Romans have always loved exotic flavours. Ancient Indian texts write of Roman ships arriving on the coast of southern India and returning home laden with spices. Warehouses in first century Rome were filled with Indian pepper, cardamom and cinnamon, and popular cookbooks gave detailed instructions on how to use these ingredients.
It was a thrilling experience to walk past stalls in the ruins of ancient Roman markets and to think that one time they were filled with the scent of spices carried all the way from Kerala and other distant reaches of the world. Two millennia ago chefs must have walked through here, gauging the quality of the produce on offer.
Some things never change, because Romans still love their food markets. Campo Dei Fiori is one of my favourite open air markets to visit in Rome. You can find just about anything here - fresh fruit and vegetables; pickles, jams and preserves; oilve oils, juices, pasta, and my favourite - spice and herb blends of every variety.
When we were last in Rome thirteen years ago, I bought a lot of spice and herb mixtures from Mauro who had a large stall in the middle of the market. You can see him in the lower left picture, proudly holding up a sign for his Pizza Erotica spice blend. I was happy to see Mauro again this time (lower right picture), still holding up the same sign and looking just a little bit greyer. So, of course I bought a whole lot of his spice mixtures again but couldn't get his recipe for this famous Pizza Erotica. My Italian isn't that good, unfortunately!
One of the highlights of being in Rome is the amazing food. From award winning handmade pasta enveloped in a rich meat sauce to rosemary roasted leg of lamb literally falling off the bone, from pistachio studded mortadella and fennel scented salami in our antipasti platter to creamy coffee laden tiramisu, dusted with chocolate, every single meal we ate was memorable. I have come back resolved to make my own fresh pasta and serve a salami platter and tiramisu with practically every meal!
Gelato is one treat we didn't even try to resist! Trying to decide between the many flavours was always hard. While coffee gelato was an easy choice, there were also many fresh fruit ones high on our list to try. We decided to do as the Romans do and have several helpings of gelato throughout the day! Mango pistachio gelato was one of my favourites and reminded me so much of Indian mango Kulfi. Just add cardamom as I have in my recipe below and you have the perfect fusion!
Delicious and refreshing, Mango Kulfi is the perfect finale to any meal! I like to serve it with fresh diced mangoes when they are in season or with any kind of berries.
Mango Kulfi Gelato
1 cup each: mango pulp (canned or fresh), whipping (heavy) cream
1 can (300 ml) sweetened condensed milk
1 can (370 ml) evaporated milk
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp saffron strands
1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios, chopped
Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix well.
Cover bowl and freeze overnight.
Remove from freezer, uncover and rest at room temperature for 1 hour or until kulfi is starting to thaw and soften. Break up kulfi into smaller pieces with a knife. Using a hand blender, blend kulfi until it is smooth.
Cover and freeze again for another 2 hours or longer.
Alternatively you can churn kulfi in an ice cream maker, following manufacturer's directions.
Scoop into serving bowls and serve.