I was at the municipal pool with the boys last afternoon armed with a novel (my friend Ben Percy’s The Ninth Metal—available from Content Books and everywhere else) and a large container of aam panna. As anyone who has had it knows, aam panna is one of the best things about life and especially about life in the summer. If you haven’t had it and don’t know what it is, aam panna is a tart-sweet drink made with boiled unripe mangos whose flesh is pulped and mixed with sugar, rock salt and a few ground spices to form a thick concentrate. A few tablespoons of this concentrate per 8 oz glass of water + ice = refreshing bliss. Between sips of my supersized serving of refreshing bliss, sprawled very elegantly on an unclean and uncomfortable plastic deckchair, I wondered idly on Twitter if some Indian-American food influencer or the other had yet presented a recipe for an “elevated” aam panna or made it with peaches in place of the mangos (re elevated aam panna see Commandment 2). Naturally, this led in less than 24 hours to my making peach panna. And it was good. Here now before I forget what I did is the recipe. You are welcome.
- 1 lb yellow peaches, cut into chunks, peel left on
- 1 tspn freshly grated ginger
- Juice of 1/2 a lime
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tspn cumin seeds, lightly toasted and cooled
- 1 tspn fennel seeds
- A few grindings of black pepper
- A couple of pinches of rock/black salt
- Add the peach chunks to a heated skillet and move around till they begin to stick and the exposed flesh begins to caramelize.
- Add the ginger at this point, mix and continue to stir for another minute or till the raw aroma of the ginger goes away.
- Tip everything in the pan into a blender and when cooled process to a thick puree. Pour the puree into a bowl.
- Taste the puree for sweetness and accordingly add the sugar and lime juice.
- Grind the toasted cumin and fennel seeds to a coarse powder and add to the bowl along with a pinch of rock salt.
- Mix it all in and taste. If more rock salt is needed, add some.
- Let it sit for a while for all the flavours to blend. Then add a couple of tablespoons to a glass, add cold water, stir to combine, add ice and a sprig of mint and enjoy.
- Don’t take the exact measurements above too seriously. These are indeed the measurements I used today but things could change easily depending on how tart/sweet the peaches are. Aam panna is a tart-sweet drink and so I wanted my peach panna to be tart-sweet as well. How much sugar and lime juice you need to get to that point for yourself is something you can only determine by tasting as you go.
- Kala namak or black/rock salt is sulphurous and if you have not grown up eating things dosed with it it is probably an acquired taste. You want at least some of it in there but if too much of it is not to your taste feel free to add salt of choice.
- The above is basically how I make aam panna too, except there the green mangos are boiled till soft, I don’t use ginger, I add some cardamom to the spices and I prefer to use jaggery rather than sugar.
- I made this at 10 in the morning and so did not dose it further but if you are so inclined this would probably take very well to the addition of gin, tequila or even bourbon. Or I suppose you could add sparkling wine.
- Speaking of adding sparkling wine, when I described this on Twitter today someone archly noted that I’d made a spiced Bellini. Of course, the Bellini was itself invented in India. It’s an interesting tale…