Winter bonus for the sturdy winter dwellers of the mountains.
Big, juicy lemons stud the hill slopes and brighten corners of dwellings. The birds, monkeys and cattle stay far away from them and they ripen slowly and surely on the tree.
We have the Galagal variety–smaller and less rind and better suited for pickling. The big Nimbu has been transformed into a delicacy by Kumaon women…A delicacy termed “Nimbu”.
This year, I have been spoilt silly every day. I get to devour “nimbu” at 11 am . “Nimbu” is a delectable dish of Kumaon…every household has a different recipe and a special touch and I love them all. Its a sublime, sharp combination of bitter lime, creamy yoghurt/cream, flavoured salt ( there are a zillion varieties of “pisi nud”–salt ground with garlic/chillies/coriander/local herbs/pepper/bhaang seeds), radish, carrots, jaggery and some other wonderful flavours. It has to be made and eaten in bright, mid morning sunshine and no drinking water with it.
My neighbour has an obliging buffalo who supplies enough cream and yoghurt for Prema to prepare the nimbu and pass it over the balcony to this hungry soul.
There were no big lemons at home today…great opportunity to go driving through sunlit forests…
Get stuck with Army trucks, wood-cutters and cattle–all out on the road and getting on with the business of working and living.
Kalika temple, just a mile from home, is reputed to the exact spot where the Goddess Durga had destroyed the Asura. We have a collection of tiny shops–best Maggie, best buttered-buns, best masala tea. These days we have these fresh juice and jal-jeera stalls who will happily give me a couple of nimbu for my mid morning gourmet snack.
This stall owner is keen to load me with Nimbu–his wife is one of my new knitters and she is currently spending more time ripping out her work, instead of knitting!
So, what can visitors do with these delicious Nimbu and Galagal, which beckon from roadside stalls?! They make great pickles and relishes. One can grate the rind with gay abandon into lemon cakes and tarts and drizzle the juice over roasted vegetables, sabudana khichdi and anything else which needs a little bit of tangy. I sipped a lovely drink made by blending Nimbu, mint and some rocksalt….superb!
Its time to sit in the sun, receive ( with reverence) my share of “nimbu” and spoon dollops of that delectable decoction on that one inch of my tongue which has the taste-buds, savour the explosion of flavour and feel good and blessed!!