AS cliched as it sounds, I tend to wince when I hear certain 'experts' on Indian food claim that they grew up in utter poverty and how they had no access to running water and cooking ranges yada yada. and then proceed to extol about recipes with Alaskan salmon that their grandmothers used to whip up in their ancestral villages. PUHLEEZ.
Life in Indian villages was drastically different from the cities (which, within the first decades of independence were on par in terms of chic & grandeur for the few that could afford it). But by no measure was it considered poor, if you had electricity and land that would provide food for the year.
In retrospect, I'm amazed at the true quality of the food I've had at my maternal grandmother's home as a child. She lived in this little village at the Southern tip of India, - Kalakkad, (claim to fame is that it is the sole habitat of the endangered lion tailed macaque) a village in the district of Tirunelveli (or Tinnevely as the British called it). Food was cooked over firewood with non gmo ingredients that were grown without a trace of artificial pesticides or frankensteinian boosters. But, having said that, those that were well off had already made small changes by switching to ingredients such as refined table salt and white sugar.
As a child I always used to wonder why family members were given their morning filter kaapi (coffee) with undiluted full fat milk with white sugar added in, when the household helps (the lady who came in daily to clean the dishes, mop the floors, or the farm hand who tended to the cows, cleaned the cowshed etc) would be given coffee with a native sweetener derived from the sap of a toddy palm tree. I've been guilty of swapping my own (oh yes, I've been drinking only coffee ever since I was 3!) thick sugared serving for the other lighter flavorful variety, only to have the help tattle on me to my grandmother.
To this day, toddy palm jaggery remains a favorite and I leave no stone unturned to ensure that I have a stash at home. Kalustyan's in New York City stocks a close enough version under the label of Khajurer gud.
As I assimilate and adapt to American customs, cherishing and celebrating holidays like thanksgiving and July 4th, I also love to include touches from my childhood into classic American dishes that are a favorite at home. My way of having the best of both worlds.
The Pie crust is from Kirsten Miglore's Genius Recipes and I never tire of marveling at the expert use of chilled vodka in making the dough. The filling uses a spice blend that is used for spiced coffee in Southern India and of course Palm Jaggery for the flavor. If you can't get hold of the original, I would recommend coconut palm sugar as a substitute. —Panfusine
1 hour 30 minutes
one 9 inch pie
Pie Crust (adapted from Cooks Illustrated's Foolproof pie crust)
1 1/2 cup All purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 stick butter (chilled and cut into small cubes)
3 tablespoons Vodka
2 tablespoons chilled water
Apple Pie filling
4 large granny smith apples - peeled, cored, halved and sliced
3 tablespoon chukku kaapi spice blend*
4 tablespoons palm sugar crystals (sub with regular brown sugar if needed)
1/2 cup toddy palm jaggery, melted and strained
pinch of salt
2 heaped tablespoon cornflour
2 tablespoons fresh ginger extract**.
In This Recipe
* here's the link to the recipe for the spice blend. It already has sugar added to it and the amount of sweetener for the Pie filling has been adjusted for that
**: To make the ginger extract, grate a 2 inch piece of fresh ginger root and squeeze out the liquid.
Combine the vodka and water in a small bowl and set aside. (adding ice cubes to the liquid will ensure that its kept chilled)
Combine the sugar, salt and one cup of the APR in a food processor and pulse to mix well. Add the butter in installments, keeping the food processor running. Stop to scrape down the flour butter mixture intermittently. Once the mixture resembles that of coarse sand, tip the contents of the food processor into a mixing bowl. Using your finger tips or a silicone spatula, knead the mixture while adding the vodka/water teaspoon by teaspoon. Bring the mixture together into a ball of dough that is slightly sticky. Wrap in plastic wrap and allow to chill in the refrigerator for an hour.
Combine the apple slices with the remaining ingredients in the filling list, and allow to rest for about 30 minutes. T
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Roll out the pie dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Carefully place over the pie pan and press down. Cut out the remaining dough from the edges and save. Use a fork to perforate the dough and bake for about 20 minutes, rotating the pie tin halfway through until the crust is golden.
Fill the crust with the apple pie filling. Roll out the left over dough and cut out shapes with cookie cutters, arrange them over the top of the filling.
Bake at 425 F until the pie filling is bubbly and the dough covering over the pies have turned a golden brown.