Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Refreshing Goodbye to Summer!

Summer's over in our part of the world. And the realization hit me full force when my daughter received a welcome-back-to- school note from her class-teacher-to-be yesterday evening. School starts, summer's over. Officially! So while she spent the next hour chirping excitedly about her teacher's note, I sat with my little camera, reliving my summer. That is when I realized that I've been really tardy about updating my blog this past few months. I've been pre-ocuupied, and over-whelmed. Plus, my MIL was visiting us; and with all the weekend entertaining that we did; it didn't leave me much time for myself.
Did I tell you about my MIL visiting us this year? Well she did, for 6 weeks this summer. And it was she that actually reminded me of "Aam ka Panna". When ever she missed India, she'd start telling me of things that she could be doing, if she were 'home'. So one day in June, when she mentioned pickling mangoes and limes, I got transported back to the days when I'd help my mom with these chores. My mom would cut those raw baby mangoes into quarters, and my job was to pry out the hard pits from the pieces. Then she washed them in warm water and I ran up and down 2 flights of steps carrying the mangoes up to the rooftop so they could dry in the sun for a whole day before she made the pickle. It was just a fun thing to do during those lazy summer holidays. And my mom always rewarded me with ice-cold "Aam ka panna" for my efforts. I wasn't much older than my daughter then, and I loved this refreshing drink on a hot summer day. And then, I realized that my daughter didn't even know what "Aam ka panna" is. And that she will never know unless she tasted it.

In my last decade in the US, I haven't really seen raw mangoes being sold. Not even in ethnic grocery stores. So this one time, when we went grocery shopping or our Indian needs, I asked the owner if he had raw mangoes. "I have to check madam", he said before disappearing at the back of the store. I really wasn't expecting to get what I wanted, but he came back with two big mangoes in his hands. "Are they raw?" I asked., looking at the two monstrosities that he handed me. They didn't look anything like raw mangoes that I remembered from my childhood. "Yes ma'am- see they're green". "But they don't smell like raw mangoes", I said sniffing at them. I want the 'achaari amiya', I said to him; adding the local for pickling mangoes hoping to make him understand me better. "Yes ma'am. Believe me, they're raw. These come from Mexico, that's why they're so big." Still skeptical, I bought one and prepared to give it a try. I hid it from my MIL- believe me I did! Didn't want her to laugh at me if my adventures with these Mexican mangoes failed!! But...ta da...my "aam ka panna' was a thundering success!
Aam Ka Panna (Raw mango and mint cooler)
Raw Mango 1 
Mint A generous fistful of leaves, washed 
Sugar 1 cup 
Water 250ml  
Kala Namak (rock salt) 1-2tsp (taste and test) 
Cumin seeds roasted and crushed for garnish (optional)
  1. Peel and cut the mango in 1-inch pieces. Of course, remove the pit. Save the pit to use later (like I did-will tell you in what a few posts later!), or throw it away.
  2. Cook the mango in water- I used a pressure cooker for this. Or you can use a stock pot and cook till the mangoes are gooey-mushy. You might have to add more water, if not using a pressure cooker.
  3. Cool the mango, and then run the whole mush and mint thorough a blender. Filter the puree through a wide-meshed sieve to get rid of the fibers from mint.
  4. Now bring this mixture to a boil, add sugar and salt to taste, and then let it cool again.
  5. Refrigerate a few hours and sprinkle with cumin powder and serve chilled.
My two cents: It was delish. The Mexican mangoes were definitely unripe, but less tangy than the Indian ones. So be careful with the sugar- suit it to taste. Like with lemonade; you should taste the sweet and mango-tartness together. I actually went back and made this a total of 4 times in June and July. My incentive? My 7-yr old loved it! This is the only thing I make that she actually asks second helpings of! Enjoy!
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