A great author once said, “India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.” Amidst all the controversies surrounding India’s state of poverty, this beautiful country is still able to captivate and charm people from all over the world. From someone looking from the outside, from the windows of the internet, I would gladly grab the chance to travel to this promising place!
The title might have misled you into reading this entry. Wishful thinking. No, I am not going to India tomorrow nor in the near future but I will be. As for now, the cheapest way for me to experience a country is through a plate of food or dessert. I can just imagine myself being embraced by the traditions that kept this motherland alive and bustling. From stories to culture to religion to food, surely one can have a satisfied holistic human experience in India. As I reread the previous sentences, I have come to realize that I seem to be writing in a way that I have already been to India. How I wish! Honestly! Who wouldn’t want to go on an adventure in India?
There are three things that excite me whenever I daydream about travelling to India – religion, people, and food. Yes! Aside from Morocco, India is another country where spices are everywhere. Known for their amazing hands in mixing spices, Indians make the most amazing food that is music to my mouth. And get this, spices are not only found in their savory cooking, but in desserts as well.
I found myself grabbing the opportunity of watching a trial run of Food Network Asia from our cable operator and Aarti Sequiera was on. I chanced upon her making this Indian ice cream called kulfi. Traditionally, kulfi is sold from carts much similar to ours. If here in the Philippines we have sorbetes, in India, they have kulfi. According to the Mumbai Mirror, the ‘exact history of kulfi is not very clearly known to people but it chiefly originated in India in the North Eastern areas.’ Where ever it originated, I am extremely grateful!
It was really easy to do, and the great thing about this recipe is that no machine is needed! You see, I have been wanting to make homemade ice cream but most of the promising recipes I gathered required an ice cream maker. There are some that showed how to make ice cream without the machine but it was incredibly labor intensive. Compared to others, this recipe was just a mix-and-freeze-and-let-it-be ice cream.
The recipe called for cardamom; however, I had a hard time looking for cardamom within my vicinity. We have Indian stores here but it is quite far. I researched for substitutes and found one that required cloves and nutmeg, both spices I have in the pantry. But I will make it a point to make this again with real cardamom to have that full experience. I admit; I was quite intimidated when I read cardamom and earl grey tea in the recipe, but I am a really adventurous person when it comes to food and experiences so I went for it.
After finishing the process of making the ice cream base, I decided to store it in two ways, (1) in ice candy bags which was kind of like the ones I had when I was a kid, and (2) in a 1-quart container to make it more ice cream than ice candy. Traditionally in India, kulfi is placed in aluminum molds similar to an aluminum glass. So in the 1-quart container, I mixed the ice cream base to break ice crystals that formed to achieve a creamy texture. I did this in intervals. Below you will see how the texture changes in stages as I break the ice crystals as it freezes.
It was an interesting flavor, different from the ones I’ve been used to like vanilla, chocolate, and cheese. I loved it! The spices added a dimension that you would not expect from a dessert, not to mention a frozen dessert. The infused tea gave the dessert a floral undertone that lingers in your palate. Contrary to what I expected, this turned out to be really creamy, comparable to the consistency and texture of gelato. It was nice. It was multidimensional. Actually, the first taste I had of this made me close my eyes and had me imagine myself walking in the streets of New Delhi under the sun or maybe on my way to a Hindu temple. It took me to a different place. This is definitely something I will be making more often, and maybe experimenting on some other variations.
Creamy Pistachio Pops
Adapted from Aarti Sequiera
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring evaporated milk to a simmer until small bubbles form around the circumference of the pot. Meanwhile, snip the tops of the tea bags and add to the milk. Whisk in cardamom. Once the milk is simmering, turn the heat off, cover and let sit and steep for 30 minutes.
Strain the evaporated milk into a large bowl. Whisk in the condensed milk, heavy cream and pistachios. Either pour the mixture into ice pop molds, small bowls or a large bowl. Cover the bowls with a piece of plastic wrap to avoid freezer burn and the formation of a “skin”. Pop them into the freezer and freeze overnight.
When you’re ready to serve, run the ice pop mold under hot water to loosen it. You can do the same thing for the smaller bowls if you’d like to serve it as a little kulfi half dome. Garnish with more nuts if you like and serve.
I look forward to visiting India in the future and experience what astrologer and intuitive consultant Erin Reese said: “There are three trips you take to India: the one you think you’re going to have – that you plan for; the one you actually have; and the one you live through once you go back home.”
If only India was just a jeepney ride away, I’d be there tomorrow.