One of the first sounds I would wake up to in our town house, was an intense conversation between Gita Bai, the vegetable hawker and Ammi on life and such.
Gita Bai, the hawker who got the freshest produce in town made her first stop at our house. She would talk about her sons and daughters, their lives and miseries, the son who has ran away to the city, the daughter who has not been able to conceive a male child yet and the crops that are not doing well. She would explain how she quickly, which I suppose was quite relative, wants to finish selling the vegetables so she could attend the road construction. Yes, attend, so she could get her name on the list of workers of the day, just so she could get paid but didn't necessarily have to work on the road. Ammi would listen, often losing her debate on what's really the right thing to do against Gita's theories of survival, being the only earning member in the family.
Sometimes I would sit next to Ammi, pick up the pea pods from a wooden weaved basket that was lined with floral but rugged cloth. Opening the tender bright green pods and discovering how many little balls would come out of it kept me amused and entertained. They were always sweet, the ones Gita Bai would pick up and hand me that is.
My mother in law on the other hand, far away from her native Rajasthan, on the buzzing city of Pune, set her alarm for 8 in the morning everyday. She trusted immensely a vegetable peddler who showed up in our area in the mornings. Breaking her daily ritual, opting to attend to the khoya (milk solids) she was making on the stove, she send me to get the produce. Woken to fuzzy hair and without the assistance of tea, I wasn't particularly excited. I got into my Kolapuri chappal, hoping the door of the new neighbour would open too, who's pseudo self I could tolerate, if only she helped me with the buying. But there was no movement, or sound, she was as usual sound asleep.
The market was rushing despite a scorching sun. Their was endless noise and banter from the hawkers on the road. Jai Shambhu Vada Pav, the eatery just around the corner was already met by eager lot of people, wanting to start their day by sinking their teeth into spicy potato patties between buttery soft round rolls, good enough for them to not complain about the mediocre chai they serve.
The vegetable peddler was right there, stationed where she usually does during this hour, her wooden cart surrounded by buyers from all side. The buyers ploughed their way through the vegetables and fruits, picking, sniffing as fast as possible to make way for others to do the same. She crossly remarked something to a lady who was snapping the ends of okra to judge their freshness. I could not decode her words thanks to my popped ears, but it sure woke me from the slaphappiness that morning.
Despite thinking of which pods Gita Bai would have picked, I failed at picking peas and opted out for bitter greens, potatoes and apples. It turned out to be a fine day, aloo methi (potatoes and bitter greens) for lunch and apple halwa for dessert.
Apple and Almond Halwa With Orange Whipped Cream
I grew up on apple halwa that was always topped with crumbled orange cupcakes from the store. The light airy texture and citrus notes of orange balances the apple halwa so well, you will be amazed. So while, I wanted to keep the light airy and citrus intact I replaced the cupcakes with cloud like orange whipped cream.
2 tbsp ghee
2 cardamom pods
1 kg sweet apple, skinned and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I used mix of Mcintosh and golden delicious)
1/4 cup sugar
generous pinch of saffron
1/4 cup milk powder
water as required
For whipped cream
250ml whipping cream
juice of one orange
zest of two oranges
2 tbsp icing sugar
Blitz the almonds to a coarse powder and keep aside.
Whip the cream with the zest, orange juice and icing sugar until stiff.
Heat ghee in a heavy bottom pan and add cardamom and apples. Sauté the apples until most of them have reduced to sauce like consistency. I keep some cubes larger than others for a chunky texture.
Add the sugar, saffron, almond powder and milk powder. Splash in water to keep the apples cooking if required or if the mixture gets too dry, about 1/4 cup at a time. Cooking for another 15 minutes.
Serve warm or cold with the whipped cream and flaked almond.