It's time for the 'Q' post in this A - Z marathon, based on Andhra vegetarian recipes. Picking a dish for this particular alphabet was easy-peasy, as my daughter would say. Though there is not a single ingredient in an Andhra kitchen which starts with 'Q', there are however a couple of popular 'Q' dishes if one travels to the capital city of Hyderabad. And I picked the sweet one among those, a popular delicacy from the region called 'Qubani ka Meetha'. It is a dish that is almost synonymous with the Nizam city and a cherished one among the Muslim community there. This was on my 'to do' list for about two decades now and thanks to this marathon, I could prepare it recently.
'Qubani' means apricots in Urdu and 'Meetha' means sweet and so the name 'Qubaani ka Meetha' literally translates to a sweet dish prepared using apricots. Apricots are not local to the region and hence there is no Telugu name for either the fruit or the dish. While Hyderabadi 'Fine biscuits' I posted earlier in the marathon has a English name, this 'Q' dish has a Urdu name. Those are the only names by which these dishes go by and both names have no regional translations / substitutes and so, they helped me in maneuvering around the 'regional names clause' for these particularly difficult alphabets. I am reserving to use that clause exemption for more difficult alphabets which are coming my way next week.
Qubani ka meetha was conceived in the Nizam kitchens, on his behest. I heard an anecdote about the origins of this dish recently on a cook show, which coincidentally was showcasing some Hyderabadi delicacies. It was mentioned that the Nizam of Hyderabad who went to Kashmir to meet the Mughal emperor, fell in love with the apricots he was served there. It is said that the emperor later parceled him dried apricots so that the Nizam can enjoy them to his fill, through out the year. The Nizam sent those apricots to his palatial kitchen and asked the chefs to come up with something interesting. Obviously it had to be something delicious and thus the qubani ka meetha was born. I don't know how authentic the story is, but qubani ka meetha was indeed a creation of Nizam chefs. The dish probably reached the common masses later and is now an integral part of the celebrations, especially weddings among the local Muslim community.
Qubani ka meetha is a very straight forward and simple preparation that involves only two ingredients, dried apricots and sugar. Even a novice cook can master the dish in the first trial itself and can boast about. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to cook the meetha, on low simmer and one need not hover around, especially if using a non-stick pan. I probably stirred the meetha only twice or thrice during the entire cooking.
Dried apricots are soaked in water overnight to re-hydrate them. The stones are removed and the pulp is cooked along with sugar in the soaked water until it reaches the consistency of a compote and then pureed. Inside each stone there is an edible seed which tastes and looks like an almond albeit smaller in size. Those are collected and are used to garnish the meetha. Qubani ka meetha was served with malai / cream traditionally but now it can be served with custard or even vanilla ice cream. Qubani ka meetha is always prepared subtly sweet because of the custard / cream garnish which adds additional sweetness to the meetha. I prepared some thick custard to serve the meetha with.
Ingredients: (yield over 2 cups / 4 servings)
400 gm. dried apricots (72 apricots)
5 tbsp. sugar (Taste and adjust. The meetha should be subtly sweet.)
Custard / Cream / Ice cream to serve
* Wash the dried apricots thoroughly and soak them overnight in water, covered. The apricots should be completely immersed in water.
* By morning, the dried apricots would have swelled and the fruits would have become softer. The re-hydrated apricots are going to look like those in the above image. Do not throw away the water used to soak the apricots, which would have changed color by now. Collect the water in another bowl and reserve it. It is needed later to cook the apricots.
* Collect the fruits in another bowl and remove the stones from each fruit. If you have any eager hands to help, let them chip in. (The dried apricots may be lighter or darker in color and don't discard the darker ones thinking that they are rotten.)
* Do not throw away the stones yet. There are edible seeds in them which are going to be used later in the recipe.
* Add the stone-less fruits and the soaked water reserved in the earlier step to a pan, preferably a non stick one. Cook stirring intermittently until the mixture turns mushy.
* The soaked water would be enough to cook. However in case, if the mixture needs some more liquid and if you have run out of soaked liquid, add plain water as needed. The fruit pulp attains a darker shade while cooking.
* With the back of the spoon, just mash the fruit pulp into a single mass. Add sugar, stir and cook until it melts. At this point, the mixture is cooled a bit and pureed. I chose not to puree it. Or the apricots can be pureed at the beginning itself before cooking them
* While the apricots are cooking, collect the apricot seeds for garnishing. Gently break open the apricot stones using a mortar and pestle (or what ever gadget works for you). The stone will break open easily revealing a tiny almond sized apricot seed/kernel inside. Throw away the hard shells and collect the seeds.
* Garnish the cooked meetha with apricot seeds.
* Serve qubani ka meetha with custard / cream or ice cream.
So far on my 'A - Z' Andhra Cuisine,
A for Alasanda Vada
B for Bellam Garelu
C for Chiyali
D for Dondakaaya Kaarapu Kaaya
E for Endu Kobbari Podi
F for Fine Biscuits
G for Gongura - Mamidikaya Pappu
H for Halwa Holigalu
I for Idli Karam Podi
J for Janthikalu
K for Kobbari Koora
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM# 63.
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