-in-law and so on. Only by secretly watching it being made did the later generation replicate the recipe. It’s ingredients are all ‘andaza’ or in approximation, but Nirupama Khunnah has penned it down for us.

11Puffed rice is a common ingredient in Indian street food snacks. It’s traditionally made by heating rice in a hot sand filled oven, the heated sand helps to puff the rice. It’s also called ‘laiyya’, ‘murmure’ ‘muri’. As it has no taste of its own, it’s addition helps in adding volume in both savoury or sweet preparations.

2Similarly, Beaten Rice or rice flakes, is another common ingredient in Indian snacks. Rice is parboiled, rolled, flattened and then dried to produce flakes. The flakes come in different thicknesses depending on the pressure used in the flattening process. It’s called ‘Poha’, ‘Powa’ and is easy to digest and used extensively all over India in savouries and sweets.

Roasted Gram or ‘Chana’ is easily available and a cheap snack in India. It is dry roasted with skin on over a slow flame to crisp. The skin helps to enhance the flavour and it can be bought with or with out the skin. It is a nutritious and healthy snack on its own or can be added to other savouries.

1Peanuts or ‘Moongphalli’ are another common snack staple in India. They are eaten raw, roasted over hot sand, boiled or salted. It is highly nutritious and adds crunch and flavour to savouries. Peanut oil is widely used in cooking.

4Mustard oil or ‘Sarson ka Tel’ is oil extracted from black Mustard seeds. It’s very pungent and aromatic. To get the full flavour you use it raw like in pickles. To reduce its pungency, it is boiled to smoking point, left to cool completely and then used in cooking. Many people use half mustard oil and half vegetable oil to reduce the flavour further. It has many health benefits.

Nirupama collects all the ingredients and systematically sautes each ingredient in mustard oil. In the end she tempers it with mustard seeds and sprinkles the spices over the whole lot and leaves it to cool and the flavours to blend.

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Bhuna

Ingredients :

250 gms puffed rice/laiyya
100 gms beaten rice/poha
100 gms roasted gram/chana
100 gms peanuts
200 ml mustard oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp tumeric powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp dried mango powder
1 tsp salt
2 dried whole chillies

Method :

1. Add the peanuts to the wok/kadai and dry roast them till fragrant. Take out in a plate.
2. Add 100ml mustard oil to the wok/kadai. Heat till fragrant. Roast the gram/chanas till it changes colour. With a large spatula remove it from the wok and collect in a tray large enough for all the ingredients.
3. Roast the peanuts in the oil and remove and add to the roasted gram/chanas.
4. Add more oil to the wok and saute the beaten rice. Again remove and add to the ingredients on the tray.
5. In the remaining oil, temper the mustard seeds and the whole chillies. Add the puffed rice/laiyya and sprinkle half of all the spices. Stir to mix.
6. Stir the remaining spices into the oil roasted ingredients on the tray. Add the puffed rice/laiyya also to the tray. Mix thoroughly.
7. Adjust the spices to your taste though on cooling the intensity of the spices lessens and the whole Bhuna crisps up.