One of my earliest memories of Delhi is walking through the food fair in Pragati Maidaan. They sold ice-cream makers those days, giant buckets with rickety mechanical cranks, that would be placed in even larger thermocol buckets filled with salt and ice. You poured in your ingredients: milk, sugar, and flavouring, and turned it on and presto! Twenty minutes later, you had ice cream. Appa and Amma would wander through the other stalls, shopping for mundane things like cheese graters and knives, while I remained at the ice cream stall, mesmerised. It seemed like the coolest application of science, ever.
That was almost fifteen years ago. I've tried to find those ice-cream makers again, and once, even tried to construct one of my own. In physics lab, I would look longingly at the tanks of liquid nitrogen and think of how I could use them to make ice cream in minutes. In the meanwhile, I experimented with all sorts of techniques of making ice cream without the machine... breaking it up every two hours, adding pectin or jam to prevent crystal formation, upping the fat content, and sometimes, sneaking in a glug of vodka. Still, when K went to the US this time and asked for my wish list, the first thing on that list was a Cusinart ice-cream maker. And bless him, he brought it back.
My days since then have been spent in a very pleasant haze: dreaming up combinations I've always wanted to try, studying the science behind the cooling element, finding the correct voltage converter, and of course, making ice cream. So far, I've made a chocolate sorbet, a banana and chocolate ice cream and a mango and saffron frozen yogurt. I've been getting better with practice. The sorbet was fine, but a little grainy, the banana ice cream, ever so slightly- I'm afraid there's no other word for it- slimy. But the frozen yogurt, was sublime.
Having lived in the south all these years, I expect to be in the thick of mango season by the beginning of May. Up here in Delhi, that's taking a little longer. Each time I cut into a promising looking mango, I find disappointingly hard flesh, and a very passive flavour. They lack the tang the best of mangoes have. In this case though, the yogurt supplied all the tang I longed for. At the last minute, I blended in three strands of saffron and that was enough. They formed tiny orange pools in my yogurt and supplied their own, intensely floral perfume. My mix was chilled and then churned under my fascinated gaze. I knew the science, but it was still magic.
Mango and saffron frozen yogurt
Mangoes: 2 (mid-size)
Thick yogurt: 2 cups
Powdered sugar: 1/2 cup (You may need more or less, depending upon the sweetness of your mangoes)
Saffron: a pinch
Peel the mangoes and cut the flesh into a blender. Puree the mangoes till there are no visible lumps. Then, add the other ingredients and blend. Chill and churn according to the instructions on your ice cream maker. (Boy, I just love saying that!)