It was dusty, hot and the sights and smells so intense they were almost intoxicating…….. We had arrived in Varanasi. Being the first trip to India's Holy city, everyone had warned that being there during the Holy Week would be intense. After dropping our bags off at the hotel we gazed across the many ghats that lined the holy Ganga – a multitude of different coloured saris, walking, talking quickly, some men whacking clothing against concrete stones and washing, people doing daily prayers knee deep in water. A culture and landscape so far removed from Australia. We make our way out into the streets, dodging holy cows and their fresh dung which we later saw being shaped into patties and put in the sun to dry for fire material. Past the cute holes in the walls where fresh buffalo Chai was being served in small recyclable clay cups. Past the little tourist restaurants advertising ‘pizza’ made with chaat flour and Himalayan goat’s cheese. We emerged at a dusty square where fruit and vegetable stalls displayed papaya and mango and eggplants and spices. Children on their way to school. There was even the mandatory snake charmer! And then...... a man peddled past ringing his bell, a small icebox on the back of his bicycle – “Kulfi……Kulfi”….. Hot and craving something cold, we cautiously approach and with one lick discover a sweet cardamom and cinnamon- laced ice dessert never to be forgotten. So refreshing and different. Some might call it ‘curry ice-cream’ – you either love it or hate it.
The following recipe has always been experimented with and changed to suit the occasion or desired flavour. The use of native spices like cinnamon myrtle, lilly pilly and pepper berry can be substituted for the traditional Indian spices of cardamom and cinnamon. Travel and discovery of other food cultures is an important part of every chef or cook's learning. With each trip, and the specialities discovered, we are able to return refreshed and inspired, ready to recreate and to fuse together international flavours to create ongoing reminders of the places we have been.
Ingredients: Serves 4
500ml of milk or buffalo milk
100ml coconut cream
1 tablespoon jaggery
2 tablespoons demerera sugar
6 cardamom pods, crushed
1 cinnamon stick or piece of cassia bark
handful of chopped pistachios or sandalwood nuts
1 tablespoon desiccated coconut
diced papaya half
shaved fresh young coconut meat
edible gold leaf and pistachios to garnish
1 Combine spices with milk and bring to the boil
2 Lower to a simmer, add coconut cream and reduce by half.
3 Add sugars and desiccated coconut and simmer for ten minutes.
4 Set aside to cool and steep for 30 minutes
5 Strain mixture, add nuts and cool completely in fridge
6 Pour straight into container and put in freezer. Remove every twenty minutes to crush up and prevent ice crystals. On third mix, pour into 4-6 dariole or kulfi moulds (if available)
7 Alternatively, churn mixture in an icecream machine until at a soft serve consistency then pour into moulds.
8 Place in freezer until firm
9 Turn out onto plates and surround with diced papaya (may need to dip in hot water)
Garnish with nuts, gold leaf and shaved fresh young coconut or whatever you fancy.