Skip to main content

Climbing the Mango Trees


Before reading this month's book club pick, I had a vague impression of Madhur Jaffrey as an overindulgent diva who makes Indian food sound "too easy". After reading "Climbing the Mango Trees", the memoirs of her growing up years in India, I know why. The memoirs talk less of her childhood in an affluent joint family, and more of the foods she ate. There's daulat ki chaat and paranthey wali gali. There's kulfi and achaar and chaat from the streets. But all these poigant Delhi memories are also spiked with picnic lunches, and dinners with western influence far ahead of it's times.

Loosely written, the memoirs don't really follow a pattern. It's like a hastily scribbled diary, where Madhur writes whatever strikes her that day. I think the book is more charming because of that.

Madhur ends the book with a collection of her family recipes. From her fondly remembered dishes, I picked one of my memories - phirni, the custard-like pudding made with powdered rice.

Step one of making phirni was finding a shallow earthenware dish. That's what I've always eaten phirni in back home and I didn't want it any other way. I didn't spot the dishes for sale anywhere, but I spotted my milkman selling curd in those. And the sweet uncleji happily parted with two dishes I could set my phirni in.

Making phirni itself is easy. I followed Madhur's directions and mixed 2 1/2 tsp of rice flour with 2 tbsp milk to form a paste. Then I brought 230 ml milk to a boil with 2 tbsp sugar. Took it off the heat as soon as it was boiling. Poured it on the rice paste and whisked until it was smooth, the rice completely mixed in. Then returned the milk to the stove and simmered for around 10 minutes. This part is tricky; you have to constantly whisk the milk or you will get clumps of rice in your phirni. Once the custard thickened, I poured it into my two treasured dishes and let it cool at bit. Then sprinkled pistachios and let is chill. Phirni tastes best when cold.

Here's what other book club members came up with:
Janaki made Palak Gosht.
Sheba made Cauliflower with Cheese.
Sweatha made Roz Ki Gobhi.
Jaya made bazar jaisey aloo.
Aqua made Tahiri.
Also, do stop by to read Ann's very interesting story about the book!

Next month, we are reading "Under the Tuscan Sun" by Frances Mayes. If you would like to read with us, leave a comment here and I will get back to you with details.

Comments

Lebouffe said…
Sounds yummy!! -Naina
Prathibha said…
Hmm I love phirni..I make this with ground basmati rice instead of rice flour..looks divine..
Janaki said…
Nice it looks.. :)
Curry Leaf said…
Yum Simran,I made roz ki gobhi.Will be posting it today.I had also made and cheesevali gobhi as well.The phirni is yummilicious.i actually wanted to make the daulat ki chaat but the recipe is elusive and almost impossible to me.
Kanchan said…
Never knew phirni is so simple to prepare ! Loved your review of the book too !
aquadaze said…
wow, envy you those lovely earthern bowls. I always set mine in (boring) glass bowls!
Posting my review tom.
Jaya Wagle said…
Lovely phirni Simran. I am one of the philistines who has never eaten let alone made phirni and when I read her recipe, I wasn't sure it was something I wanted to make. I made bazar jaisey aloo instead with phulka's.

BTW, how come no one emails anymore that there review is up? I had no idea four of us had already put the review out. Will post mine today.
Ranjani said…
That book was romanticized nostalgia for me- I love her writing style.
the phirni looks great, did you serve it in a clay pot? I love those kullad type things!
Deeba PAB said…
Lovely ... I loved the way you wrote your thoughts on the book, and the recipe you picked. That mitti ka kulhad makes the phirini taste so much more earthy. Like your book club too. Quaint & heart-warming!
Oh how nice blogger for Bombay !!
Absolutely adore firni ... funny you write about about mango trees ... a while ago i put up a post on mango firni :)
Annarasa said…
Hi Simran,
Just chanced upon your blog the other day. I'd like to read with the book club. Do let me know the details.

Apu
Lebouffe said…
Tried it out! Thanks a ton!http://le-bouffe.blogspot.com/2010/02/rice-phirni.html
-Naina

Popular posts from this blog

Tales of A Female Nomad

This month, our book club goes on a nomadic tour. We traveled with Rita Golden Gelman, a writer who sold everything she owned after the shock of a divorce and became a nomad. Not a tourist, because Rita stays away from everything that a tourist does and instead, tries to live the lives of people she visits.

From Mexico to Israel to Galapago Islands, Rita goes the way least traveled, always preferring to stay as a boarder with natives. And sometimes, going to places not even locals will go, places so secluded yet beautiful that Rita's description takes your breath away, urges you to become a nomad yourself.

Yet even nomads sometimes find their roots. Rita found hers in Bali where she spent eight years. Starting as a boarder with a prince, she eventually became a part of the family. I instantly knew I wanted to cook something Indonesian. I picked Nasi Goreng, the Indonesian fried rice.



There are as many recipes for Nasi Goreng as there are cooks. Some use tomatoes, others tamarind.…

Mystery Fruit

This only happened a few times every year, just when the rainy season kicked in. A street hawker will come by, straw basket on head. He will yell "kaul chapni" and I will run out to buy a bundle of these. Stuck together like flowers, they looked like a bouquet. Every hole contains a little fruit. You break out the package, peel the tiny fruit that pops out and eat it. Done slowly, it can take you an hour to eat an head. Or did, when I was about 12 years old.

That was the last time I saw this fruit. I've never seen it again, didn't even know what it was called or where it came from. Three weeks back, Vikram Doctor wrote about a store in Khar that sells Sindhi foods. He described this fruit and I knew it came from my vivid childhood memories. And finally, I knew we were talking about lotus fruit.

Now talk about coincidences. Last weekend, I was passing by a lane in Bandra and for the first time in many, many years I saw the straw basket filled with my mytery fruit. It…

Announcing AWED : Britain

Before I ate my first Italian wood fired pizza, before I went to that swanky Japanese sushi bar for the first time, or the neighborhood Chinese joint, the first non-Indian cuisine I encountered was British. Not real food, mind you, but the tempting, oh so delicious descriptions in my favorite novels. From Enid Blyton to Jane Austen to P.G. Wodehouse, every favorite character in every favorite novel seems to have food on their mind.

Yes, British food gets ridiculed a lot. But forget their main course dishes for now, and think of the full English breakfast and the elegant afternoon teas. Then try imagining the world without cucumber sandwiches or potato chips and you will realize you can't do without British food.

Which is why when I saw that DK was looking for hosts for her monthly event AWED (A Worldly Epicurean's Delight) and there has never been a British AWED, I promptly signed up.



The rules are simple really:

Make any vegetarian or vegan British dish (eggs are allowed in A…