Sherbet or Sharbat recipe is a centuries old tradition of making drinks with crushed fruits, flowers and herbs in Central and South Asia. The very idea transports one back to the times of The Thousand and One Nights. The drink itself feels like a cool little oasis in a glass in the burning heat of summer – fragrant and soothing on nerves.
Sharbat word is essentially associated with sweetness. As alcoholic drinks are forbidden in Islam, different variations of Sharbat became a popular part of Muslim cuisine culture. The most famous remains Sharbat -e- Gulab or the one made with roses. But many other flowers and fruits are also combined with sugar and water, cooked to make a thick syrup which stays good for a long time if preserved properly. That syrup is then thinned, when required, with water and ice to be served as a cool beverage.
Imli Aloobukhra Sharbat is one of the most coveted of soft drinks in the heat of Lahore by people who still prefer fruit drinks over fizzy beverages. Street-side stands pop up everywhere, and grandmothers and mothers get busy making their own versions. It’s also a very satisfying drink for the month of Ramadan to hyderate the body after a several hours of fasting.
Tamarind seems to be a humble ingredient but it has amazing health benefits. The citric acid in tamarind hinders fat storage in body, it’s also a mild laxative and smooths the working of digestive system. Cures heartburns and bile disorders.
Plums are low in calories and rich in minerals and vitamins. To keep my Sharbat recipe healthy, I have replaced white sugar with unprocessed jaggery and I don’t make the sherbet very sweet. Ginger, cumin and a pinch of black salt help enhance the flavours immensely. You can even add fresh mint before serving and omit salt completely.
1 cup dry tamarind
1 cup dry plums
1/2 cup jaggery/gur or organic brown sugar
1 inch piece ginger
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon black salt or rock salt (optional)
This Is a What You Do:
Rinse dry tamarind and plums because sometimes they have grit in them.
Soak imli and aloobukhara in a big saucepan in 2 litres of warm water for half an hour.
Rub with hands to separate as much flesh from stones as is easily possible.
Place the entire thing, with stones, pulp and soaking water on stove to cook on low heat. Add a ginger. When the liquid is reduced to half, strain through a sieve or cheese cloth. Discard the ginger piece, stones/pits and hard bits of flesh.
Return the clear plum and tamarind juice to the same pan. Add jaggery/brown sugar, cumin and salt. Cook on a simmer for another 10-15 minutes or till the sugar dissolves and Sharbat thickens. Taste for the balance of sweet, sour and salty, adjust according to your preference.
Cool to room temperature, save in clean jar or bottle.
To prepare the drink, add 2-3 tablespoons of Sharbat to a glass, dilute with water and add lots of ice cubes to chill.