Oh Summer, you made it so difficult. I tried this year to handle you better. I really tried. I woke up earlier than the Sun, while the air was cool from the night gone by and I could hear the birds sing. And as the birds retreated deep within the trees to escape the day's heat, I too, fortunately enough stayed indoors. Only to step out in the evening when a breeze would carry the scent of the flowers - mogras, champas, madhumalati, brave enough to bloom in the heat. I feasted on the season's bounty - watermelons, cantaloupes, mangoes, litchies, licking their juices off my fingers whilst watching the Gulmohar cover itself with fiery red blossoms. I cooled off with elixirs that are native to my land - aam panna, coconut water, bael sharbat, as I waited all Summer for the Amaltas to bloom with its trademark plumes of yellow flowers.
And yet none of it was enough. As the days wore on, the sun got brighter, the heat more intense, the days more listless, the earth drier and fatigue set in with just about everything. Even the wind was tired, you could barely feel its presence. Everyone was preoccupied with only one thought, the first rain of the season. The wait was nothing but torturous and yet, the day arrives when the cast after many false starts, gets its act together.
Dark clouds take over the sky, a cool breeze picks up pace, streaks of lightning light up the sky followed by rolls of thunder and then, the clouds let go. And you do nothing. You simply let your senses be overwhelmed as the rain hits the parched earth, the trees get washed and the earth is perfumed with the scent of wet mud. Because it is only that fragrance that has the power to drive away the frustration, anxiety and misery that Summer inflicts on us. In the euphoria of the first rains, you could almost be tempted to forgive Summer...almost!
As I write this, the Monsoon has covered most of India and I retrace my steps back to the kitchen. And before the rains compel me to switch on the oven that's been lying idle all these months, a simple chocolate dessert to get us started.
It takes the idea of chocolate and cream and infuses it with the flavours of Turkish coffee and cardamom. The mixture is lightened with an egg yolk and cooked like a custard and then set in the cold. Because it is a cream based dessert, a little goes a long way and that is why I set them in demitasse cups. I have mentioned Turkish coffee but for ease, any freshly ground coffee that you enjoy would do.
Depending on how long you steep the coffee and cardamom in the cream, will determine how prominently they reveal themselves in the final product. The cardamom lends a lovely, interesting touch to these little pots de creme that would make a lovely dessert after a heavy meal where you are not in the mood for anything elaborate. Admittedly, the presence of coffee does make these more suited to an adult palate.
Twas a long Summer and I do hope you are enjoying the rains in your part of the world!
Turkish Coffee Chocolate Creams
Serves 2-3, depending on the size of the moulds.
- 1/4 cup coffee, finely ground
- 2 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- 1/2 stick cinnamon
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 30 gms dark chocolate
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/8 cup superfine sugar
- pinch of salt
- Pour the cream in a small saucepan along with the cardamom and cinnamon.
- Place the coffee in a thin cotton dish towel and moisten it with a little water. Tie the cloth tightly. Place the coffee packet in the saucepan. If you feel the cream is too thick, you can loosen it with a tablespoon of milk.
- Heat the cream mixture and bring it a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to cool and infuse for about an hour.
- Fill a bowl larger than your saucepan with ice.
- After an hour of infusion, squeeze the coffee packet to extract as much flavoured cream as possible. Strain the cream mixture though a sieve so as to catch the cardamom and cinnamon.
- Reheat the cream over low heat, and then add the chocolate, stirring it until it melts into the cream and remove from the heat.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and a pinch of salt until the sugar is dissolved and the eggs are pale and thick.
- Pour a bit of the warm chocolate cream into the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Then add the rest and whisk again.
- Pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the pudding is thick enough for you to draw a distinct line through it on the back of a spoon. (This will just take a minute)
- Remove the pan from the heat and place it in the ice bath. Stir from time to time until the mixture cools to room temperature and thickens into a custard. (This will take about five minutes).
- Spoon into small ramekins and refrigerate until ready to serve. When cold, the texture is a bit sticky, so bring your pots de creme to room temperature before serving.