Kulfi is a velvety-rich milk dessert, and I will always remember pista (pistachio) kulfi, sold at the 100-year-old Irani creamery in Mumbai, for its vivid green color and dense consistency. Churned ice cream has air pockets that create fluffy lightness; but in kulfi, reduced milk produces an impenetrable creamy thickness. Plain milk (malai) or pistachio are the two most common flavors, but you’ll usually see mango kulfi during the short season of the prized Alphonso mango — as everybody tries to extend the flavor of this fast-ripening fruit. When I was given a pawpaw at Ferderber Farms in Pennsylvania, the farmer’s wife pointed out its similarity to two tropical fruits of my childhood, mango and custard apple. The pawpaw also shares a small window of time when the fruit is at its best, and I created a pawpaw kulfi to prolong this summer treat.
Native to Pennsylvania and the Eastern part of the country, pawpaw has floral notes and a green outer skin that is like that of a mango. The pale silk-colored flesh, complete with several large black seeds that neatly run through its middle, is similar to custard apple. Pawpaw is an ancient fruit tree, although it has been less popular for awhile. However, if you are in the Pennsylvania area, keep an eye out for this fruit.: Pawpaw is delicious on its own, and can also be substituted in any recipe that uses mango.
Whole milk – 2 cups
Evaporated milk – 1½ cup
Condensed milk – ¼ cup
Cardamom pods – 3
Pawpaw – 1, peeled, flesh mashed
Unsalted pistachio nuts – crushed for decoration
Add the milk and evaporated milk to a cast iron pan. Bring to a boil, and then immediately lower the heat to simmer. Stir continuously for the next five minutes. Fold in any milky film that forms on the surface.
Add the condensed milk and the cardamom pods. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring continuously. The milk will thicken as it reduces in volume.
Remove from heat.
While the milk is still hot, add the mashed pawpaw, stirring until well incorporated.
Discard the cardamom pods.
Let the kulfi cool to room temperature.
Once cooled, pour the kulfi into small individual glass cups or molds and cover with aluminum foil. Alternatively, pour into a large stainless steel container with a lid. Freeze for about eight hours.
When ready to serve, dip the individual moulds into hot water, allowing the hot water to come up the sides and loosen the kulfi from the mold. Serve immediately.
In my experience when writing a regular food blog, often two disparate food-related events culminate in a new recipe or a twist on a memorable flavor. This time around, it was a case of overripe mangoes in addition to excess yogurt from experiments with a starter culture. Combining these two ingredients brought back memories from my childhood in Bombay of a wholesome, custardy dessert – shrikhand.
Shrikhand (pronounced shreek-ind), from the western states of India, combines the velvety richness of thickened yogurt with hints of warm floral notes from saffron and cardamom and a crunchy finish of pistachio nuts. Similar to ricotta, the creamy strained yogurt also complements pureed fruits, which gave me the idea to pair it with mango. When I was young, my father would bring home a small box of freshly-churned shrikhand made at a roadside stall. This unpretentious shop was exactly what today’s gourmet hopes to find, tucked in a market selling everything from vegetables to plumbing equipment. At that time, shrikhand was expensive as the ingredients were all top quality; which is why we only ever received a small box! Making shrikhand at home was much easier than I had expected, and perfectly recaptured the taste of my memory. The silky, thick consistency of the strained yogurt pairs well with mango’s natural sweetness.
Yogurt (32 oz) – 1
Mango – 1, peeled and pureed
Superfine sugar – 2 tbsp + more if needed
Saffron strands – 3-4
Milk – 1 tbsp
Cardamom powder – ½- ¾ tsp
Pistachio nuts – 10, lightly crushed
Cheesecloth or muslin
Strain the yogurt through a cheesecloth. Tie the ends of the cheesecloth together to form a bag. Suspend the bag high over a bowl, such that the whey liquid can drain out without touching the bag.
Peel, slice, and puree the mango. Put the mango pulp in a colander, to drain any excess juice.
Warm the milk for 10 seconds, and add the saffron strands. The milk should turn a warm yellow color in about 5-7 minutes.
Combine the strained yogurt, mango, sugar, saffron milk, and cardamom powder. Whip them together with a fork or whisk, until smoothly combined.
Divide and serve in small, individual ramekin- sized bowls.
Garnish with a few pistachio pieces.
Note: Use the best quality saffron and cardamom that you can get, as these flavors are subtle. Try the original shrikhand recipe (which uses no fruit) if you don’t have mangoes, adjusting sugar according to your taste.
While visiting my father in India, a friend gifted him with a crate of our favorite mangoes. Alphonso mangoes have a short season and a shorter shelf life, and my father was leaving nothing to chance in order to savor their valuable flavor. He unpacked the wooden crate to aerate and reassemble the contents. Using the jute fiber as a base, he spaced out the mangoes nestling them under a layer of straw. Like a mother bird guarding her eggs, my father hovered over the mangoes for the next few days. Every day, he rotated the mangoes a quarter turn and checked for black spots, especially around the stem. He removed some of the straw to regulate the heat being generated by the mangoes, and waited for the skin to turn a golden orange color – just as their floral aroma reached a peak.
Mangoes, considered the king of fruits (each state and district in India claims to have the best), have a cult-like following, and yet they share something in common with less exotic fruits such as avocado, banana, papaya, pears, and kiwis. All of these fruits are plucked before they can ripen on the tree. They continue to ripen on our kitchen counters with the release of ethylene gas, a natural plant hormone. Trapping the gases hastens ripening, and it is the reason why avocados and pears ripen faster when they are stored in a brown paper bag. The brown paper bag, like straw, allows air circulation and additionally concentrates ethylene gas, which softens and ripens the fruit.
Most fruits and vegetables produce varying amounts of ethylene, which is also responsible for their final degradation. Separating fruits and vegetables, whether in different fruit bowls or shelves in a refrigerator, is important. This prevents a high ethylene producer such as apple from spoiling an already ripe strawberry or citrus fruit. Separating vegetables such as asparagus or leafy greens, a lower ethylene producer, from tomatoes helps keep both fresh for a longer period.
This chart is helpful for separating and storing your produce:
Fruits and Vegetables Classified By Ethylene Production Rates
Very Low: artichoke, asparagus, cauliflower, cherry, citrus fruits, grape, jujube,Strawberry, pomegranate, leafy vegetables, root vegetables, potato, most cut flowers