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May 2005

Jamun Jam



Hand carts are a treasure trove of fruits now. Mangoes are all the rage  but other colours catch the eye. A few pushcart fruit sellers carry what are wild pickings, or gawraan as they call it. These are the tastiest berries and jaams from a variety of trees growing on the edges of gardens and in the forests.


I recall a time when jamun were strewn on the sidewalks in New Delhi, and we tripped our way to catch the school bus, picking up a few of the tart, oblong fruit to eat while skipping over other purple spatters, fruit half eaten by crows who had gorged themselves high up in the branches.

These tall, stout and shady trees still exist on Lytton Road, off  Raj Path where we lived, but not a piece of fruit is to be found on the ground anymore. The trees have all been contracted out and harvested well in time.

In Maharashtra,  Jamun (Sygium cumini L) also known as Myrtus cumini and Eugenia jambolanum  grow  well in the Raigad,  Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts. It is classified as a minor fruit since most of the trees have been planted accidentally by the ancestors of farmers, who are now happy to find a tree or two on their plots of land. They were grown mainly for shade along roads and highways and in coffee estates to provide shelter for the coffee plants. Cultivation has not been actively encouraged by the government and plantations do not exist.

Though indigenous to India it is not easily available in the market and the fruit now costs Rs 160 for a kilo!! To eat, they remind me of the astringency of a good Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.The same inadvertent ch-tack and pursing of the lips after a bite/sip is inevitable ! You develop a taste for it as with all good things.

The harvesting season lasts from the end of March to the beginning of June so, while they were still to be seen , I picked some up and tried making  jam out of it.

What a feast of colour it was right through the process!


250 gms ripe jamun. About 25.Washed very well.
250 gms sugar
1/4 apple cut in 1/2" pieces
Squeeze of lime.
A pinch of finely ground fennel.


In a clean stainless steel pan with a thick base, place jamuns along with the sugar and heat on medium flame


Stir till jamuns start to soften. Add pieces of apple.


Cover for a few minutes as juice is released and the sugar in tinged with mauve. As the jamuns soften mash them a bit to hasten the process.


Within a few minutes the juice will have been released completely and the seeds can be removed. Add lime juice.. about a half teaspoonful. Cook over medium heat till mixture begins to froth. Add a pinch of finely ground saunf  (fennel seeds) as the mixture begins to thicken.


The jam should have reached the non runny stage within 15 minutes.Test a bit of the juice on a plate to see if it congeals .


Take the pan off the fire and bottle immediately in clean and sterilized jars. Keep a quarter inch at the top of the bottle, insert two rounds of butter paper on the lid and cover immediately while hot.

It tastes pretty good right now and I will be able to give a second opinion within two weeks when the flavours will have settled .

Isn't the violet colour out of this world?

Kaleji fry i.e. my vittles


What has upheld you on your way ?
What has supported you when faint ?
On what have you for strength relied ?
"My vittles, " said the dear old saint.
- G.S. Bryan

.....a statement which would be heartily seconded by R who, being on the receiving end of many haute cuisine experiments, tends to relish the simple and hearty meal such as Kaleji fry with chaawal and achaar i.e. Liver 'N' Onions with pickle and rice.

So here it is, my version, with accompanying 'How To' photographs for the beginner cook.

Kaleji Fry, or Liver'n' Onions.



1/2 kg sheep's liver sliced into pieces 1/2 inch thick.
6 onions chopped fine lengthwise
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
2-4 green chillies,optional, depending on how hot you like your food. chopped fine
1-2" piece of fresh ginger, grated
6-8 cloves of garlic
1 heaped tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
( 2-4 green chillies) optional,
Juice of 2 lemon.2 tablespoons water.
1 tsp salt



Chop the onions into fine slices.


Heat the oil till just below smoking point ....


..and fry the onions .
You can also dry fry i.e. sweat the onions in a thick cast iron pan.


Fry on a medium fire.
Stage I. They begin to split from the half circle into long pieces.


Fry onions  till they begin to brown a bit.
Stage 2.


Fry for 15 -20 minutes till brown. Stage 3.


As the onions are browning get the rest of your ingredients for the marinade together; grate the ginger, chop the coriander, grind the cumin seeds and pepper with a mortar, squeeze the lemons.


Add coriander


Add chopped garlic, ginger, cumin and pepper powder,chillies,


.. and lime juice along with 2 tablespoons water.


Puree to a fine, smooth paste in the blender.


Chop the liver into 2" pieces about 1/2 " slices  thick.


Add the liver pieces to the paste .


Mix well and marinate for 1/2 hour to two hours.
( Just as much time as you have. The longer the better of course.)


The onions should now be nice and brown.


Add the marinated liver to the onions and fry for
five minutes till the colour changes.Now add all the remaining marinade juices,
cover and fry for 8 minutes till almost dry.

You can also add 1/2 cup of water to make a wet gravy which is nice if you eat this with rice.

Finally garnish with coriander and... tada...serve!


This also tastes great with chapatis or bread.

Silk Route


Being our anniversary and feeling we had something to celebrate R and I decided to go out for dinner. It was 40 degrees in the shade during the day...a tough time to work up any kind of appetite. We decided to take a chance at Silk Route a relatively new place in town with a reputation for good Asian food as we could not access the telephone number of the restaurant.

It seemed full of life when we entered. No space in the lounge which, we were told, was a "nice place to sit about having a drink". But we immediately got a small table for two in the corner and heaved a sigh of relief in the cool air conditioned atmosphere.

R's usually irrepressible spirits were somewhat dampened by the look of total incomprehension on the stewards face when told it was a special occasion for us.However we ordered a half beer each while choosing starters from a large and varied menu. They had Chinese, Thai and Indonesian dishes on offer as well as Sushi.

For starters we chose Khoong ( Did they mean Goong?) Thod Kra Tiem Prik from the Thai menu. This was stir fried prawns flavoured with 'palette tingling' pepper and roasted garlic as well as a safe Indonesian Vegetarian Satay with peanut sauce.

The satay arrived first. It had mushrooms, onions, zucchini, broccoli and paneer on the the bamboo stick. These were supposed to have been marinated in five exotic herbs. The peanut sauce though quite tasty had no tang at all and no taste of peanuts either. The zucchini was uncooked, the paneer an awful idea in the kebab and about the only thing that tasted like it was meant to be was the broccoli which jelled well with the sauce, whatever its indeterminate nature.

The Thai prawns were slightly better with basil leaves and spring onions sauteed along with the prawns. A few slivers of red pepper gave the dish some colour.

For our main course we shared a Thai green curry with prawns Ghang (Goong ?) Kheaw Wan, flavoured with coconut milk and sweet basil. It was a hot and sweet curry, with flavours well blended but with shards of galangal floating in the curry, which had to delicately dumped from ones mouth.

Nobody offered us the menu again to choose a dessert and we decided enough was enough and gave it a miss.

The service was indifferent to downright bad, with food served sloppily, streaks of curry down the side of the serving dish. The decor uncertain with flocked wall paper, an aquarium,  purple tablecloths,  chairs upholstered in blue stripes,  green ceramic tiled floors....everything a bit faded and dirty.

All in all a rather disappointing evening.

The long and the short of this tale is- take a detour to dinner if you must but avoid the Silk Route.