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Basundi for a Berry Hot Summer

Posted Apr 01 2010 12:00am
It's been two years since I posted a sweet dish on my blog.  We no longer really eat any rich desserts, it's been a long time, except maybe during the occasional family visits.  Our aftermeal nibbles have largely been confined to bitter dark chocolate which we really love.

But that doesn't mean we've completely sworn off it all.  When we have an abundance of seasonal fruits and we tire of having them just as they are, I love to combine them with milk in different ways.  While icecreams are a favorite treat for most during the sweltering heat of summer for most people, I prefer chilled basundi because not only can you appreciate the creamy smoothness better (in case of ice-creams the taste is lost in the extreme cold after a while with your tongue going numb), it is definitely easier on the teeth.  :-)  

If made at home, you can control the fat and sugar content, maybe use stevia or other sugar substitute instead.  But for those who want to take the easy way out, there are readymade products in the market, the best I feel being from Amul .  Just add nuts and cut or pureed fruit to the same.  Basundi can even be added to milkshakes to get a creamier consistency.

Mahabaleshwar, in Maharashtra state of India, is the largest grower of strawberries in the country. Their strawberries are heavenly, full of flavor and freshness.  You can get them aplenty between February and May.  The strawberry festival is celebrated during this time, sponsored by Mapro, Mahabaleshwar's famous processed fruit manufacturers.  The streets become alight with dancing and processions, the energy in the air is palpable.  One should at least visit the place once in one's lifetime anytime during the first four months of the year.  The backdrop of the Sahyadri range of hills is spectacular and the view is worth the time taken to visit the place.

To prepare basundi at home, you will need two liters of fresh whole-cream milk.  Set this in a pan and allow it to boil away until it is reduced to half its quantity.  The milk will thicken a bit.  Here one can actually add cream and stir it into the milk if a richer consistency is required.  Add sugar or stevia extract or any other preferred sweetener.  Add powdered cardamom and, if you have it, saffron.  Turn off the stove and allow the flavors to diffuse.  Roasted nuts (almonds, cashews, pistaccios) can be added as required.  Once the basundi has cooled, chopped fruits along with puree can be added.

I've made both strawberry basundi and mulberry basundi.  Mulberry has been a new addition to Mahabaleshwar's collection of berries.  When ripe they are incredibly sweet  and tasty, staining your fingers (and your clothes too if you're not careful) a delicious purple.  For the strawberry basundi, I just chop up the strawberries and add it to the chilled basundi.  In case of mulberry, I mash the berries one by one, pulling out their stems, and add them to the basundi.  The berries are best appreciated this way when soft and ripe, rather like plums.  Chill the dish before serving.

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