HYDERABAD: When the lone cashew tree in Deepa Reddy’s backyard bore fruit this monsoon, she decided to do something about it. Within half an hour, she’d pressed the fruit using an old potato ricer, mixed the juice in rice gruel to get rid of the tannins, strained and poured the fresh juice into bottles, ready to be consumed. But this wasn’t just a spur-of-the-moment trial in the kitchen. Reddy, a cultural anthropologist and professor who moved to Auroville in 2008 from the US, has been juggling her job - a research designer at Pondicherry’s Human Factors International and teaching online at Houston University - and a blog, Paticheri (paticheri.com, a portmanteau of ‘patisserie’ and ‘cheri’, she started it in 2011) as a space to combine three things she loves - food, writing and reaching out to people.
From recipes to interesting anecdotes on food and gardening, the blog is her pet project away from work. “We learn to cook initially using cookery books, follow recipes, and then source the ingredients. I realised that if we work with the ingredients we have, we end up creating a dish that has more magic,” says the 30-something, who admits that being a researcher, she loves experimenting. “The other day my son got home from a biology walk with two avocados. Looking to whip up something unique, we ended up making fajitas served with guacamole. With the second one, we made chicken tortilla soup topped with creamy yoghurt and slices of avocado.”
While it’s Reddy’s first time experimenting with fresh-pressed cashew apple juice, she’s been perfecting her fermented cashew tipple for a few years. “I boil the fruits and then press them, before fermenting for a couple of days with sugar and a few peppercorns for flavour-and we have a stronger variant of the pressed juice, which is a milder version of Feni (that requires longer fermentation),” says Reddy, who is planning to roast the cashew nuts over fire to make a masala paste for meats.
Having shared recipes with people as far away as Nigeria, she plans to use cashew extract to bake cakes next season. She also mails seeds of the greens growing in her garden to anyone who asks. Her future projects include researching the benefits of greens like the august tree leaf (available in the market as agathi keerai) and coming out with an illustrated chart on their benefits.