For all my extra time and planning for Divali, I got far less done than usual! I had forgotten that one of the days I was counting as a bonus was actually the day I teach from 9 to 5! But it was not a completely lost cause. The huge cauldron of chiwda I made kept all happy. The ladoos turned out well as always and there were enough to last until Sunday! The son’s stash is all packed and ready to be mailed. I know, I procrastinate there as well! But to him Divali means chakli, which I am yet to make. I plan to get to it this weekend and also plan to record the process here before I lose the precious family recipe.
I would have gotten to the chakli surely this past weekend but TH, almost on the spur of the moment, decided enough was enough and it was time to take the car on a long drive. Off we were early the morning after Divali. There was hardly any traffic to speak of all the way from Delhi to Narkanda! I have promised myself more such holidays every year! We left home at 6am, and at just 11:00 we got our first glimpse of the mountains. We did stop for a breakfast of tandoori aloo paranthas and chai at a wayside dhaba at around 9:00. I hadn’t visited Shimla so we took a midday break there for a couple of hours. The Mall is a great place to walk forbidden as it is to all traffic. Smoking is not permitted in public spaces in Shimla making the Mall a great place to hangout.
Walking down the Mall, TH spotted a shoe shop bursting at the seams with all kinds of hand-crafted shoes. It was owned by an ethnic Chinese man who spoke impeccable Hindi and English; his family must have lived here for generations. He wouldn’t budge even the teeniest bit on the price but I thought it would be nice to own a pair of well-crafted shoes. Given the popularity and profusion of branded shops selling mass-produced footwear I was happy to smell the leather in this quaint, ill-organised but well-stocked family-owned place that obviously knows how to do business.
I will get into the details of this driving holiday another time (if I do!). First, I want to tell you about the fruits I found on our way back and what I did with them. Last month I spotted persimmons at the Mother Dairy F&V store for the first time. I asked the attendant who didn’t even know what they were called. I inquired where they were from to which he replied, “Japan!” But, he was wrong. These were sourced from the neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh where both types, the smaller squished-tomato-shaped Fuyu, as well as the larger Hachiya persimmons are now being cultivated! I had never eaten this fruit before and decided that the bright coloured fruit was worth exploring. So, along with 10 kilos of Golden Delicious apples, 2 kilos of kiwi, I also bough 1kg each of these two varieties of persimmons.
The Fuyu persimmons can be eaten with their skin when still firm and a bright orange/yellow in colour. The larger, Hachiya, variety needs to be fully ripe (it should be jelly-soft to the touch) before it can be consumed; unripe ones will make your mouth pucker and might even irritate the lining of your throat. I waited a few days before these were ripe enough, then peeled and sliced the soft fruit [you may cut it in half and scoop out the flesh]. The sweet, bright orange jelly-like flesh is similar in taste to chikoo (sapota), but without the gritty-ness. I found it to be very pleasant tasting. The firm Fuyus are sweet and juicy, and can be sliced or bitten into as you would eat an apple. Persimmons bruise easily when ripe so take care when transporting them! I processed the slightly bruised fruit (the Fuyus) along with some apples for jam the next day. The two remaining Hachiyas are also almost ripe now. I wonder how their orange flesh would combine with the bright green kiwis in a jam? Watch this space! Persimmon-Apple Jam 4 apples (such as Golden Delicious), peeled, cored, and sliced 5 Fuyu persimmons, peeled, leaves removed, pureed 2 T ginger julienne zest of 3 limes juice of 3 limes 5.5 C sugar 2 t red chilli flakes (makes about 2.5kgs/5lbs) Combine the first five ingredients with one cup of water in a non-reactive pan [I used the pan of my new stainless steel pressure cooker I bought on Dhanteras!]. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down just a bit so the contents can continue to boil. Cook till the fruit, including the lime zest, is soft (about 20-30 minutes). Add the sugar gradually, keeping the mixture at a rolling boil the whole time. Do not dump in all your sugar at once. Cook on a rapid boil till the jam reaches setting stage (15-20minutes). Do the setting-point test before taking it off the heat. Fill into sterilised jars; cap while still hot. Wipe jars with a moist rag. Refrigerate opened bottles.