Recipe – Apricot |Khubani ka Sharbat


Summers are the best time to have these excellent sherbets or sharbats made from fresh fruits. Some are chopped, pulped and boiled with sugar then strained while some others are raw. I prefer them uncooked but then do they become ras or juice rather than sharbats? Perhaps, they do. I will share both the methods here though I did not cook the apricots here. In case I was using the dried ones then soaking and cooking to make a concentrate would be a good idea.

These gorgeous sweet and juicy apricots or khubani came via Farmer Uncle straight from the Singha Farms (orchards) in Kothgarh, District Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India. The fruit is chemical residue free and one can feel the difference in taste between these and the ones I buy from local markets in Delhi. There are some more apricot recipes that you can check HERE. and HERE .

I over indulged myself  and while I was licking off the dripping juices I got reminded of the old old days when I was young and partied hard whenever I could. It reminded me of Qamar al-deen, an apricot nectar beverage from Middle East made with a specific variety of apricots, orange blossoms, and sugar. Or, I think it was called lavāshak Qamaruddin made from apricot fruit leather. The beverage in itself was heavenly but the cocktails made from it with Vodka/Gin/White or Spiced rum were killer.

This recipe is simple and brings out the flavor of the fruit. You can also turn it into a slushy or a sorbet.

Ingredients :

Fresh Apricots / Khoobani – 8-10 medium size

Lemon Zest – 1/4 teaspoon

Fresh Lemon juice – 3 -4 tablespoons

Jaggery powder / Sugar – As per taste ( depends on the sweetness of the fruit)

Rock Salt – 1/4 tsp

Water – about 3 cups

Fresh mint leaves – 3-4 muddled

Method 1:

Wash and pat dry the apricots. Pull them in half and remove the stones.

Chop them roughly and put them in a blender jar and blend.

Once the mixture is smooth and nicely blended strain it through a sieve in a pitcher. Rub the pulp with back of a spoon so that all the pulp san the tough fibers goes through the sieve.

Add a cup or two of water to dilute the concentrate and add lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and jaggery powder or boora cheeni/ sugar.

Mix it well then pour some of the sharbat in an ice cube tray and freeze.

Add fresh muddled mint leaves to the remaining sharbat and chill it.

Once the cubes are frozen, add them to the chilled sharbat and serve.

 

Method 2 – Soak the dry seedless apricots overnight and pulse the swollen fruit in the blender with a little water, lemon juice and sugar the next day to make a paste.

Strain it into a pitcher, add water and mix well. Serve chilled.

If you are in a hurry then you can soak the apricot leather or dried apricots in hot water for  3-4 hours or just boil them a little to soften them with sugar and water over stove top ( like a compote) then cool to blend. Add more water to dilute as per your liking.

You may add a little orange blossom water to it before serving. You may also add Gin / Vodka / Spiced or White Rum to make a cocktail.

You can use tamarind paste instead of lemon to make Imli Khubani ka sharbat.

To make the tamarind Apricot Sharbat you need :

Ingredients:

Dried apricots –  250 gms (soaked overnight & deseeded)

Imli ka gooda (Tamarind pulp deseeded) – 250 gm

Boora cheeni – 250 gm or as per taste

Water – 1 litre

Rock Salt –  1 tsp –

Method :

In a blender add dried soaked apricots & tamarind pulp. Blend well then strain with a sieve. Set it aside. In a heavy bottom pan add sugar and water, mix well and cook until sugar is dissolved. Now add the apricot pulp and mix well. Cook on medium low flame for 5 minutes then turn off the stove. Let the mixture cool down.

Add required concentrate to a pitcher, add salt and crushed mint leaves, add more water if needed and adjust sweetness if required. Place it in the fridge to chill.

In a serving glass, pour the sharbat, ice cubes. Stir well and serve.

Always use fully ripe juicy apricots. Ripe apricots are soft to touch. They should be firm, and orange gold in color.

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Summer Flowers, Poetry & Other News


Petrea flowers

Some one asked me if trees and flowers were my latest obsession. No, I said, it’s been a life long love affair but lately I have come out unafraid and showing it with pride. Delhi has given us a gorgeous spring summer offering when it comes to flowering trees. Last years show was a bit dampening but this year the city palette is smudged with every hue possible. This year I braved the heat and sun despite of my health concerns and went wandering in the city. What greeted me were vibrant coral trees, stunning palash, flaming gulmohars, magnificent kachnars, baikain and jacarandas and then the laburnums which are my favorite.

Moulmein Rosewood

Moulmein Rosewood

The gorgeous pink cassia and neem flowering in abundance. I saw sita ashok, Moulmein Rosewood and laal kund in bloom for the first time and it was not just the flowers but the fruits too that stole my heart.

Chamrod berries

The chamrod was fruiting and the tree full of glassy red orange berries were a delight to watch. While laburnum is stealing the show this year one can’t ignore the delicate crepe like Jarul flowers that are adding to color palette.

Jarul | Queen Crape Myrtle | pride of India

I also witnessed the pilkhan change colors and the mahua blossoming and then changing its leaves. You can visit my Instagram page to see some of my paintings of Delhi flowers and the actual flowering too.

In the midst of this flower show mango trees bloomed and then fruited. Nature has been benevolent this time. As I work on my Hindi Poetry book and other pending drafts I find less time to post more poems/stories here. Most of the journals seek unpublished work. So I will keep sharing the news if something finds a home. I am, meanwhile, still looking for a home. Perhaps I may eventually shift to some senior citizen home and find some work there or some place nearby. The financial constraints and lack of support is like a finger on the jugular.

Dhak / Tesu / Palash

The good news is that  two of my poems got a place in Cafe Dissensus magazine in February and got tremendous appreciation from poetry lovers across the globe. It was heartwarming to see strangers leaving words of appreciation in the comment section. Such engagement always encourages me to write more and write better.

Here is an excerpt :

“two a.m. on Delhi’s post-rain Sunday
I try to wash away the sleepiness
from my insomnia laden eyes
pick a fresh sheet of paper
spread clean water till it sheens
like fresh snow on a sunny day
clean and load the brushes with colours
drop and watch in wonderment
as the colours bleed and waltz
into the white stillness”

Read more HERE

City’s midsummer dream

Another set of poems recently again got published in the same magazine but this time with a note, a few photographs and a watercolor painting by me. You can read this here – Poetry In The Time Of Amaltas 

These poems are special because of many reasons including thatthey were written as a larger set on a call given by Mayank Austen Soofi aka The Delhi Walla in celebration of the Laburnums of Delhi. I admire his work as a chronicler of my city and it was an immerse joy to get featured in his daily city dispatch that he writes for The Hindustan Times.

You can read my poem HERE

Another beautiful opportunity came my way by writing for the famous column  called – ‘Farewell Notice- Our Self Written Obituaries’ on his popular blog. You can read it HERE 

The elegant Kachnar in full bloom

Now another special news that I had to share. While Tavish, my old time blogging buddy, bought ‘Wayfaring’ and sent a reader’s pic with a note about how much he is enjoying the book, Madhulika Liddle whom I had met at an event and gifted the book reviewed it on Goodreads. A pleasant  surprise and a cherished one too.

Here is an excerpt,” This collection of poems is divided into several sections: Trains, Exile Poems, Remembrance, Travel, Mosaic, Acrostics and Delhi Poems. Remembrance is the largest section, but these actually aren’t the only poems that talk of memories: in fact, most of Tikuli’s poems have a very strong aspect of remembrance, often a touching backward glance at the past, combined with a waiting—sometimes hopeful, more often despairing. 

In all of the poems in Wayfaring, a couple of things stand out. One (and this is what impressed me the most) is the poet’s ability to conjure up word pictures. She is so good at imagery that every now and then, I found myself transported to the place in question, seeing it, smelling it, feeling it. Whether it’s the Himalayas or the Kashmir Valley or Delhi (or Varanasi, as in the memorable On the Banks of the Ganges), she evokes it brilliantly. 

Then, there is the depth of feeling which comes through. Often, it’s a feeling of loss (this comes through, for me at least, most strongly in the Exile Poems, which so poignantly depict the pain of the forced exile of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley). There is despair, as in Exhaustion – 2, which is shatteringly tragic, and so true. ” 

Read it all HERE 

Do buy the book from any online book vendor across the globe.

A lot more is in store and I will be updating the blog with recipes and travel posts regularly for sometime. Will also keep sharing the poetry news. Another poem and a few more photographs of a city park will also be shared shortly.

Till then keep reading and sharing your views.

Pink Cassia haze on a hot summer noon

 

Recipe – Cooked Sweet And Sour Raw Mango & Onion Chutney


 

Though there are hundred of recipes for mango relish and chutneys made with raw mangoes this one is unique because it uses red onions unlike the other cooked sweet and sour chutneys with raw mango and jaggery.

I learned it at my in-laws’ house where every summer my MIL would make this lip smacking chutney and we devoured it with parathas, missi roti, cheelas, poori or curd rice or just licked it off the spoon. I was surprised how the onion gave a unique flavor to the chutney. I had not eaten or seen this earlier but  found that it was regular summer special in her village in Una district of Himachal Pradesh. Many other areas in Punjab too had a slightly different version of it.

This chutney can stay in the fridge for at least a month. Always choose unblemished raw mangoes for this, a bigger variety is better but you can use any local variety. I use pure organic jaggery for it. Unfortunately you can’t replace it sugar. The texture and taste will completely change. It is advisable to make it in an iron wok or kadai to get the maximum benefit and taste.

It is a simple recipe to follow.

Ingredients:

Raw Mangoes -1 kg

Pure Jaggery  – As required. It depends on how sweet you want the chutney to be. The taste should be a perfect balance. 100 gm is usually good.

Red Onions – 4 large

Black pepper corns – 8-10

Red chili powder -1 teaspoon

Asafoetida –  1-2 pinch

Cumin Seeds -1 teaspoon

Vegetable Oil – 3 tablespoon

Broken Dry whole red chili – 1-2 (remove the seeds)

Salt – to taste

Method:

Wash, peel and slice the mangoes in long pieces.

Peel and cut the onions in thin slices.

Grate the jaggery and keep aside.

In an iron wok / kadai  or heavy bottom pan heat the oil,  once the oil is hot lower the flame and add cumin seeds. When the seeds begin to crackle, add black peppercorns, whole red chili and onion slices. Add asafoetida or hing and stir.

Cook on low medium flame till the onions become a nice golden brown then add sliced raw mango. Mix all the ingredients properly and add salt, chili powder. Mix the spices well so that all the mango pieces get properly coated.

Cover with a lid and cook on low flame till the mango slices become soft. Keep stirring in between.  Once the pieces are soft yet firm add the grated jaggery.

The amount can vary according to the taste but keep in mind that there should be a perfect balance of sweet and sour. I prefer it less sweet and more spiced.

Cook the mixture on low heat and keep stirring so it  doesn’t stick to the pan bottom. Check for the spice, salt sweetness and adjust if required. While cooking make sure that the mango slices retain their texture. They shouldn’t become a mush.

Once the jaggery melts properly and everything gets mixed nicely turn off the gas and let the chutney cool. Spoon in the chutney in a clean and dry jar and put the lid on.

Always use clean, dry spoon to take out the chutney.

 

एक शहर ये भी – कविता 8 – दरगाह हज़रत निजामुद्दीन


Pen and watercolor © Tikuli 

एक ख़ुशनुमा सुबह ख़ींच लायी मुझे
निज़ाम्मुद्दीन बस्ती की तंग गलियों में
मन जा रुक गया महबूब – ए – इलाही की
महकती चौखट पे और ग़म सब घुल गए
खुसरो की मोहब्बत के मदवे में,
इत्र और गुलाब से महकते दरख्तों की शाखों से
छन कर आती रौशनी में डोलते खोये खोये से
कुछ अल्फ़ाज़ ढूढ़ते थे शायद मेरी तरह आशियाँ कोई,
कभी छज्जों, मेहराबों कभी दरीचों पे, फिर चुपचाप
आ बैठते किसी परिंदे के सूने पड़े घरोंदे में
या फिर सुफियाना हवाओं से लिपट उतर आते
इश्क़ से पाक आँगन में महफ़िल ऐ समाअ की खुशबू
से बे-ख़ुद दरवेशों की तरह
रूह में रूह, जिस्म में जिस्म घुलने लगा
जब तान क़व्वाली की बुलंदी चढ़ी
इश्क़ उड़ चला धूनी से बन रेहमत का धुआं
और लगा समाने दुआ ऐ सब्र बन
मज़ार की जाली से बंधे मन्नतों के धागों में
न फिर खुदी रही न बेखुदी,
फ़िज़ा, दरख़्त, परिंदे , धुप, छाँव
सब मुझमे, मैं उनमे
समय एक श्म्म सा जलता रहा
 दुआ इ रौशनी के चरागों में
चश्मा ए दिलखुशा के सब्ज़ पानी
पर सुकूँ के गहराते साये और
लोभान से महकती शाम के दरमियाँ
 हज़रत औलिया की धूल माथे लिए
बाँध आयी मैं फिर एक मन्नत का डोरा

Delhi Monuments – Safdarjung’s Tomb Complex


Safdar Jung’s Tomb complex or Mansur ka Maqbara, as locals call it, holds a special place in my heart. I think the tomb was never meant to rival Humayun’s Tomb as sighted everywhere but to solely honor Mirza Muqin Abul Mansur Khan, viceroy of Awadh and later the chief minister known by his title, Safdar Jung.  He was a powerful governor and the state of Awadh or oudh virtually became independent of the Mughal empire under Safdar Jung and his successors till it was annexed by the British in 1857. It rivaled Delhi in literature, architecture, art.  Satyajit Ray’s classic movie, Shatranj Ke Khiladi (The Chess Players) was set in the backdrop of Awadh.

This garden tomb was the last architectural project of Mughal era in Delhi.

There is an undisturbed calm that fills the tomb complex as it is not crowded with tourists like the other tombs. A sereneness that draws you in. It may be “imperfect” architecturally but as a whole the entire complex is awe inspiring.

Remember what Sheldon’s mother says in Big Bang Theory? “Sometimes it’s the imperfect stuff that makes things perfect.”

Keep in mind that this artistically magnificent tomb is that of a prime minister in the Mughal Empire, “Wazir-ul-Mamlikat-i-Hindustan” and not that of an emperor or a Mughal royal. Even his master Muhammad Shah Rangila doesn’t enjoy the luxury of such a splendid spacious resting place. Though he may have that fine ornate carvings, characteristic of  mid 18th century Mughal era, inside his tomb.

As for the marble being stolen from Rahim Khan e Khana’s tomb there are two theories on this. One is the popular one floating everywhere and mentioned by historians too that some of the exterior stone (marble) was plundered from Rahim’s tomb while constructing Safdarjung’s tomb.

The second theory I read refutes the first. As per Aga Khan Trust ( who are restoring Rahim’s Tomb) no material from there was used in Safdar Jung’s Tomb. The analyzed stone cladding is totally different. I am no historian or expert to give my views on it but I still feel that wherever the stones came from should not belittle the efforts of creating this grand mausoleum. Sir Syed Ahmed wrote about that in his book too.

 

The triple storied heavily ornamented gateway of the tomb complex is a photographers’ delight. The splendid floral and geometrical patterns that adorns the facade symmetrically around the jharokha of the arched entrance are stunningly done in orange, green and purple. One of the prettiest gateways in Delhi especially in comparison to the much touted Humayun’s Tomb. Only a few of the buildings by later Mughals have this Bangla jharokha style incorporated with the inverted arches in their buildings as per my knowledge. Correct me if I’m wrong.

One can barely see one of the fading fish motifs, the royal insignia of Awadh, on the left side under the base of the arch. The other is not visible at all. It reminds one of  Safdar Jung’ glorious connection with Awadh. The arched walls of the gate frame the tomb perfectly and trust me it is a very surreal experience to stand there and watch the grand mausoleum. There is a lot of work in incised plaster in the interior of the gate.

The Arabic inscription over the main entry gate to the central chamber of the tomb reads, “When the hero of plain bravery departs from the transitory, may he become a resident of god’s paradise”.

A gate on the right side leads to the three domed mosque.  most of the chambers of the madarsa and the mosque is not accessible to the pubic which is the case in many of the monuments in Delhi. A very frustrating rule. I was not permitted to step in the courtyard or into the mosque to see the Ablution or the Waju Khana with a fountain that is a rare occurrence in such mosques.

The gardens are filled with bird calls and it is soothing to see such a treasure of unique trees and shrubs. I was able to see the gorgeous Sita Ashok, mango and the Indian Gooseberry (Awla) in bloom, the kadamb fruiting in full glory with squirrels and birds feasting on the ripe fruits, the beautiful shrubs of Red Kund / Red Jasmine lining the main pathway to the tomb.

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The manicured lawns, the swaying palms, the gardeners at work, the entire tranquility just lift  your tired spirits. You must look up the gardens whenever visiting any of the monuments.  The waterways are always dry but the well had a motor attached for watering the garden which was a welcome sight as earlier I remember seeing it all neglected and was cordoned off with the stone lattice work fence.

Don’t know how deep it is. Was it used to quench the thirst of weary travelers or those staying in the pavilions in the complex apart from being the prime water source to the gardens? Perhaps a Persian water wheel was used for garden irrigation or water was even hand drawn too for drinking. I’m trying yo picture the scene. Nothing online about the well perhaps because these wells are poor cousins of the mighty step-wells..lol …I’ve seen a beautiful working well in khair ul manazil mosque. There’s one in Nili masjid too but closed and not in use.

Built in 1753-54 AD, Safdar Jung’s tomb is set on a high plinth containing series of recessed arches. It is surrounded by a 300-sq-meter garden in typical Mughal style charbagh pattern where the garden is divided in four squares by walking paths and canals leading to the three pavilions that are, as expected of ASI, out of bound for public. The tomb is in the center. There are four two storied minarets in the four corners of the square structure.

The onion shaped dome, made of white marble and pink stone, rising above a 16 sided sandstone drum stands out uniquely amidst the other tombs and monuments of that period. Designed and built by Abyssinian architect Shaidi Bilal Mohammad Khan the tomb is a fine example of Persian and Indian architecture. The bulbous shape derives from Persian Timurid domes and the elegant lotus finial with a marble pinnacle derives from the Hindu temples.

(I lost a few pictures so sorry for this shoddy one. Will change when I visit the tomb next.)

The interior of the dome has beautiful work in molded limestone plaster or stucco as we know it. The medallions with looped floral designs are surrounded by radiating petals and carried on honeycomb pendents that rise in multilayered formations. The dome consists of eight chambers, the central one housing the pristine white marble cenotaph of Safdar Jung. One of the most ornate and beautiful ones in Delhi.

The actual graves or burial chambers of Safadrjung and his wife Amat Jahan Begum are placed in an underground chamber of the monument.

The central chamber has four entrances and the play of light and shadow in the chamber is stunning.

Hidden staircase in the plinth leads to the tomb level and the tomb interior can be accessed via flight of stairs on the two sides. Each of the side room is decorated with rococo plaster work. Each designs different from the other. The minaret in the four corners are lined with thin marble strips and have a chatri on top.  

The Mughal Empire by the mid 1700s and there may have been several factors and not just short funds leading to the hurried patchwork in the making of this tomb. I wish someone researches this a bit more.

There is a certain grace about this tomb made of red sandstone and marble. I hope the monument gets its due and people stop quoting it as resembling an “elderly courtesan”..  (highly exaggerated), “last flicker…” and “poor copy” of Humayun’s Tomb etc. The mausoleum is perfect in its so called imperfection. 

Look beyond what is served to you on platter and visit the tomb with no preconceived notions. Its quiescence will draw you in like nothing else.