I always find it amazing when I find fruits that I was used to in India, once again here, in the US, only in a different color and known by a different name. In some cases, I never knew the Indian name anyway. So, unlikely I would recognise the English one! :)
Currant is one such fruit. I have seen the gorgeous red little berries pop out of many a bloggers' site and was pretty curious about them. When I received a small basket of them from my CSA, I was thrilled to, finally, be able to taste them! Imagine my surprise when I realised that they were anything but new and indeed a rediscovery of a wild growing berry in India.
Ofcourse, the currants I have seen here, are usually red in color, although google tells me that they can be black as well. Indeed, these black currants are what grow as wild hedges in India. As soon as I bit into a currant, the tangy taste transported me back to my country and a childhood of running in the garden, picking these berries, squishing them with my fingers because their purple insides were a fun color and then popping them into my mouth. Any Indian kid will know them... :)
Once I had my flavor reference down pat, I started wondering what to do with them. I mean, in the past, I just ate them as is. These red ones were a bit too tart for that. I could make jam (which I did with some of them mixed with gooseberries and strawberries) but then that seemed too tame an idea.
Browsing through my favorite blogs, I landed upon Bea's Lemongrass, Vanilla and Red Currant Cakes that just called to me. Ofcourse the recipe called for more ingredients that I had. So, I happily adapted. After all, adapting is one thing every blogger knows to do best! :) Mine was to be an ode to the currant alone and, as such, it was.
I also had the brilliant idea of making currant lemonade. So, I steeped a few berries in hot sugar syrup hoped that osmosis and it's reverse would help both the drink and the berry. Unfortunately, my science experiment wasn't much of a success. I don't know, which, fluid density I was off on.
After 8 hours of soaking, the lemonade, well, remained lemonade and the berries were just marginally sweeter. Nevertheless, they added a brilliant punch of color to the lemonade jar! :) Where I did triumph was the tea cake. The cake itself was sweet and biting into a currant added a refreshing twist of tart that played well with this light cake...
Going back to the drawing board, I came up with another lemonade creation, which, YIPPEEE!! this time worked and very nicely! The sweet folks at POM had recently sent me a case of their POM Wonderful pomegranate juice. The curvy bottles were sitting in the fridge just beckoning to be made into a cool drink for the summer. Well, one could definitely drink the juice as is, but this Pomegranate Lemonade really does kick the butt of Summer heat! Trust me, I know! I have functional air conditioning in only one room!! ;-)
For more ideas on cooking fresh, seasonal produce, please click on the "Farm to Table Series" tab above.
Red Currant Tea Cake
Adapted from La Tartine Gourmande
(makes one 5 inch cake)
1/2 cup almond meal, sifted (if you don't already have it, grind unblanched almonds to a dry powder)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
4 T butter
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 egg whites
Red Currants, as much as you like, berries removed from stems. (can easily substitute with raspberry or blueberries)
Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a bowl sift together flour, almond meal, confectioner’s sugar, salt and baking powder. Add the vanilla and melted butter and set aside.
Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks and gently fold 1/3 of it into the flour mixture to loosen it. Add the mixture to remaining whites and gently fold until you see no white egg streaks. Pour the batter into a prepared mold. Sprinkle the currants on top and press them lightly into the batter.
Bake for 30 min or until a tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool in pan for a few minutes before unmolding onto a rack.
Note: There isn't a real recipe. I have listed the basics. You just tweak the amounts of pomegranate juice and lime juice according to your taste.
4 cups water
juice of 2 limes
1 bottle of POM
sugar/mild honey to taste
1/2 lime sliced (optional)
Mix everything together. Drop the lime slices in if using an refrigerate for atleast an hour. You can add a sprig of mint in each glass, if you like! :)