Summer has hit Bangalore hard and sent us hurtling to our freezers, to pack our drinks with ice. I’m not a big fan of ice in my drinks, but come summer and it changes everything. Today, three of us food blogger friends drove some 25 kilometers in search of props for food photos and thanks to the heat, by the time I came back home, I was like a rag doll that’s gone through an extended cycle in the washing machine. In short, completely drained out. If something refreshed me, it was this tall glass of shikanji, and I can tell it is going to be a life-saver in the coming few weeks.
I’ve never been fond of aerated drinks except for a short phase during school days when I used to love Limca and Gold Spot. I suppose that was more so because they fell in the prohibited foods/ very occasional treats category and as kids we always loved such foods. Give me a good homemade lemonade and I’m a happy girl. My aunt always has a bottle of homemade lemon concentrate that she serves with roasted cumin powder and black salt and it is absolutely refreshing for the Bombay summers. This is my take on the Punjabi shikanji, that I’ve had in some of my favourite Punjabi restaurants. A shot of vodka or gin won’t go amiss in this one, if you’re looking at something more potent for a day time drink. Call it our own Indian version of Pimms.
Traditionally, Shikanji or Shikanjvi (nothing to do with our South Indian kanji) is a spiced lemonade, which has lemon juice, ginger, roasted cumin powder. My recipe for Shikanji has a twist by way of adding tulsi and mint. Mint is the best cooling herb for summer, tulsi is great for any respiratory allergies and for building immunity, plus these two are currently growing like crazy in my garden, so I wanted to put them to good use. By grinding them to extract their juices, the drink acquires a lovely green colour along with the intense flavour of mint and the mellower notes of tulsi (holy basil). If you find that the taste of black salt or kala namak does not suit your palate, by all means use regular salt. I buy bottles of liquid jaggery or nolen gur (when in season) from our local grocery suppliers, and it saves me the trouble of making sugar syrup for such drinks. It’s also a consolation that jaggery syrup is a tad bit healthier than sugar syrup.
Ingredients (Makes 2 glasses)
2 inches- Knob of ginger (peeled and sliced)
A handful of Tulsi leaves (washed and cleaned )
A handful Mint leaves (washed and cleaned)
2- Lemons, juiced
1/2 tsp- Black salt
1/2 tsp- Roasted cumin powder
4 tbsp- Sugar syrup or jaggery syrup or nolen gur syrup
* In a small mixer, grind the ginger, mint and tulsi with 1/4 cup water.
* Using a fine meshed sieve, squeeze out all the juice, with the back of a spoon.
* Add to a mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice, black salt, roasted cumin powder and 2 cups of water.
* Add the sweetener of choice, mix well.
* To serve, add 2-3 ice cubes in a glass and top with the drink.
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