Fennel: 3 posts

Fennel Cardamom Sherbet (Saunf ka Sharbat)

La canicule, the heatwave, has reached Brussels, with temperatures in the city these days exceeding those of Delhi. Unlike in India, life in Belgium is not designed for a hot climate. Air conditioners are a rare item in most households. The buildings trap heat. The large windows turn apartments into greenhouses. Last night I was dreaming that I was sleeping on the edge of an exploding volcano. It might as well have been our bedroom.

Trying to retain sanity in this heat, I turned to classical Delhi remedies. Since escaping to the cool mountain resorts in Darjeeling wasn’t in the cards, I made a refreshing fennel seed sherbet, saunf ka sharbat.

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Sweet Tomato Chutney with Pistachios and Raisins

That tomato is a fruit becomes obvious once you pair it with sugar or sweet ingredients. One of the main aromatic components of tomato, furaneol, is also called strawberry furanone by fragrance and flavor chemists, because it’s such an important note in the complex berry aroma. Incidentally, it’s one of the reasons behind difficulties with tomato accords in perfumery–they smell of red berries if there is even a modicum of sweetness in the formula. It’s therefore natural to treat tomato in much the same way as you would a fruit–cooking it into jams, combining it with sweet pastry or melting it down with vanilla and caramel for an ice cream sauce. Or you can make it into a sweet chutney to be served with grilled meat or rice dishes.

tomato chutney

Chutney is an Indian sauce that may be raw or cooked, and the ingredients run the gamut from fruits and vegetables to beans and nuts. I’m a chutney fiend. I firmly believe that a dollop of chutney makes anything better–a sandwich, a bowl of rice, a piece of grilled chicken. So do many Indians, because not only do they excel in coming up with the most unusual chutney combinations, they don’t hesitate in pairing them together. For instance, spicy green coriander chutney is often partnered with a sweet date one. As you dip crisp eggplant fritters first in one, then the other and experience the explosion of flavor, you understand how silly is the whole idea of “less is more.”

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Two Orange Salads Against Winter Blues

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My appreciation of citrus fruit came not because of its taste but rather its aroma. As a child I shied away from acidic flavors and even the sprinkling of sugar over the orange slices my mother would prepare did not endear me to their sting of tartness. It was not until I started helping in the kitchen that I discovered the fragrant excitement of citrus zest. A grating of lemon peel over grilled chicken uplifted a familiar dish. Candied orange peels folded into oatmeal made my daily breakfast more memorable. Slowly I grew to love the acidity and to welcome the way it made other flavors shimmer. As I explored more, I discovered the pleasant bitter taste of pomelo, the floral richness of mandarins, the sultry complexity of Seville oranges and the piney sweetness of kumquats. Thanks to the constant development of new hybrids, the citrus family is large and varied, so I can make up for the years of shunning oranges as a kid.

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