October 31, 2012

Colouring The Season Orange - Persimmon (Amarphal) Mousse & A Photography Exercise

he monsoons are long gone, and its now the time for the best part of the year climate-wise. While it is by no means even close to a winter, the days have cooled down and the nights are really pleasant (23C at night is a cool temperature for us!).

It’s also the best part of the year for the sheer variety of vegetables and fruit at the local market. Right now persimmons are the flavour of the month here.  I saw persimmons at my market for the first time last year. Never having seen them in life before, I was attracted by a mound of what looked like deep orange tomatoes with funny looking flat hats! On further enquiry, I was told they were called “Amarphal” in Hindi.
That left me no wiser, as “Amar” in Hindi means “immortal” and I couldn’t connect it up with anything I could see in the fruit.

It turns out that this fruit is called “Amarphal” because it continues to ripen after it is cut off from the plant and it is considered immortal (amar). It was apparently also a fruit that caused an Indian king of long, long ago to give up his kingdom and take on the life an ascetic searching for the greater truth of life.
King Bharathrahari was a kind and just king. One day an ascetic came to meet him and gifted him a rare fruit, the immortal persimmon, a fruit that was fit for a King. The King decided it was worthy of his Queen Bhanumathi and gave it to her. Unknown to him, she was in love with someone else so she decided to give him the persimmon. Now this man was apparently in love with a “woman of the night” and decided she deserved the persimmon and gave it to her. This lady, in a moment of introspection, decided that given the person she was she didn’t really deserve such a rare gift. So she decided to present to the King, who was surely the only person to deserve such a fruit!

The king got the shock of his life when the persimmon was presented back to him and also discovered his wife’s infidelity. Becoming thoroughly disgusted and realising that he had misplaced his trust and affection, he gave up his throne and kingdom to take on the life of an ascetic himself.


So, going back to last year’s persimmons, I bought a few and took them home. I was in for a rude shock when I cut open what looked like a really ripe fruit and it was so astringent that I couldn’t feel my tongue for a minute. I also couldn’t get the astringent taste out of my mouth with all things I tried, including washing my mouth out with water and eating sugar! It eventually wore off after half an hour.

I did some research and found out there are two main families of persimmons and though they may share color and flavor, they are different in shape and the way they ripen.  Hachiya persimmons are large acorn-shaped ones and need to ripen to the point where they are almost bursting out of their skins.  If you eat them before they ripen fully, they are extremely astringent and unpleasant but when ripe are so much tastier than Fuyu persimmons.

Fuyu persimmons, which are smaller and squat looking more like tomatoes. These can be eaten even when they’re not completely ripe when they’re crisp. Persimmons are best when they’re deep orange and heavy in your hand. Hachiyas (and Fuyus sometimes) might have a blackish colouring which is happens as they ripen.
So I let my persimmons ripen well and turned them into milkshake. This year, much wiser and armed with the knowledge from “astringent” experience, I was able to buy the right kind of fruit. It also looks like my fruit vendor is much wiser this year too. Last year the Hachiyas and the Fuyus were piled together in one box. This year they’re being sold separately. The Hachiyas are cheaper than the Fuyus and I think we all know why!

Simone at Junglefrog Cooking has been having monthly food photography and styling challenges going on for a while. This month it is all about going seasonal and orange with pumpkin, though she suggested using carrots instead of pumpkin if we wanted. In my part of the world, we don’t have autumn. As for pumpkin and carrots, we get it all the year round so they don't really feel like a seasonal fruit to me, unlike in other parts of the world where it pumpkins mean Halloween and Thanksgiving.

So I decided to go “orange” for the challenge with Persimmons which are here this season. I love the combination of dark wood and food in my photography if I can make it work. But this time I decided to go with white with most of the Persimmon photographs in this post because I didn’t have too much time to spare for experimenting and one can’t really go very wrong with white, can one? A bit boring, I know but that’s the best I could do this time.

Here’s a really easy Persimmon Mousse I made with some Hachiyas. Make sure they’re really ripe because the tannins in the fruit (the stuff that causes the astringency) will curdle the cream. If you’re making your own persimmon purée, remove the skin and the blend the pulp till smooth. Once the Hachiya is really ripe, just slice of the top and squish the pulp out of the fruit. Otherwise you can pull the skin off and it will peel off.
Persimmon Mousse
1 1/2 cups persimmon purée (about 4 Hachiya persimmons)
3 tbsp sugar (or more if you need it)
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp chai masala (optional)
Pinch of salt
200ml cream (25%fat)
Chopped Fuyu persimmon and mint to garnish
Place the persimmon purée, lemon zest, chai masala and salt in a large bowl and whisk together till blended and smooth.
Put the cream in another bowl and beat/ whip it with the sugar until it holds stiff peaks. Add this to the persimmon purée and fold in gently till well blended. Spoon the mousse (or pipe) into 4 glasses and refrigerate for a couple of hours at least, before serving.
Just before serving, garnish with chopped Fuyu persimmon and mint and more whipped cream if you prefer. Serve with ginger cookies on the side.

This recipe serves 4.