Remember those summer days of tree swings, hopscotch, lawn cricket, hide-and-seek and canal swimming lessons? And those gangs of gaggling kids exploring the haunted bungalow trailed by a lone, love hungry puppy? And skimming flat stones on the lake?
Remember those skinned shins of urchins who ran from the forbidden orchards with shirtfuls of mangoes and the asthmatic gurkha in reluctant pursuit? Playing cards under the gulmohar, a picnic basket of sandwiches and snacks; honeydew memories condensed on the leaves of childhood.
Those days that dragged the children into the kitchen canopy with their parched throats of carefree mirth and their parched throats of carefree mirth were met with the tingling trickle of fresh, cold aampanna!
Nothing brings back those memories better than the homely aampanna, shikanji and kokum sherbet.
Now then, let’s get down to the business of concocting that cure for homesickness. Here’s a simple recipe for making your own aampanna. Cheers to nostalgia!
A couple of large, raw mangoes
Two teaspoons of cumin
One teaspoon of black pepper
A couple of fresh sprigs of mint
A block of jaggery
Two teaspoons of black salt or rock salt
One tablespoon of turmeric powder
Ice cubes (as much as you need)
How do I make it?
Dunk the mangoes in lukewarm water. Throw in a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of turmeric powder. Don’t let them surface for a couple of hours.
Wrap the mangoes in the aluminium foil and barbeque for 3-5 minutes, till the peel starts to scream.If you can’t barbeque, shut the mangoes up in an oven running at 350F for a couple of minutes. Or run it over an open flame and keep turning the sides. This makes it easier to skin them and also imparts a sublime smoky flavour.
Next, pour enough water to cook the roasted mangoes in a pressure cooker. 10 minutes on high flame or couple of whistles and Bob’s your uncle.
Discard peel. Extract pulp.
Roast cumin till light brown. Chuck it in a blender along the black salt, black pepper, mint and jaggery. Use jaggery 2X the amount of extracted mango pulp. You might have to break up the jaggery into smaller chunks before blending.
One glass of water + one tablespoon of the blended mixture + ice + fresh mint leaves for garnishing = one healthy helping of cooling refreshment.Vitamin C, iron, salt and sugars make aampanna an unbeatable cooler electrolyte for sweaty days.
The blended mixture has a shelf life of one week under refrigeration. Always serve chilled.
There isn’t a more potent cure for homesickness than a lazy evening with your childhood buddies reliving those experiences, accompanied by countless rounds of your own home-made-with-love aampanna or (even better!) get hold of second class tickets on the first train back to your home town with an old tome of RK Narayan’s Swami and Friends.