During the summer months when the mango, ripe or otherwise, is king Indians transform the fruit numerous ways. One of the most refreshing results is a cooling aam panna, literally mango water, a lightly spiced celadon green concoction. Some homemade recipes add spices such as roasted cumin or black salt. I have decided to omit the spices as I didn’t expect my kids to like them and simply added some fresh mint. For a late afternoon adult version a shot of dark rum brings a welcomed zing.
The hard unripe mangoes need to be cooked, either boiled or roasted. Roasting is preferred as the flavour is more intense and they become a bit sweeter, evidenced by the slight caramel residue left on the baking sheet by the natural juices.
You may feel that cooking 1kg of green mango may be too much but it is worthwhile as it will save time when you want to make a quick drink. Once the fruit is cooked, puree the flesh on its own and put half of it in a container in the freezer for future use. Then simply follow the half recipe at the end.
½ cup mint leaves (1 or 2 bunches depending on size)
6 tablespoons sugar
1 litre cold water
1 cup ice
Preheat the oven to 350F/ 180C.
Place the green mangoes on a baking sheet and into the oven.
Roast the mangoes for 15 minutes and then turn them over and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes or until a dull green colour and fully soft when touched. Remove from the oven and cool to the touch.
Alternatively, place the green mangoes in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the mangoes are fully soft when touched. Using a large spoon or tongs remove from water to a plate and let cool.
Cut the mangoes in half and use a spoon to scoop out all of the flesh off the skin and the pit.
Place the flesh in a blender along with the rest of the other ingredients. Blend for 1 to 2 minutes depending on how well your machine blends.
Use a spoon to check to see if the mix is fibrous or not. If it is still somewhat fibrous pass it through a fine mesh strainer that has been placed over a larger bowl.
Pour into a pitcher and chill in the fridge. Keeps for several days refrigerated.
Half Recipe 1 ¼ cup cooked, pureed green mango pulp ¼ cup mint leaves 3 tablespoons water 2 cups cold water ½ cup ice
Just about the same time as I started chefs school my father led a bunch of visiting farmers on a trip to different farms throughout Saskatchewan and Alberta. He shared with me how they had visited a couple of chickpea (aka garbanzo bean) farms and was surprised to learn how versatile and delicious they were. He was served them as dips, in soups, salads, and side dishes. His experience shows that if you are unfamiliar with an ingredient, you get to the source, have people who know how to prepare it properly you can gain an appreciation for it and add it to the list of foods you eat.
A number of years later I had moved to Delhi and spent a couple of mornings wandering through the spice market and pulse vendors in Old Delhi. I was amazed to learn that a lot of the chickpeas, specifically the larger cream coloured kabuli and the smaller darker desi varieties, and lentils on display were grown in Canada and imported to South Asia. I was also told that the desi variety is often milled into flour, also known as besan in the Indian pantry.
I was familiar that chickpea flour was used in pakoras, rotis and chapattis but it wasn’t until I had my first tastes of Punjabi kadhi and the Gujarati snack khandvi that I fell back in love with it. I would also occasionally prepare savoury chickpea crepes or even try my hand at replicating an Italian inspired farinata that I tasted on the streets of Turin. A guy operating a wood-fired oven poured his chickpea batter into a greased round pan, topped it with roughly chopped rosemary and a light drizzle of olive oil. Using a long wooden pizza peel he slide the pan into the oven and cooked it for about 4-5 minutes. When it came out he sprinkled some coarse sea salt over it, cut it up into pizza like slices placing it on waxed butcher paper and passed it to me. It was simple cooking at it’s best. I’ve always felt mine fall short and blame it on not having a wood-fired oven.
Now living in Vietnam preparing recipes with chickpea flour, where is it not part of the cuisine, is not on my radar as much but I did recently see some in a specialty grocer. I purchased some, hummed and hawed over what to make before deciding upon making panisses, a French dish originating from Nice. However you may just want to call them chickpea fries based on their look and shape, and especially if you want to try to serve them to your kids.
I decided to give them an Indian accent by adding some fennel seeds, coriander seeds and dried fenugreek leaves (methi) and serving them with a tamarind chutney. If you want to stay with southern French flavours omit the spices, add a couple tablespoons of chopped Mediterranean herbs like thyme and/or rosemary and serve them with a garlicky aioli.
I’ve adapted Daniel Boulud’s recipe which uses milk as the cooking liquid giving the inside of the fries a creamier consistency but you can just use water or even vegetable stock if you like. Don’t skip the sifting of the chickpea flour as I once did which resulted in a lumpy mixture. The mixture needs to be cooled and refrigerated for a couple of hours before slicing so best to plan ahead.
Lightly grease a 9 X 9 inch square baking pan. (I used a silicone baking mould).
Put the milk, olive oil, seeds and salt in a medium sized saucepan and heat over medium high heat. When the milk begins to simmer reduce the heat to low and slowly add the chickpea/fenugreek mixture in 4 or 5 separate additions. (If you dump the chickpea flour in one or two additions it tends to remain lumpy and will not smooth out during cooking). Use a whisk to incorporate the chickpea mixture and to make it smooth.
When the chickpea flour is all incorporated switch from using a whisk to a wooden spoon. Cook the mixture, regularly stirring for about 10 minutes, to thoroughly cook the flour. Make sure to scrap the bottom and sides of the pan.
Pour the thickened mixture into the prepared pan trying to spread it out evenly. I have found the pressing the top with lightly oiled hands or with a sheet of parchment paper or plastic helps to smoothen the top. If the top is not smooth don’t worry about it as the fries will still look and taste great.
Cover with the parchment paper or plastic directly on the mixture and place the pan in the fridge for 2-3 hours or overnight to chill.
Remove the pan from the fridge and carefully turn out the chilled solid mixture onto a cutting board and cut into French fry like batons about 3 inches long by ½ inch wide or roughly the length and width of your index finger.
Heat ¾ cup of vegetable oil in a 10-inch frying or sauté pan over medium high heat.
Line a large plate with some paper towel.
After about 45 seconds the oil should be hot enough to carefully add in one baton. If there is a slight sizzle the oil is ready; if there is no sizzle wait another 15 seconds or so. Fry the batons in batches. I find 10-12 can be fried comfortably at one time. After 2 minutes you should see some of the edges becoming golden brown. Use some tongs to turn each baton and cook for another 2 minutes or until they are evenly golden brown and crisp. Remove to the paper-lined plate and sprinkle with some salt.
I still recall vividly driving the winding roads away from the Himalayan village of McLeod Ganj, headquarters of the Dalai Lama and catching a glimpse of a familiar spring vegetable being sold along the roadside. Wanting to make sure I wasn’t suffering from altitude sickness, I asked my wife for reassurance that I had just seen a bunch of fiddleheads. Soon I was chatting with the vendor trying to explain in broken Hindi that we had the same seasonal delicacy in Canada.
This brief experience, seeing the familiar in a foreign context, provided both comfort and intrigue. It forced me to shift my thinking of what “local”, “seasonal”, and “regional” are. As I travelled around India I soon found myself searching for more local and regional Indian dishes. Whether I was in Amritsar to check out one of the oldest dhabas or visit the kitchen of the Golden Temple that feeds up to 100,000 people a day or cooking some of the tastiest food I have eaten in India at Philipkutty’s Farm I was, and continue to be, amazed by the vast variety of local ingredients and regional dishes that are found in India.
Four years ago, while touring tea plantations in Darjeeling I noticed a small comment in the food section of a newspaper that an Australian, Charmaine O’Brien, was researching a book on regional Indian food. I kept my eye out for it in the bookstores and online but did not come across it until my most recent visit to India, which coincidentally overlapped with the launch of her efforts titled The Penguin Food Guide to India.
I have read through the book once, and wrote a review posted on Zester Daily, and know that I will be diving in there a lot for years to come as there is such great information provided. At the end of the review is a delicious recipe for a regional Konkan dish called tambdi bhaji, or greens sautéed with fresh coconut introduced to me a few years while I was travelling with photographer Jason Taylor, who shot the above photo. It is a very versatile dish as it can easily be adapted for all sorts of greens, like beet, amaranth, spinach, swiss chard and even kale.
At first I resisted joining and partaking in social media. I did not fully appreciate and understand how great it could be to connect people, especially those with common interests. But this is how I first learned about The Chaiwallahs of India, a website run by Resham Gellatly and Zach Marks. Jeff Koehler, who is writing a book about the world’s greatest tea that is found in Darjeeling, mentioned them in a tweet. I started to follow their informative tweets as they travelled India researching the culture that surrounds the warming spiced tea, known as chai and the tea stall and tea brewers/ sellers, known as chaiwallahs. I was able to connect with them in Mumbai on my recent trip to India. Click here to see our video conversation and to learn more about their very interesting research.
I’ve always liked it when you’re having a friendly, let’s catch up with each other, conversation and something unexpected materializes and puts you on a path that leads you to a destination you’ve been searching for. This happened in early 2013 while having lunch with a friend, and long time Vietnam resident. In between bites of delicious vegetarian Vietnamese food I shared with him that I suspected there were some food related connections between India and Vietnam. A visit to Pondicherry in the state of Tamil Nadu sparked this curiosity when a chef I was speaking with mentioned that there were some older women who sold Vietnamese spring rolls door to door in the older part of the city. My friend shared with me that one of his closest friends, now living in England, had done her PhD about the Tamil community in Saigon and he would happily connect us. I had found some solid food leads on my own but there were some holes that needed to be filled and small parts of her thesis helped me with some minor, yet, important connections. Finally, this past autumn I spent some time in Saigon and was able to investigate the Indian community there and learn about how they influenced a few dishes in the Vietnamese kitchen.