- The Sogdians of Parthia, ancient Zoroastrians were the first to cultivate apricots. The Persians called them ‘the seeds of the sun’. Bertrand Russell in In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays mentions that apricots came to India from China in the second century BC during the Kushan invasions. It was from India that the fruit travelled to central Asia. And Confucius is said to have developed his ideology meditating under an apricot tree.
- The Romans called the apricot ‘Armeniaca’, the tree of Armenia. In Latin, apricot is ‘Praecocia’ meaning precocious because it is the first tree to blossom after winter.
- Today, the fruit is a huge commercial crop in Turkey and Iran. They grow two kinds – the bitter and the sweet kernel. India is a small producer of the exquisite jardaloo, also known as Hunza, after the valley in West Pakistan where they are abundantly cultivated by the Hunzas.
- Fragrant apricot nuts are used commercially as almond substitutes, while the cyanide-rich seed extracts were once used in medieval England to treat ulcers and more recently, in controversial cancer drugs.
- Khubani ka Meetha is a Hyderabadi specialty and is made for festive occasions. It is never served with ice cream but with malai, clotted cream or whipped cream. Some chefs add Kewra. I prefer not to. It is is one of those desserts that offer a homey comfort but is also so elegant and aromatic and rightly deserves its place in the Nizami Shahidastarkhwaan, (ceremonial meal).
- It is also an Indian dessert that could be served with almost any kind of food because essentially its a fruit compote with nuts.
- SERVES 6
- 500 GRAMS JARDALOO OR DRIED INDIAN APRICOTS
- 1 CUP SUGAR OR MORE IF APRICOTS ARE SOUR
- 1/5 TEASPOON KEWRA LIQUID (OPTIONAL)
- CLOTTED OR WHIPPED CREAM
- NUTS FROM THE APRICOT KERNELS
- WASH THE DRIED APRICOTS THOROUGHLY. SOAK IN EXCESS WATER OVERNIGHT.
- WASH AGAIN, IMMERSE IN 2 INCHES OF EXCESS WATER IN A LARGE POT AND COOK ON A MEDIUM FLAME. DON'T COVER THE POT.
- ADD MORE WATER IF REQUIRED. COOK UNTIL FRUIT SOFTENS. SWITCH OFF FLAME AND COOL FRUIT.
- PEEL THE FRUIT OFF AND RETAIN THE KERNEL. RETURN THE FRUIT TO THE SAME LIQUID, ADD SUGAR AND COOK ON MEDIUM HEAT FOR 45 MINUTES, STIRRING FROM TIME TO TIME.
- COOK UNTIL THE FRUIT IS TOTALLY MACERATED AND PULPY. TASTE FOR SWEETNESS. ADD MORE SUGAR IF REQUIRED.
- WHILE THE APRICOTS ARE COOKING CRACK OPEN THE KERNELS AND REMOVE THE SMALL ALMOND LIKE NUTS INSIDE. DISCARD THE KERNELS AND RESERVE THE NUTS.
- STIR IN THE KEWRA IF YOU PLAN TO USE IT AFTER THE FRUIT IS FULLY COOKED.
- SERVE THE APRICOT COMPOTE WARM WITH CREAM AND THE APRICOT NUTS.
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