Happiness in a jar

Papaya Jam 1

My latest obsession is making jams. Luscious, lip smacking, fresh-as-the-fruit-it-came-from jam. A month ago Mum left a dozen gooseberries (amla) soaked in water on the kitchen counter, with explicit instructions to drink it every day. Them gooseberries sat pretty on the counter for a week till I remembered. By then, they were soft and mushy and I didn’t have the heart to throw them away, so into the kadhai they went.

That’s when I learnt something interesting: making a small batch of jam is one of the easiest things to do.

It definitely is easier than it looks, once the pectin and sugar have worked magic to transform into glistening jelly. The recipe is easy-peasy: take an equal proportion of fruit to sugar, cook the fruit (diced, mushed or pureed, it’s your call) in a bit of water. Since gooseberries are harder to blend than most fruits, soak it for a day or cook in water till a little tender, before removing the seeds and pulverising the fruit in the blender. Once it’s softened, add the sugar and lime juice (the juice from a lemon would do for a cup of fruit) and let it come to a rolling boil (on high heat). Don’t skimp on the sugar, as the reaction between pectin and sugar gives jam its jelly-like consistency. If the mixture looks watery even after boiling for several minutes, it probably needs more pectin: add a squeeze of lemon or orange.

The major ingredient in jam making is pectin, found naturally in citrus fruits. High-pectin fruits gel faster.  Over-ripe fruits have lesser amounts of pectin, so they don’t set as well. Lucky me, I started with amla, which any Indian mother will tell you is brimming with Vitamin C (as well as pectin).

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Tales of an Insomniac

I could fill almanacs with the things I do when I cannot sleep.

Take the other day, for instance, when one sleep-deprived night led to me crashing early the next. Surprise of surprises, I was wide awake in a few hours. A most vicious cycle it is.

So with nothing to do, and because I had fallen asleep with my laptop beside me, snug as a pillow; I opened the browser and began surfing aimlessly. And for some reason I started on cookery blogs.

Who in their right minds reads cookery blogs at 2 in the night? People like me. Sugar-starved chocolate-crazed people like me. So there I was, reading how to make crepes and crème brulee (and religiously saving pages for a better day), when I came across the five-minute cake. A cake in FIVE MINUTES. A fluffy, yummy, chocolaty cake; ready before you could say Jack Sparrow. Oh, the beauty of the idea!

Why not make one right now, I thought. As if on cue, my tummy let out a small growl. But a cake, at this time of the night? Eggs and flour and butter and the whole schmazel? What if mom thought a thief broke in? Cake wouldn’t taste so good with a saucepan-shaped bulge on my forehead.

(I occasionally make midnight chocolate mousse, a super-easy recipe learnt from a friend in college when our only available equipment was a 17th century electric stove. The name arose because the call-of-the-mousse always comes at twelve in the night. Even then, a cake is a whole new ball game.)

Anyway, I crept downstairs, trying my best not to step on those tiny lizards that pop up in the summer.

I opened the fridge and counted the eggs and butter.

And my eyes fell on a can of tuna.

I knew what I had to do.

Out came knives, tomatoes, onions and a generous helping of mayonnaise.

Two stuffed tuna sandwiches later, I was happily asleep in bed.