Sunday, May 6, 2012

Back to blogging - with a screwpine bang! Bring on the Kashikeyo craze...

I've been so hooked on twitter past couple of months that I've been neglecting my dear airyfairyblissful blog. Yes the 140 character limit is annoying at times, but tweeting just became so easy, so convenient! But here I am, back to my blog, my happy place, my little corner on this vast web...sigh. This feels good.

Ok, so to get started on blogging again, I've brought something exciting to share. Screwpine jam! (the fruit is locally known as kashikeyo).Well, I've been engaged in various culinary experiments lately and most of them have turned out to be delightful. Some like the Middle Eastern couscous and lamb, Thai red and green curries, Indian dosa, Vietnamese vermicelli, Ukrainian crepes and Palestinian ma'amoul have taken me on multicultural gastronomic global adventures. I have celebrated cuisine from around the world with family and friends and rejoiced with all sorts of baked goodies. Because I always have to move on to new experiences and learn new things I got interested in making my own jams, and the rest is history.

Well not quite. First I made date jam and it was delightful. In fact the first batch of a kilo of jam ran out so quickly that I made another batch using a different type of dates. This also proved to be a useful lesson as this jam tasted different. I learnt the best texture, color and flavor of dates for that beautifully smooth, flavorful but not too sweet jam that everyone liked.

Then I made mango jam, which I myself can't get enough of! Again I went through a pile of recipes and mixed it all up to get my own formula. And it seems to have worked well! Here I've posted a pic of the Ukranian  cream cheese crepes I made for my friends with date and mango jams.

Encouraged by the favorable results, I was revved up to try more local  flavors (thus exotic jams). By now my dear husband, family and friends had all begun to share concerned looks amongst themselves - my jam obsession was running wild. I was most determined to make screwpine jam - and unfortunately (or fortunately, from how one sees it) when I am bent on something I can be very stubborn.  So I drag my hubby despite much protest to the local market (I luuuurve the throbbing pulse and activity, the vibrant colors, the smells, the textures....ooooh.... husband of mine was of course itching to get out of there).

Anyways, I found my beautiful ripe screwpines and gleefully rushed home to make my jam. Since there was nothing, NOTHING, nada, zilch on the internet or any recipe book about making screwpine jams [one website actually said screwpines were not consumed by humans!] I tinkered around and made one up. Everything I read indicated that the pulp of screwpines and screwpine leaves (known as pandan leaves), as well as pandan essence, are used to flavor jams and preserves, but nowhere have I found it used as the main ingredient of jams. I have always loved the taste and smell of screwpines, and figured, why not give this a go. I loved the end result, and I think anyone who likes kashikeyo will do too. Maldivians have used kashikeyo in various dishes - we make juice, a dessert called kashikeyo fo, and even to flavor rice and bondibaiy. And now screwpine jam :) an exotic food from an exotic fruit found in abundance in the exotic Maldives, so very fitting. All hail the gorgeous, much underestimated kashikeyo!

[NOTE: After I had tweeted about this, fellow tweep Ms AsmaRasheed informed me that they do make screwpine jams at one of the Maldivian resorts - Kuramathi, and I'm told its quite popular!]

The beautiful succulent kashikeyo (screwpine) fruit....

Voila! Smooth, sweet screwpine jam :) - I must admit for those who are not fans of this fruit like my adorable brother, this jam is not for you. But since most Maldivians seem to like kashikeyo fani (juice - so popular during Ramazan), I believe this could be a yummy alternative to the typical berry jams we have for breakfast or with crackers for evening tea. Variety is the spice of life, after all!

I hope to explore and experiment further with a variety other local fruits and exotic flavors - more jams on the way! Keep dropping by for my jam and other culinary experiments, and other random experiences (very colorful ones too - as we live in highly charged, politically volatile times here in the Maldives)...

Well I also hope to bottle my jams in pretty jars with cute labels and get them out in the market someday. A girl can dream eh? ;) So many balls in the air at the moment, perhaps I can handle one more!

Until next time, toodles!

Ps - Incidentally I also got a letter of termination from my former job at the President's Office today (so today's a day of memorable events!). Funnily enough it was marked Very Urgent. Thats such a joke, since I havent been to that office for the past 3 months. Why? Because the democratic government of the Maldives was overthrown by a coup d'etat on 7th February and I believed the current 'government' was illegitimate. And after 3 months, it suddently became urgent that they terminate me, and the delivery person was calling frantically to locate me. Erm, still not getting the urgency of the matter, I was a bit puzzled but accepted the letter - as far as I'm concerned I've left the place on 7th February with President Nasheed, and that was that, so letter or no letter I had walked away a long time ago :) I breathe easy being away from that place that has now being tainted and polluted by undesirable elements. Perhaps this just shows how efficiently they go about their business - 3 months to send a termination letter? I am grateful that life has presented me with wonderful opportunities and a whole new exciting chapter in life - like they say when one door closes, another opens! And I'm grateful that my determination to fight against the coup for democracy and justice has not wavered for a single day since then :)

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