mango kulfi

Easy Mango Kulfi

My grandparents had a house in Goa on the West Coast of India that was located in an historic part of the capital city, Panjim (now known as Panaji). Practically every summer, the entire family including my grandparents, would take a trip down where we'd spend a couple of weeks by the ocean and relax in the warm sunny weather. The house was old, large and at times dark, which scared me a little but there were so many fun moments. I remember every morning, waking up to the sound of the horns and then running out out on to the tall balcony to see if I could stretch up to see the incoming ships that stopped at the dock. I remember my mom showing and explaining to me some of the antique china and  pieces of furniture (a big round white marble table with huge wooden legs, that I would love to own today) that had been collected over the years, of course at that time I displayed very little interest in these things (now it's a whole different level of fascination when it comes to antiques). There was a stack of paper, so old (I vaguely remember seeing a watermark imprint of the British Royal Family on it) and delicate that every time you tried to handle a sheet, it would crack and break (breaking rather than ripping paper was a strange and fascinating concept back thn to a kid back then). 

mangoes

The things that were much more fun to a ten year old back then, were the steep staircase at the back, the deep well (that was off-limits) and the garden that were enclosed at the back of the house. I remember the coconut, jackfruit and mango trees that adorned the garden and every summer we would eagerly await our bounty. My grandfather would hire someone to come and pick the fruit out and we would sit and watch with eager anticipation. For me, it was mostly the mangoes, they were sweet and juicy and delicious. 

mangoes and kulfi

I have not been back in more than a decade. The house has long since been sold, demolished and the ground now stands home to a large condominium/shopping mall but some of the memories are still stored up here in my head. This summer, the new boat has brought back some of those early childhood memories by the ocean and along with it a strong craving for mangoes. Last weekend, I decided to whip up some of the memories and freeze them in this kulfi recipe. I hesitate on calling kulfi an Indian ice-cream (thought it is described sometimes as such) because it is very different, it traditionally uses less fat and lacks eggs or corn starch as thickening agent when compared to a typical ice-cream. It also has a unique texture of its own, it is creamy yet not soft but firm with a very mild grainy texture that comes from the ground almond meal. Yet it is so simple to prepare but still so complex in flavors and textures that it remains a very popular frozen dessert in Indian cuisine during the hot summer months. I used freezer-safe cappuccino cups to set the kulfi but you can use the traditional kulfi molds (which you can find online or at your local Indian food store) or small conical tea cups or even popsicles molds. 

mango kulfi

India has several different varieties of mangoes and they are sweeter and much more flavorful than any other mango that I have tasted from elsewhere. The Alphonso variety are one of the sweetest, there are others that are simply not eaten by scooping out the flesh but rather sucked out because their meat is sweet but their texture too stringy to chew on. If you every get the opportunity to visit the Indian west coast during summer, I highly recommend trying one of the many mango varieties of the local region. When buying mangoes, press them gently they should be soft but not mushy. They should also give off a sweet fruity smell and the skin should be as yellow as possible with absolutely (preferably) no traces of green color. 

mangoes and kulfi1

mango kulfi

yields: 6 servings

ingredients

1 quart or 4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon saffron strands, ground
1/4 teaspoon green cardamom seeds, ground
1/4 cup almond meal
1/2 pint heavy cream, chilled
1 cup fresh ripe mango puree (I used Champagne mangoes but if you can try to use a much more sweeter and flavorful Indian variety like the Alphonso) 
a little fresh mango pulp, diced for garnishing

1. Bring the milk and sugar to a boil in a thick-bottomed saucepan, stir constantly with a silicone spatula to prevent the milk from scalding. Reduce the flame to a gentle simmer and add the honey. Continue to stir the milk and simmer for another 20-25 minutes until it reduces to approximately 3 cups. 
2. Stir in the saffron and cardamom and once again bring the milk to a boil.  Continue to stir and fold in the almond meal. Boil for 2-3 minutes and remove from the stove. 
3. Fold in the cream and mango puree.  Cool the mixture to room temperature. Pour into freezer-safe cappuccino cups (or kulfi molds). Cover the open end with cling film and freeze for at least 10-12 hours to firm. 4. Before serving, place the frozen mold into a warm water bath or running hot water from a faucet to release the kulfi from the mold. Stick a knife into the center of the kulfi (not all the way through, just deep enough to help you maneuver the kulfi) and rotate the kulfi to get it out of the mold. Garnish with freshly diced mango fruit pieces. 

rose and almond pot de creme


It's been a very, very busy week for the city. First, we had the annual 100th anniversary of the Cherry Blossoms and the opening of The Hunger Games. Thankfully, I got a chance to walk around the basin and wade my way through the throngs of tourists to catch a glimpse of the flowers before the rain jumped in. A day or two of good rain will wash the flowers off the trees, so luck was definitely on my side this year. Its definitely one of those things that should be on your bucket list, if you haven't already done it. I took some photographs of the flowers in the city to share with you.

 

"The Hunger Games" movie was great and we got great seats even though we faced a long line. All in all a successful week. With spring, also comes the attack of the squirrels and there is one nasty little guy that has been busy digging up my terrace to store whole peanuts. I am still surprised that this squirrel has found a source of whole peanuts with their shells in the city. So far, its been a close call just some digging and no bulbs or plants destroyed. I need to stop by my local gardening store to figure out what I can do to make him find my garden less attractive for his activities. It was so much easier with the dog, I had a little wall raised around the periphery of the garden and then trained him but this squirrel is a bit independent.


I haven't made this Indian themed creme de pot in a while and with the rain carrying off into the weekend, it made the perfect excuse for some dessert. There are several desserts in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking that use rose flowers and rose water as ingredients. They are sweet and fragrant and come in so many different beautiful colors making it a popular addition to food. This custard is a great dessert for a spring and/or  summer table.


This custard has a thin thick consistency which is delicious by itself but can also be served over fresh fruits. I prefer golden raisins because they are sweet yet milder than dark raisins.Technically, this is not really a pot de creme since there are no eggs or any baking involved but the custard is reminiscent of the pot de creme, so hence I decided to name it this way. There are two big surprises in this pot de creme, the first is the delicious layer of cream will form on the top of the custard as it cools. The second surprise is the layer of raisins at the bottom. The almond milk will give the custard a light and refreshing taste and reduces the richness of the cream. You must take care to prevent burning the custard while boiling the milk and cream because it will give a burned taste to the custard. If it does get a little burned, it is better to avoid disturbing the burned layer and remove it from the custard as quick as possible. This recipe is based loosely on a recipe from "Classic Indian Cooking" by Julie Sahni.


rose and almond pot de creme 

yield: 4 servings

ingredients

1/4 cup golden raisins
2 cups fat-free milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup almond milk
6 tablespoons rice flour
2 tablespoons rose water
dried edible rose petals to garnish

1. Sprinkle the raisins into a serving dish or into individual serving bowls. In a thick bottomed pot, bring the milk and sugar to a boil on a medium flame. Immediately reduce the flame to a simmer, and add the cream and almond milk. 
2.Whisk in the rice flour and stir continuously till the custard begins to thicken a little. The consistency should be slightly thick but not too much. Remove the custard off the stove and pour it into the bowl. Allow to cool, stir in the rose water and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 to 4 hours before serving. Before serving, garnish the top of the creme with the dried rose petals. 

homemade creme fraiche


I started the weekend with an unexpected random trip to West Virginia where we stopped by Harper's Ferry to stretch our feet a little and walked around the old historical town. We strolled around the area and then walked across the train tracks while the dog pulled his leash to sniff everything in sight. I was fascinated to learn how many times and how high the tide waters have risen and flooded the surrounding area. There's a a bit of wildlife too, we saw a couple of large turtles, ducks and deer. I was hoping that it would be a bit greener but it looks like the South in our area is having a slower start to spring.


Our finale to the weekend ended a little more energetically with a half-marathon for St. Patrick's Day. However, all the energy spent at our side involved waking up early and cheering and yelling to support our three friends that ran in it. Though our days are sunny and warm, the early mornings and late evenings are still a bit cool to be in shorts. We celebrated their marathon completion with a big brunch and a few mimosas. Somehow the combination of mimosas and running several miles just do not sound right but does flow well.


Preparing homemade creme fraiche is easy and the store bought varieties can be expensive. So why not make it at home? Made the night before, this cream will last good in the refrigerator for at least a week. Use it in cakes or over fresh fruit mixed in with a little sugar or honey and it will always succeed in delighting your taste buds.


creme fraiche

ingredients

1 cup whipping cream
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh low fat buttermilk

With a fork whisk the whipping cream and buttermilk together for about 1 minute. Pour the contents into a glass bottle and cover the top with cling film. Leave overnight (maximum 8hours) at room temperature. The creme fraiche will be thick and creamy in consistency. Cover the bottle with a lid and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.