Holidays are the perfect time to relax, travel, learn about different cultures, amass new experiences, have real conversations and seek out ways to make lives better for ourselves and those around us! The past week has been all of this and more! I traveled to Jordan with my favourite people in the whole world – Family! With the company of gorgeous ladies – my wife Alyona, my two daughters – Rachita and Kriti, my mother and mother-in-law, Jordan seemed more beautiful than it did on my last work visit there.
Jordan is a beautiful place that is filled with history. Travelling the sandy roads, surrounded by carved eroded stone structures and Herculean Mountains is something that you have to experience on your own. The serenity of these places makes me wonder that is probably why the Nabataean’s guard their culture so fiercely! The people in this part of the world are so welcoming and generous and they love to eat and definitely to feed! The food is very similar to other countries in the Middle East – so you have got to like chickpeas! Just joking – while chickpeas are a very important food ingredient, there is also an array of other ingredients that are used in plenty. Vegetable dishes and dips, a wide variety of breads and rice dishes along with different types of meat kababs and delicious dried fruits laden desserts are all heroes in Jordanian cuisine! Eating at the local markets and sipping coffee from the small portable coffee carts or having Coffee with Gold at the Emirates palace – food experience on this trip comprised of all this and more. We even visited the Amman outlet of The Yellow Chilli for a scrumptious Indian meal midweek.
We also shopped a lot and amongst the things we got were a packet of dried apricots,they are round, soft and golden unlike the totally dehydrated versions of apricots called khubani that we grew up with. These golden apricots are a delight to cook with and should be too, considering the fact that as a snack they are most fulfilling. There are several more ways we can use these. The rich sweet chewiness makes them appealing for the palate and adds vitamins and fibre to the daily diet without much ado.
So be it sweet sauces or muffins or stews, sprinkled on hot or cold cereals, dried apricots work just as well as dates or prunes or apples. When you make pancakes next, add chopped apricots to the batter. Of course they give sweetness but they also contribute when you are trying to bake something on a lower fat scale. Apricot puree is the in thing as a substitute for fat. It does not darken the baked goodie like prune puree or water down the recipe like apple puree can. Let me give you a tip about this sticky fruit. When chopping the dried apricots in a food processor, sprinkle with some maida so that they do not stick to the blade. If you are chopping with hand, put some oil on the blade of the knife or kitchen scissors. Or best still roll the apricots in a bit of flour and then chop.
Apricots come in range of colours, believe it or not, from white and pink to black and gray. The colour does not affect the flavour but it does affect the carotene content. Brighter the colour, more the Vitamin A as also the C and E and potassium. When we make comparisons by weight, dried apricots, compared to the fresh, have twelve times the iron content, seven times the fibre content and five times the Vitamin A. Cooks from the Jordanian region use lamb effectively with the apricots in stews as also in stuffings for chicken. Turkish people make something like our aampapad using apricots but they call it apricot leather! Or take Moroccan cooks who do it vice versa: stuff apricots with mutton and cook them with honey and almonds. Point here is what would the Indian kitchen do with these visually appealing fruits? Do hit back at us with your culinary escapades, food experiences and recipes from this part of the world! In the meanwhile you too can try out these recipes that I will definitely be making, this weekend with my packet of gorgeous golden apricots!
Happy Cooking 🙂