Pumpkin Ginger Lassi

Pumpkin Ginger Lassi (1 of 4)

A lassi is a traditional, cooling Indian drink that can be either sweet, often mango flavoured, or salty. Many a restaurant has been guilty of serving a sweet mango lassi that is astoundingly, eyes squeezingly sweet. That level of sweetness usually overwhelms an excessive mango flavour that can’t possibly be natural. For me, the stifling sugariness of it drives me towards the salty option. Yet my thoughts drift to lightly sweetened home-made lassi using fresh fruit, such as this cherry lassi.

Pumpkin Ginger Lassi (3 of 4)

When the good people of The Society asked me to come up with a Thanksgiving recipe, it was the perfect opportunity to create a drink combining pumpkin with Indian flavours. In Australia we are headed for a blazing hot summer and lassi is a much loved summer drink in our household for its cooling, filling properties. This is a sweet, but not over sweet version that combines honey roasted pumpkin with ginger and other spices. Finally, a sprinkle of toasted pepitas adds a surprising crunch. If you are feeling adventurous, you could even spike it with a little gin for a cheeky cocktail.

Pumpkin Ginger Lassi (1 of 1)

Pumpkin Ginger Lassi

Get:
350-400g butternut pumpkin
3-4 cm piece fresh ginger, roughly chopped
1 cup milk of your choice
1 1/2 cups yoghurt
The insides of 2 cardamom pods, powdered
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder + extra
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
Generous pinch saffron (optional)
Honey or rice syrup to taste
Small handful pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Equipment:
Oven
Stove and frypan
High speed food processor

Make:

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Cut the pumpkin into large pieces (no need to remove skin) and rub the cut surfaces with honey. I used about 2 tsp for this. Roast on an oven tray for 25-30 mins or until very soft.

Scrape the pumpkin flesh out of its skin and place the flesh in the bowl of your food processor with the ginger, milk, yoghurt, cardamom, 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder, vanilla and about 1/4 cup honey or syrup. Blitz until well mixed and the ginger is shredded. If you think your food processor may not shred the ginger, finely grate it before adding it to the other ingredients. Taste and add more sweetener if desired, blitz again to mix. Place the lassi in the fridge to chill.

Place the pepitas in a frypan and toast on low heat for 3-4 minutes or until slightly browned and popping. Transfer to a bowl and toss in a small amount of cinnamon.

Serve the lassi chilled and sprinkled with the cinnamon tossed pepitas.

Pumpkin Ginger Lassi (2 of 4)

Cherry Lassi for a Thirsty Lassie

Family holidays to Bangalore are usually a whirlwind of meals at relatives homes, action-packed shopping trips, countless rides in auto-rickshaws and multiple visits to tailor shops to try on saree blouses in sweaty, curtained change rooms.

(It’s a hard life, I know)

What (I’m told) used to be a city with a beautifully cool climate, has had its’ central heating cranked up  in the last few decades. Pollution, global warming and a population expansion in the city of my birth is making days out and about less comfortable than they used to be.

Enter the Nandini Dairy Stall.  Nandini is the name under which the Karnataka Milk Federation, a co-op of dairy farmers, makes and sells its products.  Apart from their main outlets, littered around the city are milk stalls which peddle cool, long-necked glass bottles of sweet, flavoured milkDSC_0196.

Exhausted, dehydrated and slightly hypoglycaemic from tromping around the city, me, my mum and my aunts would clamber gratefully onto the curb upon spotting one of these milk stalls.  They were a refuge in the sea of traffic and pollution.  A sight for sore eyes and parched throats.  You really couldn’t go wrong no matter which flavour you chose- elaichi (cardamom), strawberry, pista or badam (almond).

These long-necks would provide an instant cool down and sugar hit, and we would be ready to hit the next saree or jewellery shop.

Those reusable glass bottles have been phased out due to hygiene issues (damm those health authorities!), but flavoured Nandini milk continues to revitalise shoppers in smaller sealed public health friendly plastic bottles.

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In the absence of Nandini milk, one has to be content with the offerings of Deepa’s Dairy Stall.  Lassi is an Indian smoothie where milk meets fruit and yoghurt and they all get along really, really well.  You may be familiar with Mango Lassi and Salty Lassi, but after scoring half a kilo of these beautiful little fruits, I decided to give Cherry Lassi a go and was rather pleased with the results.

In other news, I am just about to launch into a one week detox.  Why, you ask?  Well, a combination of feeling generally gluggy + a brief moment of insanity in which a commitment was made.  Don’t worry, it’s not one of those extreme ones where I will be barely living on organic cucumber juice administered intravenously and nothing else.  It’s just avoiding processed foods, meat and most painfully, caffeine for a week.  Will let you know how it goes at the end, although it is likely I will be reduced to communicating in grunts by then owing to the lack of caffeine and chocolate. Anyway, here goes!

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Cherry Lassi

Get

35-40 fresh cherries, pitted
2 cups milk (I used skim), chilled
3 cups vanilla yoghurt (I used low fat), chilled
4 tsp sugar
1 tsp honey
The inside of 4-5 cardamom pods powdered or 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
Pinch saffron

Make

If using cardamom seeds, powder with 1/2 tsp sugar in a grinder or using a  mortar and pestle.

In a food processor, process cherries, cardamom and sugar until the cherries are roughly pureed.  Add milk, yoghurt, honey and saffron and blend until frothy and well mixed.

Serve in a tall glass.

Notes:

I have not tried to make this with anything other than cows’ milk but my guess would be other types of milk or yoghurt such as soy or rice based ones would work pretty well.  Nut milks should also work, but may give a sweeter result (thanks Alex for this question!).

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