It got nippy and there it stayed, just nippy. Kashmiri people divide winter into three sub-seasons associated with the intensity of the cold. Right now, we are in the middle of the 40-day period of Chillai Kalan, the harshest part of winter that starts on the night of the winter solstice. It is followed by a 20-day long Chillai Khurd, and then it peters out into a brief 10-day Chillai Baccha, before the herald of Spring in March. Many of our festivals and rituals, as seen in our winter celebrations, are closely tied to a shared history with Persian Zoroastrian traditions.
In Punjab Lohri celebrations, with the ceremonial communal bonfire, mark the coldest night of Winter. Lohri, which was two days ago, on the 13th, came and went with nary a shiver. We were still walking around in the lightest of sweaters here in Delhi. It was far from the coldest night of the winter it is expected to be.
But, the morning after, the clouds rolled in. It hasn’t rained but the Western Disturbances, as they are called, have brought in some chill and the resultant cheer, to Delhi-winters. There should be snow in the mountains too!
I got cracking on my winter soups right away. It was a bowl of bean chili with cornbread on the Thursday night and this beautiful apple soup last night. It’s a new soup that I was introduced to last month when Neelam, our assisting architect in the office, fell ill and explored naturopathy to get better. She was on a liquid diet for a few weeks and survived on this till it made her sicker. She’s back to allopathy. But, I was intrigued. Apple soup, really?
I decided to try it and see for myself. It is delicious and so quick that there is no reason not to make it often! I adjusted the recipe a little. I wasn’t sick or recuperating; some spice was in order. I added fresh ginger first. Last night I had half of a mild fresh red chilli sitting in the fridge looking forlorn and neglected; I seeded it and threw it in as well. As it turned out the bottom half of the said chilli was not at all mild. But it upped the spice and heat of the soup just perfectly.
Here’s my recipe from last night. Do try it! You may use red or green apples or a mix of both. Apples that are past their prime are still good for this soup.
2 medium red Apples
1 t grated ginger
half a fresh hot red chilli (or a teaspoon of chilli flakes) or to taste
a pinch of unrefined sugar
salt to taste
mint sprig, for garnish
Chop up the apples as you wish. I top and tail the core and throw it into the pot, seeds and all. Take about 1 cup of water in a small pressure cooker and put everything into it. Cook under pressure for 4-5 minutes or for three whistles. Wait for the pressure to subside. Puree the contents – I use an immersion blender for this. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add hot water if you want a thinner soup. Serve, garnished with a sprig of mint.