April 27, 2013

Aamras (Creamy Puréed Mangoes) – Just The Thing For An Indian Summer & A Photography Challenge

S
ummer’s here once again, and it’s hot but time for mangoes. I don’t think there’s an Indian (not the American kind) who is passionate about mangoes. I am yet to meet one who does not like this fruit. On the other hand, almost every Indian you meet is most likely to wax lyrical about mangoes, and possibly discuss at great length which variety is the better one, with everyone having their own personal favourites.
Now the best way to eat mangoes, in my opinion, is as fresh fruit. If you have bitten into a mango and sucked out the flesh, with the juice dribbling down your chin, then you know exactly what I mean. Of course, you can always be a little less messy and cut them into pieces, eating the mango out of a bowl, but it’s not as much fun!
 
 


The next best way, especially if you want a slightly more sophisticated version of fresh mango is to have it as Aamras. Aamras literally translates as “the essence of mango” and that’s just what this is. Aamras is a preparation that is typical of the Indian states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan where it is popular during celebrations and festivities. It is typically serve with Puri/ Poori (adeep-fried Indian flatbread) but Aamras also makes a very light and satisfying dessert in summer.
 
At the most basic level, Aamras is nothing but puréed thick mango pulp sweetened with jaggery or sugar. Now there are many ways in which one can make Aamras. You can add a little milk for a creamier texture and flavour it with anything from cardamom, saffron to ginger and even black pepper! You could also fold in cream instead of milk into the mango pulp to keep it thick and creamier, but then this would no longer be considered Aamras but a Mango Fool.

 


Making Aamras doesn’t need a recipe really, because there’s nothing much to making it. The recipe below is just a guideline of sorts. All one needs to do is to purée mangoes, add enough jaggery/ sugar to taste and add the flavouring of choice usually cardamom.
Milk does make a difference but one needs to add just enough to make sure the Aamras stays thick enough to be eaten with a spoon and not drunk out of a glass!
Oh, and do try to get your hands on sweet pulpy mangoes that aren't fibrous, because the last thing you want is to have bits of fibre spoiling the smooth experience of a perfectly chilled Aamras!
Aamras (Creamy Puréed Mangoes)
 
Ingredients:
8 to 10 mangoes
1/2 cup powdered jaggery or sugar (more or less as required)
1 cup chilled milk
4 to 5 pods cardamom, powdered
 
Method:
Peel the mangoes and cut them into chunks. Put the mango chunks and the other ingredients in your mixer/ blender and run until you have a smooth purée. Divide equally among four or six dessert bowls or short glasses and serve cold.
This recipe serves 4 to 6.
 



And just in case, you don’t have mangoes in your part of the world, here’s another traditional Indian drink called Thandai, usually made for Holi celebrations. It’s an absolutely delicious spiced milk drink made with almonds, that’s great to beat the summer heat.


The Photography Challenge

I'm always up for a challenge when it comes to photography because it makes me think and push the boundaries when it comes to styling (my biggest challenge usually), and composing food shots. One series of challenges I like doing, when I can manage it, are Simone's food styling/ photography challenges.
 
This month she set a theme of "Spring Is In The Air". A great idea, except not so good for me because we really don't have a spring season where I live. Out here, the cool months of January and February just fade away as the sun gets hotter and what we have in April and May is a true Indian Summer - hot and humid.
But, as I mentioned earlier, we have mangoes and if there's one thing that is really shouts out "Summer!" it has to be mangoes, and that's what I'm taking over to Simone for this photography challenge.

A little bit about what I wanted to achieve with my photograph of Aamras (the first photograph in this post). Aamras is nothing but puréed mangoes and its usually served just like that, no accompaniments in the style of Western desserts. I generally prefer my food photographs to be simply styled/ minimalistic with the focus on the food.

I wanted to keep that concept in my photograph. Aamras also has no texture or anything in it in particular I could focus upon, except its creaminess. So I decided to use "repetition" in my composition with the three glasses of Aamras, which also suggests a sense of "depth". The spoons and the mint garnish add points of interest as well as contrast. The white background makes the yellow of the mango stand out.

I used a wooden board painted in white for the background. This was shot using natural light which comes from the left and reflected from the right with white foam board. The photograph was taken using the 50mm f/ 1.8 lens at aperture - f/ 4.0, shutterspeed - 1.3s and ISO - 100.

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