Spicy Rhododendron Chutney

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After learning of an edible flower indigenous to the Himachal region of India that blooms only from January to March, I couldn’t resist taking a bag-load back to my Palampur hostel, and trying my luck at being shown a local spicy chutney recipe made from this flower. This suggestion was welcomed with great enthusiasm, all the team were very excited that their dinner would have the special chutney alongside it, and were keen to show me the ropes!

This is not something that can be bought in shops anywhere, not even hear. It is made in Himachal homes and no where else, so I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity, not only to try it, but also to make it! Here’s how it’s done…

Ingredients

  • A good bunch of Rhododendron flowers
  • 4 cloves of raw garlic, peeled
  • 4 raw green chilllis
  • A pinch and a bit of fresh corriander
  • A teaspoon of chilli powder
  • Half a teaspoon of salt
  • One  lemon
  • A tablespoon of water

Go eat flowers.

1. Remove the petals from the flowers and place them to one side

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2. Place the coriander and chillis into a blender and blitz into a paste

3.. Add the garlic and chilli powder. Blitz.

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4.. Add the flowers, salt and water. Blitz.

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5.. Finally the juice of one lemon. Blitz.

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Mmmmm

 This was really delicious. I’ve never tasted anything even remotely like it, which is exciting as I can’t remember the last time a flavour felt this new to me, but also gutting as it was so tasty but replicating it will never be possible! I’ve thought and thought, and the closest thing I can put the flavour of these petals to is a combination of grapefruit and plumb, but richer and not as sharp. Combine that with a chilli kick and a garlicky cuddle, and you have a taste sensation! IF you are ever in the Himacha region of India over January/March, you must force the opportunity to try this spicy chutney! It’s zinglicious!

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With due thanks to Sunil in Palampur, for showing me how it’s done and making my taste buds so very very happy!

Flowers and Waterfalls

15 March 2015

 As though yesterdays mountain climb hadn’t been enough exercise, today we walked to see the Bhagsu Nag Waterfall here in McLeod Ganj. This is formed from all the snow at the top of the mountain melting downwards. There are also pipes in place, laid out by the locals, which lead to tap at various points in Bhagsu village, creating a free and communal water service!

It was only a 15 minute walk, but all up hill!

Once we got there… I have to say, it wasn’t exactly a wow of a waterfall, but it did make for a fun photo op.

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I’m Ariel!!

 We’re now on our way back to our accommodation in Palampur. During yesterdays treck, I was shown a flower growing on trees in the mountains that is indigenous to this State and only bloom from January to March. It’s called the Rhododendron. They’re edible, and our guide explained to me that the locals use them for two things. The first, making a jam that is bought and sold here. The other for making a spicy chutney. “Where can I buy the chutney?” I asked. “You can’t” I was told, “it’s only made in the homes of local people. Perhaps if you take some back with you the Palampur, someone working in the hostel can help you?”

A brilliant idea! So, I’m now clutching a bag bursting with Rhododendron, ready to try my luck in Palampur, and crossing my fingers that I might just get the opportunity to try something completely different…

MOUNTAIN GODDESS!!!!!!!!!!

14 March 2015

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Today, I achieved something I don’t think I will ever stop being proud of.

I climbed the Bhagsu Nag Mountain to the Triund peak!

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2875m above sea level!

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It started off fairly reasonable, just a steep trek for the first few miles.

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Then the snow started to show itself…

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We had been warned in advance that we’d just happened to choose the one week in the year where the snow is at its most treacherous, reaching 3ft in depth (information that may have been useful upon booking). I’d dismissed this as playful exaggeration, but it quickly became apparent that we were in dangerous conditions. With no protective equipment of any kind, this was a thrill like no other, but also extremely challenging. Step wrong and you’re lucky, you’re up to your waist in snow. Step wrong and you’re unlucky… You suddenly and rapidly start to slide down, so you better start digging and grabbing quick!

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We were in no way equipped or prepared for this… Some became quite emotional. Others stopped halfway, unable to go on.

But when I finally reached the top, it was very clearly worth every step. I drank in that beautiful view with pride!

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And that beautiful hot chocolate with worthiness!

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After a few hours of wobbling our way back down, I’m now tucked up in bed in our temporary accommodation in Bhagsu of Mcleod Ganj, belly full of well-earned spicy chicken curry!

Something tells me I’ll sleep well tonight…