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Wednesday, 14 June 2006

ISO mishti doi (SiR III) (WHB#37: ginger mint)

Filed under: crossblogging,food & drink,SiR, JFI,WHB — ejm @ 10:27 EDT

summary: about srikund (dessert made with yoghurt, saffron, cardamom and toasted almonds); the edible flower viola tricolor; ginger mint;

~ The Spice is Right III: The Perfumed Garden
~ (not exactly the) Weekend Herb Blogging #37

click on image for larger view
srikund garnished with viola and ginger mint We got very excited when we saw a recipe for “mishti doi” in Mangoes and Curry Leaves by Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duguid. I have only had it once – when we were on holiday in Calcutta. One of T’s friends came to get us in a taxi to take us to their home for dinner. Almost as soon as we got in the taxi, she stopped the driver and told him to wait. Out she jumped and returned a few moments later, holding two clay vessels and two wooden spoons. Her lovely round face filled with joy as T squealed with delight Mishti Doi!! Mishti Doi!!!

Even though the day was quite warm, the contents of the clay container were cool and firm – a bit like cheesecake. In fact, it was like the best cheese cake I’ve ever had. Apparently nobody makes it at home – it is always purchased at a sweet shop.

We’ve asked for mishti doi in the Bengali grocery stores here in Toronto, only to hear wistful replies of No, only in Calcutta…. Hence, our excitement to see a recipe for it. We read the recipe eagerly and…

WHAT? That’s not mishti doi!! That’s srikund!

Which is also divine. But we already know how to make srikund. And we were suddenly aware that it had been far too long since we had, which brings me, at long last, to:

The Spice is Right III: The Perfumed Garden
Saffron (Crocus sativus); Viola (Viola Tricolor)1

This time, Barbara (Tigers and Strawberries) asked us to use edible flowers in some form or another in our recipe. Serving edible flowers is by no means new to us. We often garnish dishes with herbs and/or their flowers. We particularly love the hotness of nasturtiums garnishing a dinner plate or the delicate sweetness of violas and pansies on a dessert plate.

But because I’m out of my mind, and being the literal person I am, I decided to make things a little more difficult by privately deciding that the flower used for this post should also be considered a spice. Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages were particularly useful for helping me to decide because he has a handy section entitled “Used plant part” on each of the spice description pages.

My searching showed three spices that are actually from the flowers rather than the seeds of the plants: cloves and capers, which are flower buds. And there is saffron, which is just the flower stamen. Initially, I was going to do something with cloves and apricots. I still plan to but the SiR#3 deadline approaches! Not to mention that we neeeeeeded to make srikund.

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saffron So, saffron it was. Even though some misguided people recommend the substitution of safflower or – worse still – turmeric, there really is no substitute for saffron if it is used in food. (Now if it is for fabric dye, then certainly the less expensive safflower or turmeric would indeed be good substitutes for saffron.)

click on image for larger view
violas, gingermint Just so that there would be actual edible flowers as well, we garnished with violas. I do love violas. And I always think that it’s particularly fitting that in England, they are called ‘heartsease’. The North American name of ‘Johnny Jump Up’ isn’t nearly as romantic!

Violas have a very delicate sweet scent but really not much flavour at all. Still, they really do look lovely, don’t they?

For an extra added touch, I couldn’t resist using a bit of ginger mint as well. Ginger mint is not quite as strong tasting as some of the other mints and works perfectly as a garnish for desserts.

And yes, the srikund was as wonderful as ever. Creamy, sweet (but not too sweet) with the wonderful marriage of cardamom and saffron. Thinly sliced, toasted almonds added the perfect balance in flavour and texture. The violas and gingermint were also a very nice touch of colour and delicate flavour. (Here is our recipe for srikund.)

But we’d still like to have a recipe for mishti doi (aka “lal doi”)!

Interesting tidbits:

From Wikipedia:

Medicinally, saffron has a long history as part of traditional healing; [M]odern medicine has also discovered saffron as having anticarcinogenic (cancer-suppressing), anti-mutagenic (mutation-preventing), immunomodulating, and antioxidant-like properties.
[...]
A pound of dry saffron (0.45 kg) requires 50,000 – 75,000 flowers, the equivalent of a football field’s area of cultivation. [...] Between 70,000 and 200,000 threads comprise a pound. Vivid crimson colouring, slight moistness, elasticity, recent harvest date, and lack of broken-off thread debris are all traits of fresh saffron.

Viola (Viola tricolor)
One quirk [...] is the elusive scent of their flowers; along with terpenes, a major component of the scent is a ketone compound called ionone, which temporarily desensitises the receptors in the nose; sniff all you like, you won’t get any more smell from the flower.

And from Gernot Katzer’s pages:

[S]affron is necessarily sterile, and its beautiful flowers cannot produce any seeds; propagation is possible only via corms. Distribution over larger distance requires human help, and so it’s surprising that saffron was known to the Sumerians almost 5000 years ago. It is not known, however, how the spice was transported from the Mediterranean to Sumer in Mesopotamia.

From “Home Cooking: Edible Flowers”

Viola Tricolor Contains saponins and may be toxic in large amounts.

And finally from ‘A Culinary Guide to Herbs, Spices and Flavourings’ by Boxer, Innes, Parry-Crooke & Esson:

Saffron (Crocus sativus)
Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice and unique in it origin, for [it] is the dried stigmas of the flowers of the saffron crocus. [...] [E]very bloom must be individually picked, and every stigma individually extracted by hand.

Please read more about saffron and viola here:

srikund 100x75 permalink image
permalink

The Spice is Right III: The Perfumed Garden Saffron (Crocus sativus); Viola (Viola Tricolor)

1 The deadline for posts to be added to Barbara’s The Spice is Right III – The Perfumed Garden roundup is 15 June, 2006 at midnight EDT. Here are Barbara’s rules:

[...] combine edible flowers in some form or another, with spices in a recipe.

Please read more about how to participate in The Spice is Right III: The Perfumed Garden.

The Spice is Right III: The Perfumed Garden Roundup
~~~~~~~~~~~~
(Not exactly the) Weekend Herb Blogging #37 Viola (Viola tricolor) & Ginger Mint (Mentha arvensis ‘Variegata’)

weekend herb blogging - © kalyns kitchen Ginger mint is a hardy perennial. Apparently, it is not quite as hardy as regular mint but I have had very good luck with it overwintering outdoors here in Toronto (Zone 6A, or is it 5B?). And viola will seed itself – some silly people think that both of these lovely wonderful plants are weeds. And viola will seed itself – some silly people think that both of these lovely wonderful plants are weeds. Others know better and just learn how to keep them in check:

From ‘Harrowsmith Illustrated Guide to Herbs’ by Patrick Lima:

Gardeners go to great lengths to confine mints: sinking sheets of metal, even used license plates, around a patch; hauling old tires into the garden; planting in containers of all sorts. Wooden wine barrel halves are my choice for mints [...] because they are not porous like clay, being designed to hold wine, so far less watering is required
[...]
Once, we let them all stay, but soon colonies of [viola] seedlings appeared all through the perennials. Now, a few are left at the bases of rocks that edge the beds; even these manage to jump the curb and take off.

viola Violas will grow in just about any soil as long as they are kept watered regularly and do well in sun or partial shade. But they are not thrilled if the temperature is hot. If the flowers are left on the plant, they will go to seed, and soon after the plant will die.

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gingermint Ginger mint can tolerate the summer heat but must be kept watered. The variegation will be more marked if it grows in a sunnier spot.

Not to be alarmist but do take note of the following from “Plants for a Future”:

Although no records of toxicity have been seen for this species, large quantities of some members of this genus [Ginger Mint], especially when taken in the form of the extracted essential oil, can cause abortions so some caution is advised.

The ginger mint that is growing in our garden came from Richters Herbs, who label it Mentha arvensis ‘variegata’ but “Plants for a Future” give it the name Mentha x gracilis – Sole and say that it is a hybrid of M. arvensis x M. spicata

Read more about growing ginger mint and violas:

If you wish to participate in WHB, read about how in Kalyn’s Kitchen – home of weekend herb blogging

Kalyn’s Kitchen – WHB#37 roundup

4 Comments for ISO mishti doi (SiR III) (WHB#37: ginger mint)” »

  1. Comment by CAM — 15 June 2006 @ 01:48 EDT

    So googling mishti doi doesn’t yield what you want? e.g.
    http://festivals.iloveindia.com/durga-puja/mishti-doi.html
    or
    http://indianfood.about.com/od/sweetsanddesserts/r/mishtidoi.htm

  2. Comment by ejm — 15 June 2006 @ 06:00 EDT

    Doh! I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of googling for it!! Yes, CAM, those both look correct. Many thanks for finding them.

    But, am I going to try making it? Hmmmm. It looks tricky… if T’s recent tries at making rasgulla hadn’t been dismal failures, I might have. But now?

  3. Comment by Bharati — 24 March 2007 @ 22:27 EDT

    answer for misti doi :

    • 1 can condensed milk
    • 1 small half & half milk
    • 1 small plain yougart

    blend everything together in the blender to smooth texture
    bake in the oven 300 degrees for 25 minutes , and leave in the oven for a while, check if it is thick or not, if not bake again. when cooled down, put it in the refrigerator (serves 6)

  4. Comment by ejm — 25 March 2007 @ 05:30 EDT

    Thank you, Bharati! Just a couple of questions:

    1. How many ml/US.fl.oz/Imp.fl.oz in the can of condensed milk? (same question for the small milk and yoghurt containers)
    2. Is half & half milk the same as milk with 2% butterfat?

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