Innovating traditional Indian recipes for a modern, local palate

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When Amisha Dodhis Gurbani’s children started preschool, she became disheartened by the sugary jams off the shelf for their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which started her journey into jamming and preserving. Photo by Iain Bagwell Photography

California cuisine and ingredients have been the source of inspiration for many chefs. When married to global cuisines, the results are like the head exploding emoji — flavorful, aromatic, and delicious. With her roots in India and her current home in the Bay Area, recipe developer Amisha Gurbani brings a modern flair to time-honored Indian dishes in her cookbook, “Mumbai Modern.” She describes how making her children’s school lunches started her journey into jamming and the similarities between Indian and Mexican cuisine.

Apricot and Saffron Jam
Makes about four 8-​ounce (250 ml) jars

Come summer with all its gorgeous summer fruits, I squeal in excitement and become like a child in a candy store when I visit the farmers’ market! The best way to start my Sunday morning is observing all the different colors and textures of fruit, like the berries glistening in the sun or the pretty stone fruits that grab my attention immediately. I think about all the jams that I can make—​some with herbs, some with dried florals, all to be taken to the next level. Jam making has been an integral part of my food journey and one that gives me limitless joy. The summer is when I start preparing for jams to give as presents during the holidays.

Apricot jam is really versatile—​it can be eaten with toast and butter or as a savory component with good quality cheese and crackers. I love pairing apricot with saffron, as it takes me right back to my childhood flavors of dried apricot and mithai—​Indian desserts with saffron. It reminds me of when guests would visit our home for Diwali to wish us Happy Diwali and enjoy plates full of flavor offered to them. Our Diwali plate consisted of dried fruits and nuts, some savory snacks, and mithai, which is where my inspiration came from for this jam flavor. You can see how I use it to create the Peacock Macarons (page 291), plus it goes perfectly with some cheese and Chorafali Crackers (page 391).

Ingredients

  • 2¼ pounds (1.02 kg) apricots, washed, cut in half, pitted, and diced into 1-​inch (2½ cm) cubes
  • 1 pound 3 ounces (540 g) granulated sugar
  • 1½ ounces (45 g) fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ounce (28 g) fruit pectin
  • 1 teaspoon saffron

Instructions 

-In a large bowl, add all the ingredients except the saffron and, using a rubber spatula, stir the mixture until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and set it aside for 2 hours. This process is called macerating and is used for releasing all the liquid from the apricots with the help of the sugar.

-Keep a small plate with 2 metal spoons in the freezer. The plate should be level.

To Sterilize the Jars

-Preheat the oven to 230ºF (110°C). 

-Wash the jars with warm water and shake off any excess water. Place them on a baking sheet.

-Place the tray with the jars in the oven until ready to fill them, or for at least 20 minutes to ensure sterilization.

To Make the Jam

-In a large saucepan, on medium to high heat, add the bowl ingredients and stir to incorporate. Stir in the saffron at this stage.

-Keep a candy thermometer hooked safely to the pot so you can see the temperature.

-Let the mixture come to a boil. It takes about 5 minutes. You will see it foaming for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally with a rubber spatula, so as not to let the jam get stuck at the bottom of the pan. The foam will gently subside. Remove any excess foam with a spoon, and keep a cup handy to discard it into. 

-When the jam starts bubbling, you will see tiny bubbles on the surface of the jam. You have to keep stirring to ensure that it does not stick to the bottom of the pan at this stage, and also that the jam does not bubble vigorously. Let it boil for another 5 minutes. The temperature on the thermometer should reach 220ºF (105°C).

To Do the Jam Test

-Add a teaspoon or two of the jam on each spoon from the freezer, and let it sit in the freezer for 3 minutes. When you remove the plate with the spoons, the jam should slowly come off the spoon, but it should NOT be runny. That is when you know that the jam is set. If it is runny, boil the jam for another 2 to 3 minutes, and repeat the procedure until the jam is slightly dense.

-Another test to determine if your jam is set: Let the jam sit in the pot after you turn off the heat. Use a rubber spatula after 3 to 4 minutes and run it over the top of the jam. If it sets on the spatula and you can run your finger through it, the jam is set. If the layer is still thin, let it boil for another 2 to 3 minutes and do the test again.

-Remove the tray of jars from the oven, and carefully fill them with a funnel to avoid spillage. Leave about a ¾-​inch (2 cm) space from the top of the jar. Put the lids on securely and turn the jars over to mix.

-Put the tray of jars back into the oven for 15 minutes to sterilize. 

-Remove the jars from the oven and invert them to mix again. Let them cool completely for about 2 hours. 

-Store in a cool, dark place for up to one year or gift them to your family and friends! Remember to refrigerate after opening.

*PRO TIP. Substitute the saffron with rosemary to make Apricot and Rosemary Jam. The apricot jam is fantastic on a cheese board with some good cheese and crackers!


Inspired by the produce available to her in California, Amisha Dodhia Gurbani began incorporating ingredients into traditional Indian recipes of her roots. Photo courtesy of The Countryman Press.

Credits

Host:

Evan Kleiman