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JAMUN KALA KHATTA (Sweet, Sour & Spicy Java Plum Drink)

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Our neighbours used to have this huge Jamun tree in my home town and its variety was absolutely fabulous. The sweet & tangy juicy fruit had a tiny stone inside, surrounded by plump flesh. Their daughter and I used to be friends and her Mum used to send a bowl full of these plump purplish plums. I used to beg to my Mum to have a Jamun tree at our house as well but she would out rightly refuse. “The tree makes a lot of mess. It sheds so much leaves and when the ripe fruits will fall off from the tree, they will stain the courtyard,” she would reason. No amount of reasoning, cajoling or pleading worked with Mum. And thus we never had a jamun tree. During the season, it is common to see vendors sitting in the lanes of Lutyen’s Delhi selling this fruit, which is actually in abundance and not as expensive as it is here.

The Jamun or the Java Plum, or the Black Plum as it is called by some, is a sweet sour fruit that has an astringent after taste. I used to enjoy it as a kid but now I don’t as much. But it is my better half’s favourite seasonal fruit. (Read about the benefits of this fruit here.) A few months back I saw the pharmacist near my house, selling Jamun juice along with many other varieties of interesting juices, such as the aloe vera juice, basil juice, neem leaves juice, etc. On an impulse, I purchased the jamun juice for my husband but we discovered it was pretty awful in taste. Since then I have been waiting for this fruit to makes its way in to the market so I could make fresh batch at home. I have spiked the sharbat with some green chillies and I love the way it tastes; fabulous with just that hint of chili. Enjoy!

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½ kg Jamun / Jambal

½ Cups Caster Sugar

1¼ Cup Orange Juice (optional)

As per taste – Kala Namak (Black Salt / Rock Salt)

As per taste – Cumin Powder (roasted and ground)

6 – 7 or as per taste and heat – Whole Green Chilies

3 tbsp Lime Juice (+ / -)

Plenty of Ice Cubes

Water

Slightly crushed green chilies, deseeded (I used a mortar and pestle) – Optional

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Wash the jamuns well and drain any excess water. Transfer the jamuns in a non-reactive pot or a glass mixing bowl and sprinkle caster sugar. Now with clean dry hands, roughly squish the jamuns and allow them to macerate for about 3 – 4 hours.

Mash the jamun sugar mix with clean hends and remove all stones. Puree this mixture (I was able to procure approximately 300 mls or somewhat thick puree).

For making the sharbat, I added orange juice to the puree (to cut through the astringent taste of the jamuns) and rest I added water to take the total amount of liquids to approximately 1100 mls. Then I passed this mix, first, through a regular sieve and then a fine sieve.

Add lime juice, black rock salt, cumin powder and green chilies. Adjust flavors and (add sugar only if required) Pour in the pitcher and allow the drink to sit for an hour or so for the chili flavors to assimilate into the drink.

Stir the sharbat well before serving. Add sliced oranges and lemons in the serving glasses along with half sliced chili and add ice. Top with the jamun sharbat and serve.

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Note: Although it is totally a matter of preference and taste but I recommend that you be generous with the amount of lime juice and black rock salt since they are the key ingredients/ soul of this drink.

Note: Feel free to swap the orange juice with regular water.

Note: Using orange juice helped reduce the amount of sugar since I didn’t need to add any extra apart from the half a cup I had used to macerate the fruit.

Note: If you are not using orange juice, you may need to add extra sugar to the drink.

Note: Instead of using water, you can use sparkling water or drinking soda.

Note: I lined the rims of the glass with a mix of caster sugar and black rock salt.

Yield: Makes a little more than a litre

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Try these natural coolers,

Pineapple Jal Jeera (Fruity Tamarind & Cumin Water)

Aam Panna (Raw Green Mango Cooler)

Lemonade Concentrate

Pom Limeade (Pomegranate & Lime Juice Cooler)

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PINEAPPLE JAL JEERA / अनानास जल जीरा (SWEET & SOUR CUMIN WATER)

Summer has taken the weather in its firm grip and the focus has clearly shifted to coolers and salads. The summer this time around has been intense and had arrived much earlier than we had anticipated. Thankfully the evenings are pleasant and breezy. I have been trying to spend as less time in the kitchen as possiblecooking easy and mild & light curries, dishing up salads and grilled food. Well, till the time a machine is designed to control weather conditions, let’s keep indulging ourselves and enjoying yummy coolers to alleviate some of that discomforting heat and humidity.
We are looking ahead at nearly two and half months of bearing with this kind of hot & sultry weather before the monsoon arrives in mid-June bringing huge relief.  Until then, I have to ensure that I keep my family satiated with a variety of coolers to help them beat the heat. Apart from that, it is also time to upload something new; beyond the Lemonade and the Aam Pannatime for another cheers to good health J
I absolutely love beverages that are packed with goodness of nature and help the body in ways beyond just quenching the thirst. Jal Jeera is one such thirst quencher that serves the purpose of an appetizer by pepping up appetite left depressed by the heat and also that of being a digestive. 
Jal in Hindi language means water and Jeera is Hindi for Cumin Seeds. Literal translation of Jal Jeera is cumin water but in go plenty of other spices and mint that make Jal Jeera beyond just cumin water. It is tangy, minty, spicy, pungentin fact it has so much going on in there that one needs to experience it at least once. And once, my friends, is enough to get you hooked on to it!
But I am not too comfortable with tangy/ sour foods; Jal Jeera especially is meant to be rather quite tangy. When dealing with sour foods or beverages, I like to either reduce the souring agents in a particular food or add something sweet here and there to cut through the sourness. For the tangy and sour jal jeera, pineapples seemed like the right thing, with their natural fructose. 
Just like for any beverage, feel free to reduce or enhance sourness/ sweetness. In case you want to omit using pineapple juice, swap it with water. You can even use sparkling water instead of water to perk up the Jal Jeera. Only one tip here, do not be tempted to use more mint than mentioned in the recipe, else the jal jeera will turn bitter. (I made that mistake once) 

Here is the ratio of ingredients that I like to use,

1½ tbsp. Cumin Seeds (dry roasted)

¼ tsp Dry Mint Powder
½ tsp Degi Mirch (I think Paprika should work well)
8-10 Black Peppercorns, crushed
1 pinch Asafoetida (Heeng)
½ tsp Amchur (Dried & powdered raw green mangoes- easily available at Indian stores)
½ tsp Black Salt (Kala Namak)
½ tsp regular Salt or Sea Salt
1 tbsp concentrated Tamarind
1-1½ tbsp Mint Leaves
1 tbsp Cilantro leaves (Fresh Coriander)
1 tbsp sugar (adjust in case you intend to not use pineapple juice)
Medium sized Pineapple (I could procure a little more than a cup of juice)
Water/ Sparkling water
Boondi to serve, optional (Tiny round puffed chick pea flour fritter balls. Available at Indian stores)
Wash mint leaves and cilantro leaves and keep aside.
Peel & slice pineapple. Using a juicer, extract juice and strain it twice to procure clear pineapple juice.
Grind the dry spices using a spice grinder and then add the tamarind paste, mint leaves and cilantro leaves. Using 3-4 tbsp of water, make a fine paste. Strain the paste twice so you have a clear concentrated paste. (I used a regular sieve for the first straining and a finely meshed one for the second) Transfer this to a pot or jug.
In a measuring jar, add the pineapple juice and top the rest with water so that you have a total amount of 650 ml (approx) of liquid. Add sugar and stir well to dissolve. Pour this liquid in the concentrated paste and stir well. Jal Jeera is ready; chill it and sprinkle boondi before serving.
Please do not forget to check the notes given below
 
Note: Turn off the heat after roasting the cumin seeds and while the skillet is still hot, add a pinch of asafoetida and roast it for no  more than 4-5 seconds in the residual heat. This will help reduce the strong pungent taste of asafoetida. 
Note: I used freshly squeezed pineapple juice. In case you intend use store brought one, which might be much sweeter, you may need to omit sugar/ adjust the sourness. 
 
Note: I recommend not adding ice cubes to the Jal Jeera since it will mellow down the flavors. Instead, chill the Jal Jeera in the refrigerator. And do not forget to stir it well before serving. 

Serves 2-3
 
Thanks for visiting and see you soon again. 
IT IS ALWAYS ENCOURAGING TO HEAR FROM FRIENDS AND READERS. I CAN ALSO BE REACHED AT: easyfoodsmith@gmail.com
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AAM PANNA CHUSKI (RAW MANGO COOLER/ GRANITA)

With temperature and humidity soaring in Bombay I wish I could escape to the hills!! But the chances of that happening are remote since every summer vacation we visit our families stationed at Delhi. Honestly, even going to hills will offer only a temporary respite coz after a few days of fun one has to return to the same heat and then it gets even worse. That reminds of the prickly heat (miliaria) I had on our return from Shimla due to sudden change in temperature. It was really bad and very discomforting.


The temperature begins to rise from mid-March and each passing week brings in sultrier and hotter days. Yet, unlike the Delhi summers, where it gets blistering hot and you would get the feel of being baked in an oven even at 11 in the night, Bombay summers are slightly better. The days may be sweltering hot and very humid but the evenings tend to be pleasant; thanks to the cool sea breeze. However, these days even the evenings are uncomfortably sultry and each time I switch on the air conditioner I bless the fellow who invented it!

Other way to beat the heat is guzzling gallons of water. But aren’t we humans really smart creatures to have discovered some incredible delicious ways to beat the heat – limeade, squash, granitas, sorbets, ice creams and what not! My post is about a typical and conventional way we Indians beat the heat – Aam Panna (pronounced as pun-na) or Raw Mango Cooler, a budget-friendly, healthy and deliciously refreshing drink, which I transformed in to a granita. The idea of granita happened by quite accident. Ok…let me start from the beginning.


If I were to rate a post which was most taxing on my time (apart from the Eggless Coconut Macaroons) it will be hands down this simple raw mango cooler!! Everything about it went wrong from the word ‘go’. Three days back I bought the raw mangoes and planned to make the panna so my post would be ready well in advance but each day something or the other hampered my plans. Yesterday, I finally managed to make it but while I was clicking the pics, I managed to rock the board, tumble the glasses and all the contents spilling around; thankfully the glasses were safe! But there was a lot of mess to clean up. A quick visit to the nearly vegetable grocer and I was at work again.
By the time I finished clicking the pics for the post, it was about time for my daughter to return from school. She looks forward to having lemonade or any sort of cool drink/ cooler when she returns home from school. To quick chill the aam panna, I placed a little amount in a bowl in the freezer. She returned home in a lousy mood and I got busy trying to cheer her up. After about an hour and a half, it suddenly flashed in my mind that I had kept the aam panna in the freezer! It had turned into an icy slush. That was my eureka moment 😉 My daughter was super excited when I told her I was going to make granita with the aam panna. She was satisfied having her lemonade and patiently waited for the granita to be ready. She absolutely loved it.


I made two versions of the Aam Panna – one with cardamom and saffron (I don’t let go any opportunity to use it wherever I possibly can…I just can’t help it!!) which is a moderately sweeter version and the other a more savoury version with roasted cumin and a sprinkle of mint sugar. Feel free to serve the Aam Panna as it is or as a granita; both are equally enjoyable and refreshing J
Mango Purée

3 (260-270 gm) raw mangoes
Update (15th April 2012) : Raw Mangoes here are the green unripe mangoes

Peel the mangoes, wash and chop them.
In a small pot heat a cup of water and add the chopped mangoes
Cook covered for approx. 3-4 minutes or till done (the cooking time will depend on the size of the chopped mango pieces)
Cool and blend the mango to a purée. 
Use as required and store the rest in the refrigerator. It will stay for 2-3 days.
Roasted Cumin flavoured Raw Mango Granita w/ Mint Sugar
(Serves 5-6)

½ litre water
1 tbsp+2 tsp sugar (+/- to taste)
2 tbsp mango puree (+/- to taste)
2 pinch black salt
¼ tsp roasted and crushed cumin
For mint sugar:
1 tsp mint leaves (or more if you want strong flavour)
3 tsp sugar (granulated)

Since the amount of Mint Sugar sprinkle that I needed was small, I used a mortar and pestle to do the job. Working vigorously with your wrist bruise the mint leaves and sugar together till they are well assimilateda job that will take not more than a few seconds. Transfer on an absorbent paper and keep aside.
Heat the water in a pan and add sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar and let it boil for a minute.
Sieve the water to remove any impurities from sugar.
Cool and add mango purée. Blend. (If you wish you can sieve this mixture)
Stir in the black salt and cumin.
If you like to have mint as it is, add it finely chopped along with the cumin and salt else reserve it to make the mint sugar.
Pour the contents in a shallow tray. Keep the tray in the freezer and let it sit undisturbed for 2-3 hours or till it is partially set.
Using a spoon, scrape the sides and the top.
Return to the freezer and after an hour, again scrape the mixture. Repeat the process every 45 minutes or an hour, three-four times or till all the content is scraped and the mixture becomes coarse crystal like.
Scoop into the serving bowls or glasses, add a generous sprinkle of mint sugar and serve immediately.
You will love the citrus and earthy flavours of this granita; mint sugar imparts lovely sweet notes of freshness.
Saffron flavoured Raw Mango Granita
(Serves 5-6)


½ litre water
2 tbsp mango puree (+/- to taste)
1/3 cup+1 tbsp sugar (+/- to taste)
A pinch of cardamom powder
A pinch of saffron
The process is similar to the above one:
Heat the water in a pan and add sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar and let it boil for a minute.
Sieve the water to remove any impurities from sugar.
Remove half a cup of water and add saffron. Let it seep for 10-15 minutes.
Cool the water and add raw mango purée (not the saffron water) and blend well.
Add cardamom powder and saffron water. Mix well and leave the contents undisturbed for 10 minutes.
Pour the mixture in a shallow tray. Keep the tray in the freezer and let it sit undisturbed for 2-3 hours or till it is partially set.
Using a spoon, scrape the sides and the top.
Return to the freezer and after an hour, again scrape the mixture. Repeat the process every 45 minutes or an hour, three-four times or till all the content is scraped and the panna resembles coarse crystals.
This granita makes a great summer dessert and has very pleasing flavours – the mellow sourness from the raw mangoes paired with the sweetness of the saffron and subtle warm hint of cardamom.


Note: There should be at least two inches space left over the contents in the tray.
Note: You may freeze this mixture over night if you desire. But it requires a lot of effort to scrap it the next day.
Note: If you are freezing it over night, use a fork to scrape the mixture to crystals one hour before serving. Scoop into serving bowls or glasses and serve immediately.
Note: I made two popsicles but before I could click them, my daughter licked them off! Try this idea; the kids love it.

Thanks for visiting and see you soon! 

One year back Green Tomato Chutney

Post linked to Nancy’s April YBR event 
Photo

Post linked to Happy Hour Friday blog hop at Shelley’s blog
In the Land of Spice
IT IS ALWAYS ENCOURAGING TO HEAR FROM FRIENDS AND READERS. I CAN ALSO BE REACHED AT: easyfoodsmith@gmail.com
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