By Swarna Koneru
Professional Culinary Arts student
I was born and brought up in the southern part of India. In 2007 I came to the US, like many others, to live the American dream. I got my Masters Degree in Computer Engineering in NY, followed by working as a System Analyst and a Product Owner/Manager in the corporate world.
Growing up as a pampered kid, I was never really into cooking. Occasionally, I tried the recipes from the Sunday magazines, but that was it. I still remember my first cooking fiasco. I was asked to make Indian puffed bread, which was to be deep-fried, and I dipped all 5 of my fingers along with the dough into the piping hot oil.
Cooking was an accidentally discovered passion after I got married. I was running out of options to feed my vegetarian husband and I quickly got bored with what I cooked. That’s when I started exploring other cuisines, cooking techniques, and experimenting with hundreds of new ingredients. I needed a place to document all these recipes and experiments, so I created my blog.
I found cooking to be therapeutic. In the midst of managing house chores, two extremely energetic dogs and a hectic IT job, cooking is what kept me grounded and relieved me of my stress. I found myself immersing in cooking whenever I was sad, stressed out or angry. The gratification I got from a good dish took all the stress away.
I wanted to get even more involved in the culinary world. The way I see it, every recipe speaks a story about a culture, a cultivation style or a lifestyle, about a specific country, a region, or a civilization. In America, we experience a very evolved and diverse culture. Food evolves the same way as we humans evolve and build new civilizations. I want to be at the forefront of that food evolution. Right now, I’m taking a break from work to explore the opportunities for becoming an Entrepreneur in the culinary world.
I bake a lot and I wanted to strengthen my culinary skills in addition to my pastry skills. I just finished Level 2 of the Culinary program at ICC, and I already feel so much more equipped with the basics that help me experiment and evolve with new recipes. The Chefs, the curriculum, the techniques and, most of all, the experience have been very rewarding at ICC.
For my newest recipe, an Indian Berry Sorbet, I combined the concepts of sorbet I learnt at school with Black Jamun, a fruit from India. As a kid, I used to sneak into someone’s backyard to get these fruits and eat them with salt. It grows during the rainy seasons and you get all muddy trying to pick this fruit. Rich in antioxidants, sweet, sour and sharp, it’s used to make syrup for Gola, an Indian version of shaved ice.
Indian Berry Sorbet
- 2 12 oz packets of frozen or fresh Black Jamun (makes about 10 oz puree, can be found in Indian stores)
- 1 cup simple syrup
- pinch black salt
- pinch black pepper powder
- juice of 1 small lemon
- The night before, place the ice-cream machine bowl in the freezer.
- Squeeze the jamun with your hands and extract all the seeds. Puree and strain the pulp through a sieve. You should get about 10 oz. puree.
- Add the simple syrup, black salt, pepper powder and lemon juice to the puree and mix well. The amount of sugar you need in a recipe can be determined by placing a raw egg in the mixture: if the egg floats as much as shown in the picture (below), it is the right density. If it floats only a little you may need to add more syrup. I was taught this concept by my favorite chef at school!
- Chill well, add it to the ice-cream machine and make sorbet.
- Refreeze it for a firmer sorbet and scoop to serve.
- You can adjust the lemon juice and sugar level to your taste.
- If you do not have an ice cream maker, you can: a) freeze the liquid, then scrape it into a shaved ice, or b) pulse it in a cold food processor and refreeze it, repeat this process a couple of times so that the mixture obtains a smooth sorbet texture and is not icy.