Apricots to the rescue

What a refresher Drinks made from dried fruits and jellies are rather popular in West Asia

What a refresher Drinks made from dried fruits and jellies are rather popular in West Asia  

We hear Rooh Afza is in short supply this Ramzan. So, here are some interesting alternatives to break that day-long fast

Juice lovers, particularly those keeping the Ramzan fast, were in for a shock when the Delhi-based makers of the rose-red syrup, Rooh Afza, recently announced that their product would be off the shelves this year.

Fortunately though, the drink seems to be making a slow comeback over the last couple of days. Popular with the south Asian Muslim community for iftar (the evening fast-breaking meal) the 110-year-old beverage’s absence was felt keenly among aficionados.

Luckily, there is plenty of choice when it comes to juices, and not all of them are necessarily of the bottled variety. Ramzan cuisine around the globe has evolved its own set of drinks that can be reproduced anywhere, with tweaks to include local variants and substitutes.

Here are a few recipes from West Asian countries that you could try out this year:

Pulp adventures

Iftar is considered incomplete in the Arab region without the drink called qamar al-din (also known as qamardeen, amardeen or lavashak). Made from processed apricot pulp sheets (quite similar to mango-based aam papad), the bright ochre-hued drink is most often served as a thick smoothie.

While qamardeen is available throughout the year, demand for these pulp sheets spikes during Ramzan in Arab countries, when intrepid home cooks use them to make juice and custards, besides keeping kids busy feasting on the strips after the fast is over.

Apricot sheets from Syria hold sway in the qamardeen market, as the fruits here seem to have a deeper flavour. They have to be boiled in hot water before they can be used for cooking.

Apricots to the rescue

Qamardeen Lite
  • 100 gms Dried Turkish apricots
  • Sugar to taste
  • 3.5 glasses Water
  • In a pressure cooker, chop the dried apricots and add enough water to cover. Allow to cook (around four-five whistles) until the fruit has become mushy. Cool.
  • In a blender, grind the apricot pulp with sugar to get a smooth paste of pouring consistency. Pour this into a jug and add the water. Chill and mix well before serving.

The fibre-rich apricots used in qamardeen are bright orange in colour, unlike the Indian desiccated variant called khubani (or zardalu), which has a more woody aroma and texture, and is an integral part of Deccani dessert dishes.

It would take a very patient chef to try making qamardeen sheets at home in a conventional electric oven. Online videos suggest cooking down around two cups of dried or fresh apricots with water, sugar and lime juice, to a thick paste, and then baking it on extremely low heat for four hours in a parchment-lined cake tin.

Luckily, the cheat’s option (see recipe) — using dried apricots — works equally well. Sugar helps to balance the tartness of the apricot.

Liquid fruit salad

Apricots to the rescue

Yet another cooling drink that helps the body recover from fasting is a compote called khoshaf. The West Asian recipe calls for soaking dried fruits such as prunes, figs, dates, raisins and nuts of choice in hot water for at least eight hours.

Khoshaf is served well-chilled, at the beginning of the iftar, where the liquid infusion is had with the dried fruits it has been soaking.

Our Indianised version uses finely chopped fresh seasonal fruit like apple, orange (both with their peels on), pomegranate and grapes along with dates and raisins, to get a similar result. The fruits can be served separately with custard, while the compote liquid mixed with a cup of orange juice makes for a very healthy pick-me-up drink.

Flowery quencher

Apricots to the rescue

If your heart still desires a red juice for iftar, you could try karkadeh, which uses the petals of the hibiscus flower. Simply wash two cups of dried or fresh hibiscus petals and allow to steep in four cups of hot water until it cools. Strain and refrigerate this concentrate and serve diluted, and sweetened, according to taste.

Karkadeh is slightly acidic, so it may seem like an acquired taste at first. But the juice retains the antioxidants of the hibiscus, and is said to help in controlling blood pressure and diabetes. Steeping the petals will make for a fresher-tasting concentrate than boiling them. Karkadeh can also be drunk hot as a herbal tea.

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Printable version | May 24, 2020 4:33:52 PM |

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