Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Saffron Cardamom Lemonade

Last month, I spent two happy, busy afternoons cooking with two groups of fifth graders at Discovering Options here in St. Louis. Those hours reminded me that when a child learns to cook, especially as part of a group, it is about so much more than just making a plate of food. To be able to cook, you have to be able to read a recipe, follow directions, identify ingredients, be able to measure accurately, work as part of a team, know cooking terminology such as dice, grate and bake, have knife skills, manage your time and learn to clean up after yourself- to name just a few things. Then, when you sit down to eat, it is a lesson in manners and etiquette, in sharing food equally and making sure all your friends get their fair portion, in appreciating new flavors and textures and carrying on a polite conversation at the table. Not to mention the lessons in culture, language and geography that comes from trying ingredients and recipes from a cuisine other than your own.

The menus I chose were simple ones involving lots of prep activities that the kids could do on their own. The first day, we made masala burgers, with flavorful patties containing potatoes, sweet potatoes, onion, peppers, carrots, corn, peas and cilantro. To go with the burgers, we made "Indian-style coleslaw", shredded red and green cabbage dressed with Greek yogurt, crushed roasted peanuts, cumin and salt. None of the children knew you could make a burger without meat.

For the second session (with a different set of kids), we made chutney-cheese sandwiches, the chutney being the popular one with mint, cilantro and some roasted dalia. We baked the sandwiches to get the cheesy all melty and gooey and served them with ketchup. To go with the sandwiches, we made chana chaat, tossing together chickpeas with halved grapes, boiled potato, cucumber and carrots. None of the children had tasted a chickpea before.

Both times, I wanted to serve a refreshing drink to wash down the food. I was thinking of making mango lassi as the beverage, but changed my mind when I read a comment by Mints! on the post where I requested ideas for kid-friendly eats. She said "Instead of lassi, you could make lemonade with keshar and ilaichi. kids will have fun squeezing lemons and stirring." And yes, they indeed had fun doing just that, and we ended up with tall pitchers of saffron cardamom lemonade.  Thank you Mints!, for sharing an excellent idea. None of the children had ever made lemonade from scratch.

In the US today, children consume a truly frightening amount of sodas and other sugary drinks. I would rather make some lemonade using real lemons, real sugar, pure water and interesting spices, then serve it to them in small cups and let them enjoy those sips as a special treat.

Lemonade is not only for kids, of course. As temperatures are soaring in St. Louis and we have made the unceremonious jump from 40 degrees F to 80 degrees F overnight, I made this very lemonade to share with our friends this weekend. They were surprised and delighted by the unique taste of saffron and cardamom in the otherwise-familiar lemonade. One thing I should mention is that most Indians love a hint of salt in their lemonade, but my American friends hate the addition of salt. I'm talking about people with adventurous palates who love foods from different cuisines, who relish unusual (to them) textures like sabudana. But they make a face and spit out lemonade that has salt in it. Lesson learned- no salt in lemonade when I have non-Indian friends over.

For the 21+ set, you could spike this lemonade with vodka to make an interesting cocktail. I'm just sayin'.

Saffron Cardamom Lemonade
(about 4 servings)

  1. Make simple syrup by heating 12 cup sugar with 12 cup water until the sugar dissolves completely. You can do this either in a small saucepan on the stove, or in a glass bowl in the microwave. 
  2. Add 1 large pinch of saffron threads to the warm syrup to coax out the color and flavor. 
  3. Juice 3 fresh lemons.
  4. In a pitcher, stir together the saffron syrup, lemon juice, 4 cups water and 12 tsp. cardamom powder.
  5. Serve chilled or over ice.
Needless to say, the amounts of lemon juice and sugar can be adjusted to taste. And you can add more or less water depending on how concentrated you like your lemonade to be.

I took this picture too soon after making the lemonade; if you let it sit around for just a little bit, the saffron threads give it a vibrant sunset color.

What are your favorite summer beverages? What recipes are you planning to make this summer?

On the Hooks

I'm working on a rather ambitious project- a crochet blanket made by arranging dozens and dozens of colorful squares together. It is a highly popular pattern called Babette.

I chose what I thought was an autumnal color scheme...

...and I'm only 25% done at this point, so this is my work in progress:

Garish much? Looks like I need to return the blanket to the 70s? I'm hoping it will look OK when I am done. I'll post more pics as it progresses.

The Babette flickr picture gallery is a feast for the eyes. See you later!


  1. That is really wonderfuk what you are doing with those kids Nupur. A cooking lesson learnt will stay with them for life.

    Nothing like homemade lemonade.

  2. Wow you are soo Creative, Your hand craft looks fab and the lemonade is inviting me :)

  3. With temperatures over 90 here in Rhode Island today (yes, freaky hot weather), this lemonade would be perfect. I love the idea of spices that I don't usually use in beverages.

  4. the lemondae is making me thirsty and Wow what a crochet work. I cannot do any of the crochet or any such art work to save my life. Beautiful pattern and selection of colors.

  5. I should try this... :)

    It is already around 108F here... and it is just the second week of April.

    Nice to read about the experiences with children

  6. It is wonderful to know that you are involved in such a project.. also so true about cooking being a learning experience involving so many skills. It is easy to forget that. The colour scheme on your blanket looks beautiful.. not garish at all!

  7. You are welcome Nupur. I used to have fun making lemonade as kid so suggested it to you too. You are doing such a wonderful job of exposing kids to healthier and interesting food.

    I make it slightly differently but your's sound interesting to make so I will be making it this summer. You are so right about salt in lemonade.

    Lemonade with daffodils look wonderful and what can I say about the crochet project! its grand!

  8. The whole exercise sounds truly rewarding. Question - Just whole cardamom?

  9. Any form on beverage is welcome in this hot weather.

    And adding a pinch of salt does make a difference here :)

  10. The blanket is going to look much more than just OK!! Its really awesome!! I think I am gonna do the same as well....

  11. Love the colors used in the mom once made something similar for me..long time ago!best luck with ur blanket!

  12. a cooking lesson is what everyone needs now to get their food intake under control. ur lemonade is exactly what we need for this unseasonal heat.

  13. I love colors and this blanket is going to turn out so great. Wish I was in st. Louise, I could have learnt it from you. yummy flavors in Lemonade (shd try it with vodka as you suggest :))

  14. lemonade looks so refreshing...

  15. Lemonade looks refreshing but am stuck with your blanket...looks so cute

  16. I agree that teaching kids to cook is essential--half the time my stepkids don't even know you CAN make certain foods from scratch!

    And as for the lemonade, I'm gonna make some this week. Sounds great. Any ideas for the perfect lime-water? I've also noted the aversion of Americans to salt in their lemonade and limeade. I guess I'm in the minority!

  17. aha looks so refreshing, I could gulp down pitchers of this lemonade during the day as its heating tremendously here in India and make it difficult for all of us..great idea to involve kids in such cool activities..

    the yarn click looks so beautiful..I wish i could be such a pro knitter..I am learning though..

  18. the lemonade sounds delicious, but so did all the other things you prepared with the children too! nice job!

  19. Cooking lessons learnt can help anyday, the kids just have to use their imagination to make couple of dishes out of the ones they learnt, esp healthy vegetarian home made food.

    Lemonade with saffron is a good idea, I'll try it soon instead of the cartons of OJ's!

  20. You are truly gifted Nupur. Love the crochet you have done. Can't wait to see how it looks when it is complete.
    Cooking with Kids is really a wonderful experience. I am sure the lemonade would have made the meal a perfect one. Bookmarking to try this recipe.

  21. Loved the lemonade and nice creative hand work i was once crazy in this now i am unable to work just enjoy seeing this.

  22. Great project with the kids Nupur. The unhealthy eating habits in kids in the USA is kinda scary, and you have really taught them a lesson they will treasure for a lifetime... Great job well done..
    Oh girl wat a great crochet project... Love the vibrant colors ..

    I made two crochet projects in the winter and a third one is half complete... you are inspiring me to complete it :)

  23. I love your idea of adding saffron and cardamom to lemonade, thanks! The kids surely must have had a good time learning from you, very nice.
    And I love the quilt, the bright and colorful squares make the quilt look so vibrant.

  24. wow, I am amazed how many things you manage to do, Nupur! The kids must have had such a nice time with this lemonade; looks delicious with cardamom and saffron.

    The crochet project looks amazing! I have had a co-worker's mom make me a wonderful afghan with a similar pattern. Yours is coming out so wonderful!

  25. indosungod- That's really my hope, that all kids develop an interest in cooking that stays with them for life, because it is such an important life skill.

    indosungod- Thank you!

    Lydia- You have some really weird weather there, with storms and heat! Lemonade definitely soothes the mind and body in this kind of weather :)

    Priya (Yallantapula) Mitharwal- Thank you, but crochet is very easy if you do want to learn it.

    Raaga- Oh my, it must be painful to step outside during these kind of temps. We'll soar into the 100s in a couple of months here.

    Inji- I'm glad you think so, it was a challenge to pick colors that would coordinate!

    Mints!- How do you make your lemonade? Thanks for sharing your idea for this drink, I myself will be making it again and again in the coming months.

    Subhorup Dasgupta- Oh, cardamom powder is what I meant to say, not the whole cardamom. I've updated the recipe with that detail.

    Kanchan- I do love adding a pinch of salt too.

    Rooma- Thanks, I hope so :)

    Madhuli- Thanks!

    Mallugirl- I agree, cooking skills would go a long way in helping people make better food choices.

    Preeti Kashyap- I'll be happy to teach you crochet any day, but it is easy enough to learn from books or online videos too.

    notyet100- Thanks

    Preeti- Thanks, I am glad you think so :)

    GrousyGirl- Very true, all food comes in a pretty box from the supermarket via the factory. Sigh.
    I think you could easily substitute limes for lemons in this recipe. In fact, growing up we had a lime tree in the backyard and used those in place of lemons in everything.

    Deepa- I could drink pitchers of this stuff too, it is heating up here!

    cinderelly- Thank you!

    ruchikacooks- I really hope they take something back to their homes! Even if just the concept that meat does not have to be part of every single meal.

    RV- I hope you try the lemonade and enjoy it!

    kamalabhoopathy- Thank you!

    Koki- So what crochet projects are you working on?

    namita- Yes, the blanket is looking quite vibrant as it keeps growing!

    PJ- How wonderful that someone made a crochet blanket just for you!

  26. Nice work with the kids! I feel like I want to make burgers and coleslaw!
    The saffron is a neat thing to add in the lemonade. In Chicag we are far far from summer, still chilly 40s here...hopefully soon!
    The blanket looks delightful! My first thought was what a nice heirloom that can be passed on!

  27. Cooking with children equates to life skills bar none. Since both of us work outside of home our quality time together included grocery shopping and cooking and of course eating in restaurants(Montreal was great for that). Both my children in their early twenties are amazing cooks who can pull together great meals with whatever is at hand, they are not afraid to try anything new and can have great conversations with strangers and friends alike. You are not only educating children but hopefully the parents as well. How is Dale, Daisy just celebrated her 17th birthday, not bad for a lab. I am convinced it was all the Indian meals she has been having with us, yes even the dog ate together with the family, since the age of four months.

  28. ooh- this saffron lemonade sounds great.
    It is getting hotter here in southern California and I could do with some nice salty nimbu paani. That is an interesting observation you made about non-Indians not liking salt in their lemonade. 4 years ago, when I was really craving the sweet and sour quality of the refreshing drinks back home /(like jal jeera and lemonade), I hit up on a quick fix solution that worked really well for a while- a cup of limeade with some jal jeera powder thrown in worked remarkably well to quench both my thirst and the aches associated with Ofcourse nothing beats homemade anything- so I will try your lemonade(but with salt of course)

    One of my friend's father used to make the most amazing lemonade literally titrating the amounts of salt and sugar till the perfect taste was

  29. Oh and btw, the cooking session with the kids sounds lovely! It must be fun sharing your experience and skills with people who haven't had much exposure to Indian food. Working with kids must have been especially fun!

  30. Nupur,

    Did I ever tell you that you make us fall in love with you through this blog? I mean ..really. You love all the things I love. Cooking, knitting ( well I only crochet, not tried knitting yet), reading ( though I stopped reading after kids), making new friends/trying out new ideas etc. the one and only big difference between your liking and mine is that I am not comfortable keeping pets at home while you simply adore pets. I hate dog/cat hair all over the place and get terrified when i think it may get into my food or mouth or even worse my kids' food /mouth. Keeping pets at home is almost like raising a kid and I just cannot. Love to see you enjoy doing it and see other pet lovers too . While I have great regard for them, I cannot get myself to do it.. ever! :)


  31. Nupur, Do you mind sharing recipes of other dishes that you made for the kids? Thanks! Shriya

  32. Nupur, what a post... loved reading and I like tht you had more in the post than just the recipe... looking forward to more...
    Jealously wishing i was with the group too :)

  33. It is amazingly nice looking. I am really glad that if you can share your recipes and give us a tutorial. Love your blog

  34. very delicious ur blog

  35. Beautiful work Nupur. That blanket looks gorgeous.

    Also the saffron flavored lemonade sounds refreshing!

    I suggest you consider taking part in the 'Top Chef', I am pretty sure you can do that with flying colors Nupur.

  36. Sangeetha- I'm thinking of giving the blanket to my neighbor as a graduation gift, actually. I hope you get nice warm weather soon!

    Sangeetha- How lovely that your kids enjoy cooking and appreciate good food in any setting! It is wonderful to get updates about Daisy; I wish her much health and happiness ahead!

    Lavanya- Oh I should definitely add jal jeera powder to lemonade next time. That is definitely the perfect summer drink. I love how your friend's dad titrated lemonade, yes, if you are able to strike that perfect balance there is just nothing like it.
    Working with kids was a lot of fun and something I would love to do more of; I believe getting kids to enjoy real food and cooking is the secret to reversing all these awful unhealthy trends we are seeing.

    Soujanya- Thank you for your kind words. To each their own- of all the things that could contaminate my food, pet hair is the very least of my worries!!

    Shriya- If you like, e-mail me (using the contact form at the top of the page) and I'll be happy to send the document with the recipes I made with the kids.

    Cooking Foodie- Thank you. Look around in your own community, you might be able to volunteer for something similar!

    Brett Sutcliffe- Thanks!

    Priya- Thank you!

    Mona- How nice of you to say that, but the snarky mean world of Top Chef is not for me :D

  37. Wow, thats beautiful job' there...

    Recipe sound snew and interesting' very refreshing:)

  38. discovering options sounds like a great place! and how unique this lemonade is!

  39. The lemonade sounds like heaven (especially as a cocktail!) Loving your crochet project too!

  40. my father needs a constant supply of nimbu pani to beat the Ahmedabad heat. kesar elaichi should taste wonderful.
    and i really like how the blanket is shaping up...

  41. I would typically put vanilla in my lemonade but I think the next time I make it, I am going to follow you and do cardamom instead.

  42. Hi Nupur,
    I have been following your blog for quite some time now. I want to thank you today. An year back I came across you blog just by accident and I was hooked. The beautiful world of food blogs just became my heaven, and thus tarted my journey of discovering my passion for cooking.

    Now, once again this post had kindled a spark in me. I just know basic crochet but you have inspired me to learn more and its becoming a favourite thing- A New Journey.
    Thanks for inspiring me Nupur.

  43. Malar Gandhi- Thanks! It really was refreshing.

    Veggie Belly- It is a great place, they do such good work giving children so many life skills.

    The Zhush- Thank you!

    Gauri Gharpure- Oh I bet you need gallons of cool drinks to make it through summers in India, especially since they seem to be getting hotter each year.

    Cynthia- Ooh, vanilla in lemonade? Now that's something very new to me.

    Vidushi- Thank you for saying that, and I am just thrilled that you were able to discover the incredible world of food blogs. I hope you pick up crochet again and enjoy it!

  44. Nupur I made a blanket n scarf for my toddler n a scaef for my hubby. Now I amlearning knitting ...i am excited

  45. we made the lemonade for our boy/girl twins 1st birthday and it was a big hit! so much funnn!! i love your photos and website. thanks for sharing,


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