Summer special: Sugar, spice and everything ice
When I asked on Twitter for favourite Indian ices, I unleashed a wave of nostalgia and wistfulness. From kala khatta, known as “pepsi” and sold at school gates and on the beach in Mumbai, to packet-wali chuski in Meerut and khatta meetha at India Gate in Delhi. Gola, chuski, snow cones, popsicles, we love them and miss them and worry that commercial brands of ice cream are gradually seeing off our homespun ices. Here are some old favourites and a few new ideas to try making them at home.
Peach and apricot ice
A lovely fruit-packed popsicle. Peel and chop enough peaches and apricots to fill your popsicle moulds, then fill the moulds to the top with fresh orange juice. Put a popsicle stick into each and leave
in the freezer until completely frozen.
Rose and lemon ice
This is another one to make in popsicle or kulfi moulds. Mix together 500ml water, 4 tablespoons of rose syrup or Rooh Afza, sugar and lemon juice to taste. Pour the liquid into the moulds, add popsicle sticks and leave in the freezer overnight.
Kala khatta aka ‘Pepsi’
The simplest version of the kala khatta is a cupful of shaved ice with a store-bought syrup poured over.But commercially-made syrups often have a lot of nasties in the ingredients list so it’s better to make it yourself at home.
The jamuns in kala khatta are incredibly healthy—they are good for digestion, are said to cool the body and can even help control diabetes. The kala namak (black salt) helps replace the minerals the body loses when sweating. To make, remove the seeds from 10 jamuns, and grind the fruit to a paste. Press the fruit through a sieve, add lemon juice, sugar, kala namak to taste. Pour over a cupful of shaved or grated ice and eat like a sorbet or granita.
Mango and pomegranate ice with pomegranate seeds
This fruit-packed popsicle looks gorgeous and tastes even better. Arrange some chopped mango and pomegranate seeds into some popsicle moulds, then fill the moulds to the top with mango juice. Put a stick in each mould, then leave in the freezer until completely frozen.
There is probably no better way to beat the summer heat than with kachhi kairi, basically aam ka panna on a stick. You could use a store-bought syrup but you would just be cheating yourself of the real thing. For that, boil two unripe mangoes in water for 10-15 minutes until tender. Peel and scrape out the mango flesh, then mash by hand with salt, sugar, roasted, ground cumin seed, kala namak (black salt) and chilli powder to taste. Either pour over shaved ice or use a quantity of aam ka panna (using more syrup than you would if you were going to drink it), then pour into popsicle moulds and freeze.
Rainbow gola (all syrup flavours on one ‘gola’)
One person on Twitter said he had never tried ices because he didn’t like the look of people’s tongues when they’d finished eating them, but many people think of this as the defining ice of their childhoods. To make, fill a bowl with shaved ice, put as many flavours of store-bought syrup over as possible, then slurp until your tongue is a deep purplish brown colour.
Phalsa with kala namak
This is probably my favourite Indian ice, partly because we don’t get phalsa berries where I come from, so they’re a bit of a novelty. I first tasted it at Kuremal Mahavir Prasad Kulfiwale in Old Delhi (they also make amazing rose, tamarind and custard apple varieties) and loved it so much that I once begged the owner, Mahavir Prasad, for the recipe. Here it is as he gave it to me:
2kg phalsa berries
Half a litre of water
Juice of 2-3 lemons
1. Crush the phalsa with a mortar and pestle to extract the juice.
2. Add the water to the juicy mass.
3. Put a fine muslin cloth over a bowl and tip the phalsa mixture into it and press until all the juice is extracted.
4. Add lemon juice to taste. At this point, Kuremal add a dash of their secret masala formula, probably black salt, cumin and cardamom.
5. Pour the juice into kulfi moulds and freeze.
Khus with mint and lemon
Khus (vetiver), with its cooling and anti-inflammatory properties, is a great favourite in summer, both as a drink and in popsicles. Mix together 2 tablespoons of khus syrup, the juice of half a lemon, a handful of mint leaves, kala namak to taste, and 300ml water. Put in a blender and blitz. Pour the liquid into popsicle or kulfi moulds with popsicle sticks and put in the freezer until frozen.
Now we’re all grown-ups, and some of us like a little alcohol in our popsicles. I found this recipe in Niloufer Ichaporia King’s My Bombay Kitchen book. Make a syrup by dissolving 1 cup of sugar in 1 cup of water over moderate heat. Cool, then add 1 cup of syrup to 2 cups of citrus juice (grapefruit, tangerine, orange), add a pinch of salt, and more of the sugar syrup to taste. Then add a dash of Angostura bitters or a little Campari, mix and freeze in popsicle moulds.
Tomato and orange ice or ‘Bloody Mehra’
This is another idea from King (see “Citrus Ice”), a riff on a Bloody Mary, or, as she calls it, “Bloody Mehra”. Chop up 1kg of ripe tomatoes, then cook them in a pan until soft. Cool, and then blend and strain. Add a little water so you have a tomato-juice consistency. Add an equal amount of orange juice, mix and season with salt and lots of pepper. Add some vodka or tequila. Freeze in popsicle moulds or a shallow container.