At the onset, here’s wishing you and your family a very happy 2021!
2020 – the year when the whole world was taken by the corona storm, the year that put a brake to outdoor activities, new work/ school from home culture never heard of, must say more than anything else -The year of fear!
It was a year of change for us as well ,as we moved from the Far East end of Atlantic to the West and it seemed as if everything closed off! Looking back on the year, it was for most of us, a year of foodie experiments, a year of being together and a year of minimalism too. Having said that it was time to retrospect and experiment with different kind of vegetables, fruits, and berries that we have had so far.
Berries have been a part of our growing up too – those small bright red berries called Chaniya bor in Gujarati or Ziziphus mauritiana were usually enjoyed during our school break where the local vendors would be selling, the Winter treat – The Indian gooseberries or Avla as we call in Marathi, then it was Indian Jujube which was prominently seen in the markets around January time-The Makar Sankranti festival. In the summers during our holidays remember the karvanda or Carissa Spinarum and the Jambul or the Indian blackberry. Usually these berries were eaten as it is except for Chani bor which were sometimes salted and enjoyed.
Coming to Finland the first of the berries I tasted were the blueberries, freshly picked by our neighbour from their summer cottage who explained in detail how we could enjoy them. So, it was with the vanilla ice-cream, then with the fresh cream. Later on, I learnt to freeze them and use them. Then tasted the blackberries, the red, the lingonberries and the yellow, sea-buckthorn, strawberries and then raspberries too.
This year went further and experimented with blueberries and made an eggless cake and with strawberries ended up making chutney. Added ginger to the chopped pieces of strawberries, lime juice and sugar and then cooked it up adding salt to taste, some chat masala (a readymade spice mix which is tangy) and some chilli powder.
Tasting cranberries reminded me so much of our Indian gooseberries, they were a bit tart, astringent, sour and are one of the healthy berries.
Cranberries were chopped up and made into jam or moramba (as we call in Marathi ) that was quite easy and quick to make and some were made into pickle. Heated some oil and added mustard seeds and when they spluttered switched off the stove and once the oil cooled, added it to the chopped cranberries with pickle spice mix & salt mixture. Enjoyed both the sweet and the savoury version.
It was such a pleasant surprise to find fresh Indian gooseberries and the thought making moravla or jam and mouth freshener motivated me to buy it immediately. The berries were chopped, seeds removed and then boiled them up without adding any water to them. Next made sugar syrup and added these cooked pieces to it. For the flavours added saffron strands, cinnamon and cloves. Once cooked well it was bottled up- a beautiful colour and taste.
For the mouth freshener grated the gooseberries and ginger and added some rock salt and lime juice to them. Mixed them up well and dried them in the oven.
So, a “berry year” it was and must endorse that it was not only smoothies or with ice-creams but enjoyed it on the sides with our everyday foods too! Rightly said by Dr. Seuss, “you’ll never get bored when you try something new. There’s really no limit to what you can do”.
Engineer by education,
passionate photographer & food enthusiast from India,
presently based at Burlington, Canada is happy to contribute this column
which combines her love of food & photography.