Translated Loksatta article: Iced Kaleidpscopes and a Recipe for Alphonso Mango Sorbet
This article appeared in Chaturanga, the magazine section of Loksatta on June 2, 2012. View the original article here.
If you grew up in the summers of the 80s, you probably spent every 25 paise you had painfully collected on birthdays and from all the “khau” money you earned, on “pepsi colas” (I still don’t know why they were called that). No, I am not referring to dangerous cola drinks of popular brands but about these little sorbets packed into slim, long plastic bags that you bit the end of and sucked the synthetically flavored slush out until your brain froze.
Every parent vetoed them and every child longed for them. The thrill of eating them on the sly was something else—fishing out the spare change from the bus or rickshaw fare on your way back from school, conspiring with friends, spending what seemed like important, decision-making moments to you (and a complete waste of time to the local grocer), finally choosing the flavor of the day, running to the park or favorite street corner, and slowly savoring every rush of synthetic syrup—such simple pleasures!
Then, of course, there is the eternal Indian street temptation of the gola or chuski–shaved ice for the uninitiated. It’s been around in various avatars for the past so many decades that neither summer nor youth can progress without it. The ugly malls of urban India couldn’t do without it either—the “hygienic” gola stalls that dot every corner in every food court pale in comparison with the stuff you get outside a park or school–the kind where the gola maker does not bother with gloves and mineral water—the dangerous kind. The gola wala’s cloudy bottles contain bright-colored syrups in myriad colors—yellow, orange, green, and purple. The flavors are artificially perfect—the mango and orange taste nothing like the fruits they claim to bear resemblance to and the rose and khus syrups are tooth achingly sweet. I begin to salivate at the very sound of ice being shaven against the sharp blades of the machine. Then, as it gets stuffed into a glass that has been used god knows how many times that very day alone and sprinkled with a special chaat masala, I begin anticipating the tongue tickling rhapsody of sweet, salty, and spicy flavors. Then, there is the endless cycle of asking for more syrup because you have ice left and asking for more ice because you have syrup left. Such innocent pleasures!
The gola and the pepsi-cola were the two icy treats I ate most often as a child. Then, one was exposed to the upmarket version of the sorbet at fancy colonial-style clubs in South Mumbai. The ice in these was more finely shaven, and the flavors were purely natural. No synthetic colors, no artificial flavoring. The waiters brought it out in crystal dessert glasses that sat pretty on paper doilies. A fresh sprig of young mint sat on top of a perfectly round scoop basking in the glamor that it knew it added. A spoonful of sorbet melted easily as soon as it hit your tongue—like a woman falling in love with a charming young man—and the flavors slowly traveled to the farthest corners of your palate like a fragrance spreading in a room. A far cry from the pepsi colas of my childhood. This, then, was the upmarket, refined version—a healthier, more acceptable one.
As I kept going back to the deep recesses of my childhood memories and ate Kala Khatta golas on the sly when I was pregnant, I wondered if there was an equivalent of the gola as well. I found my answer in the granita. A granita is an Italian frozen ice dessert made from sugar, fruit pulp and water. Somewhat like a gola made from ice that has already been flavored. Broadly speaking, the granita is coarser and not quite as smooth as a sorbet—the fun is in biting into the variously sized fruity ice crystals. In Italy, however, which is where the granita comes from, the texture of the granita varies from region to region—in some areas, it has crystals large enough to break a molar or two while in some others, you’re not sure if what you’re eating is a sorbet or a granita. I am, somehow, quite smitten by the idea of a legally permitted iced dish that goes kadam-kudum in my mouth.
I thought I’d do a seasonal Alphonso mango version of the Sorbet. It’s a wonderful recipe—ideal for the summer because it takes less than five minutes in a hot kitchen. The rest of the work is done by the freezer while you nap it off in the scorching heat, dreaming of happier, cooler days. I urge you to try this recipe. It is guaranteed to take you down those dusty old memory lanes!
Alphonso Mango Sorbet
- 125 gms. sugar
- 250 ml. water
- 2 + 1 Alphonso Mangoes
- Sprig of mint to garnish
- Place the sugar and water in a pot and heat through, stirring gently until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
- Peel two Alphonso mangoes and chop roughly, discarding the stone. Puree the mangoes in a blender until smooth.
- Add the puree to the cooled sugar syrup.
- Transfer to a freezer-friendly box and freeze for 4-6 hours at least. When almost completely set, scrape the sorbet with the help of a fork and return to the freezer for another two hours.
- To serve, scrape with a fork and serve the variously cut ice crystals in a broad class or bowl with the remaining mango, freshly cut and garnished with a sprig of mint.