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Traditional with a twist: Homemade coolers for a delicious, nutritious summer

 

Let’s face it. The mercury is on the rise and it’s going to stay at a constant high for at least another month or so. But instead of wistfully wishing away the heat, we thought it best to meditate on ways to stay cool this summer. In our search for innovative ideas, we took a step back into tradition, realising that grandma really does know best. The recipe for summer cool, is, quite literally easy to whip up in your own kitchen. Which is just what we did, with a little help from Chef Vikram Arora. Previously with San Qi at the Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai, he has established his own restaurant, Tamak in Mumbai, to serve up updated versions of north Indian dishes with a liberal dose of nostalgia, of course. He firmly believes in the goodness of home-spun recipes. “Nothing can beat making coolers at home because their nutritional value is always going to be higher than market-bought ones that come loaded with preservatives. Plus, traditional Indian beverages are made using seasonal fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs, which are natural coolants, making them not just healthier but also ideal to deal with Indian summers,” he says. His suggestions combine traditional ingredients, syrups and age-old coolers such as buttermilk, shikanji and even that good old family drink, Rooh Afza but, with a twist.
 

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Here are the five summer coolers he recommends we cool off with, and why the ingredients work:
 

1.    Basil and Aloe Vera Rooh Afza (Serves 4)
Why it works: “Basil fortifies the digestive and nervous systems, while also being beneficial for the skin. Aloe vera hydrates the body and prevents heat strokes; it also keeps skin healthy due to its nutritional qualities.”

Ingredients
-
    8 tablespoons Rooh Afza syrup
-    4 glasses chilled water
-    16 nos fresh basil leaves
-    24 pieces aloe vera, peeled and diced
-    Sugar (optional)

Method:
1.    In a bowl, mix Rooh Afza syrup, sugar and water till sugar
       dissolves.
2.    Finely chop eight of the basil leaves and add to the mix.
3.    Pour the mix into a glass. Add aloe vera equally in each glass.
4.    Serve chilled after garnishing with a skewer of basil leaf.

2.    Curry Leaf Ambi Panna (Serves 4)
Why it works: “Curry leaf gets its distinctive flavour as it’s a vitamin- and mineral-rich ingredient. Its known for being the antidote to digestive problems, a common occurrence in the summer.”

Ingredients
-    
2 raw mangoes, peeled
-    ½ cup sugar
-    ½ teaspoon black salt
-    ¼ teaspoon red chilli powder
-    ¼ teaspoon roasted cumin powder
-    ¼ teaspoon black pepper powder
-    20 curry leaves, dried and powdered
-    4 tablespoons anardana goli
-    Salt to taste

Method:
1.    In a pan, add water to boil mangoes along with the spices and
       condiments (excluding the dried curry leaf powder). Allow it to
       simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the fruit becomes pulp-like.
       Then allow it to cool.
2.    Scrape the pulp from the seed and skin of the mangoes.
3.    Blend the extracted pulp.
4.    Add it in a glass along with dried curry leaf powder. Serve
       chilled with anardana goli.


3.    Hing-Smoked Chaas 
(Serves 4)
Why it works: “Asafoetida (hing) has digestive and cooling properties, making it the ideal additional to the classic buttermilk recipe.”

Ingredients
For the buttermilk:
-    2 cups yoghurt
-    4 cups water
-    ¼ teaspoon roasted cumin powder
-    ½ teaspoon black salt
-    Salt to taste
 

For the smoke:
-    A pinch of asafoetida (hing)
-    1 piece of charcoal
-    ¼ teaspoon desi ghee

For the paste:
-    2 tablespoons fresh green coriander, roughly chopped
-    12 mint leaves
-    ½ ginger
-    1-2 green chillies

Method:

1.    Grind the ingredients for the paste in a mixer to form a slightly coarse paste.
2.    In a mixing bowl, whisk yoghurt to a smooth consistency, then dilute with water. Add salt, roasted cumin powder, black salt and paste. Mix well.
3.    In a stainless-steel bowl, place a piece of live charcoal. Set this bowl into a bigger stainless-steel bowl and add asafoetida over the live
       charcoal. Then add desi ghee. Cover the big bowl immediately with a lid to prevent the smoke from escaping. Keep it covered for 10 minutes.
4.    Remove the smaller bowl and pour the prepared buttermilk (step 2) in the bigger bowl (which was used for smoking the asafoetida).
       Place a lid and cover for 10 minutes in the same bowl.
5.    Chill or add ice before stirring and pouring in a glass. Garnish with coriander and roasted cumin powder before serving.

 

4.    Saffron and Chia Seeds Mango Shake (Serves 4)
Why it works: “Saffron is one of the most valued ingredients in the country not just for its flavour or colouring but, most importantly, for being an antioxidant with several health benefits. On the other hand, chia seeds are packed with omega 3 fatty acids, fibre, calcium and phosphorus and are low on calories.”

Ingredients
   2 ripe mangoes, peeled and cubed
   2 cups milk
   Few strands of saffron
   2 teaspoons chia seeds
   4 scoops mango ice cream
   8-10 ice cubes
   Sugar to taste

Method:
1.    Blend mango cubes and sugar to a smooth paste.
2.    Pour milk, saffron strands and blend again to a lush
       consistency.
3.    Serve chilled in a glass with a scoop of mango ice cream,
       topped with chia seeds and a strand of saffron as garnish.

5.    Turmeric Shikanji (Serves 4)
Why it works: “Turmeric is one of the most powerful medicines and provides numerous health benefits. It is an antioxidant and a natural anti-inflammatory compound.”

Ingredients
-    
2 pieces dry turmeric, soaked overnight
-    6 tablespoons lime juice
-    4 tablespoons sugar syrup
-    ¼ teaspoon black pepper powder
-    ½ teaspoon roasted cumin powder
-    ¾ teaspoon black salt
-    1 litre soda water
-    8 ice cubes
-    Salt to taste

Method:
1.    Grind the soaked turmeric into a paste.
2.    In a glass, add paste, sugar syrup, lime juice and powdered
       spices. Mix well.
3.    Add ice cubes and pour chilled soda water. Stir and serve.

Production

Nidhi Tiwari

Photographs

Madhurjya Saikia

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