As we drove to indian store a few weeks back, I told the husband “Oh I doubt they would have any more”, though secretly,I desired that they had ordered more of these chubby, tart green mangoes which are gateway to aroma and taste of indian summer into my little kitchen. I approached the mango carton first thing though I was there to stock up on green chilies, baby eggplants and curry leaves. I hurriedly tore the plastic bag and started my selection.”She’s a little too excited about them”, I overheard the husband telling the store keeper whose reply made me smile ear to ear,” Will be getting more in few days”.
This summer has been rather good as far as seasonal produce goes. Except the blueberries which I climbing the price ladder each week, we are enjoying the bounty a lot. I bought squash and first cherries home over the weekend but I am more happy that the supply of raw mangoes exported from India will continue in our local store. After pickling, adding them to lentils and chutneys, I also made this drink last week.
While the raw mangoes were boiling and the cumin was slow roasting, I plucked up few leaves from my potted mint, tore them from the twigs, bathed them in the kitchen sink and set on the counter. My hands started to smell of the herb and a strong aroma filled up the nostrils only to be replaced a few moments later by the sweet-smelling cardamom as I broke open the pod. Suddenly, the kitchen was engulfed in the perfume of herbs and spices. I was at once transported to being a child again, drinking aam pana first thing from the jug in the refrigerator after getting back from school.
Aam (mango) pana/panna is tart, sweet and spicy drink popular in India during the cruel summer months.The recipe is very simple and quick.You could roast or grill the mangoes for a smoky flavor instead of boiling them. Just keep in mind not to overdo the mint, cardamom or cumin since the pronounced taste has to be of the mango here.
Ingredients (Serves 6-8)
5-6 green mangoes,unripe
(scant) pinch of hing (asafetida,optional)
2 cups water
1/3 cup sugar (can be increased to 1/2 cup or to taste)
6-7 fresh mint leaves
1 very small green chili (any mild variety will work)
1 green cardamom pod
1/2 tsp (scant) roasted cumin powder
1 tsp kala namak (black salt, adds tang but substitute with salt if you don’t have)
Salt to taste
Crushed ice, mint leaves to garnish
Wash the mangoes and remove their tops, peel them. Place them in a pressure cooker along with hing and 2 cups of water.Close the lid and let cook on medium heat for 1-2 whistles. If you do not have a pressure cooker, you can boil the mangoes in a pot till the flesh is soft. Take off the heat and let cool down till okay to touch.
Meanwhile, finely chop the mint leaves and green chili. You can seed the chili before chopping. Break open the cardamom pod and crush the seeds in a mortar and pestle.
Once the mangoes have cooled a bit, add the sugar to the pot and using your hands squeeze the mangoes till all the flesh falls off and you get hold of the seeds. Discard the seeds and any tough membranes. Add finely chopped mint and chili and using your immersion blender, blend everything. Ideally, the consistency of pana is not smooth, there is mango flesh and bits of mint & chili suspended in the liquid.
Add the cardamom,cumin, kala namak, red chili powder. Mix thoroughly, taste and adjust the salt. Transfer the contents to a beverage holder or a jug and add top with water depending on how dilute you like it.
Chill thoroughly and serve with ice and mint leaves.
ChandaniChowk,one of the busiest area in Old Delhi has been around for more than three centuries. Wiki tells me that all the merchants & invaders who ever crossed the walled city flocked past it,thus speaking volumes about its popularity and worth. The congested lanes dotted with shops selling linen,clothing, jewellery, books, electronics, footwear and what not turn so busy after noon,the peak time when the wholesale dealings begin that you could skip a breath trying to carve your way past them. Being in hurry is a way of life in this part of the city which is eternally teeming with people but has something to offer to everybody who lands here.
For me, the area is one of the best places to shop and eat if you happen to be in Delhi. It has a charm, a retro yet modern feel which is missing inside the food courts & malls.However, it is quite unfortunate that I caught on to the magnificence of the area quite late. I remember my first time there with dad and how claustrophobic I felt. In an effort to catch the glimpse of the sky, I looked up and all I saw were a cacophony of electric wires and the countless birds sitting on them, the rows of laundry sun drying and dilapidated balconies of houses, spaced at arm’s length from one another.
It was again during school years that I visited the place for our book hunting and chaat (street food) tasting hangout with friends. In those years, the Delhi Metro was still in the works and reaching ChandaniChowk from my home meant commuting through a couple of buses to a central point & then either hopping on to a rickshaw or walking down to your destination.It took effort, a whole lot of it.
I thronged the area much more during my pre wedding months, the place is a heaven for women interested in shopping for bridal gear and mom and me really looked forward to our Saturday shopping trips.We used to catch the morning metro as early as possible to get there and finish by noon before the shopper frenzy started.
For obvious reasons I skipped breakfast on those days.The food choices were unlimited and dreamy.We ate a different thing at a different eatery each time. It was on one of those trips that I discovered Chole Paneer from a street side eatery, served with ribbon thin onion rings and puffy bhaturas (fried flatbread) and hot, really hot pickle. It is fit to be the best chickpeas dish I have eaten in a long long time.Oily, spicy and creamy from soft melt in the mouth chunks of paneer, I am already salivating as I write this after so many years, so you can imagine what I mean here.
Over the years, I have come up with a recipe which (sort of) caters to the needs & tastes of my family – the husband doesnt want the ‘yellow’ from turmeric and if he had his way he would pick out the paneer too. I like how the lightly mashed chickpeas pick up the milky richness from paneer and would not give up on that ever! Although in the real world, I serve it with naan or kulcha,I bet they are no comparison to those oil drenched soft bhaturas!