Food Talk
Apricot affair

Tasty, tangy and refreshing apricots make for an unusual dessert, writes Pushpesh Pant

Khubani ka meetha should be served with cream.
Khubani ka meetha should be served with cream.

Khubani ka meetha

Preparation time: overnight
Cooking time: 45 minutes


Dried apricots 1 kg
Sugar 150 gm
Fresh cream 250 gm


Soak apricots overnight in just enough water to cover them. Add half the sugar to apricots while soak ing. Next morning, boil apricots in the same water till tender. Remove seeds. Sieve till only the fibre remains in the strainer. Add a little water, the remaining sugar and cook at medium heat till desired consistency is obtained.

Crack open the apricot seeds and remove kernel. Blanch the kernel and remove skin. Garnish the dish with these apricot kernels.

Serve with malai (clotted cream).

Apricots or Khubani are a fruit believed to have been imported into the subcontinent by the Central Asians. Babar, every schoolboy continues to be taught, pined for the fruit of his native land, Fargana, as he led dangerous military campaigns on the hot Indian plains. Little did this founder of the grand dynasty know that the prune with the velvety skin had reached his beloved homeland from China via India.

Historians speculate that this transit took place when the entourage of Alexander, the Great, was transporting it to Europe in the 4th century BC. So enamoured were the ancient Greeks with the apricots that they gave them the name "golden egg of the sun".

The Indian apricots continue to be tasty, luscious with tang and delightfully sweet with just a hint of sourness and a refreshing aroma. Orchardiers from Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal claim that their own produce is the best and regional partisanship renders a fair decision impossible. There is the badami variety where the ‘almond’ yielded by the pit stone is difficult to distinguish from the real Mc coy and the morpankh — the larger platter specimen that resembles the beautiful marks on peacock feathers and is decidedly more fragrantly flavourful.

Apricots ripen earlier than peach, plum or pears hence the name that shares etymological roots with precocious. The fruit has a short shelf life and it is not surprising that most of us are acquainted with it as a dried fruit or in its incarnation as a preserve. Those who are a little squeamish about imbibing alcohol are perfectly happy to sip apricot brandy deluding themselves that it is a fruit-based innocent beverage and the act does not entail any loss of innocence.

Khubani, however, can be used, and is used, in some very interesting non-vegetarian delicacies. The Kashmiris make unusual meatballs that are shaped like dried apricots and packed with raisins to ensure a fruity taste. The Parsis call dried apricot jardaloo and use them lovingly with chicken in a sweet and sour dish that is indeed sublimated by the fruit.

However, our own favourite continues to be the sublime apricot-based dessert that may be served, if you are lucky in Hyderabad. More often than not, it is the double ka meetha that one encounters or, if a more elaborate banquet is being hosted, gille firdaus or badam ki jaali relegate this simple yet elegant sweet to the background. This dessert should not be confused with stewed or poached apricots dunked in sugar syrup. Just remember that the dried apricots have a much higher calorie value than the fresh fruit and although the temptation is always strong to reach for the seconds, one should not yield without some resistance. Do not insult the khubani ka meetha by topping it with a slab of ice-cream. It should be married only with clotted cream.