Bel phal is called Wood apple in English. Many times as a child I have seen my mother use certain fruits that she associated with her childhood and she enjoyed them in different forms. I never ventured near some of them. Bel phal is one such fruit. It is the first time 2-3 weeks ago I saw wood apple in the supermarket and picked it up for experiments. I knew I could make a chutney or a drink. Chutney would go waste if it smelt strong I thought so the safest was a drink. We can always dilute drinks right!
Now after bringing it home the fruit lay in the tray for weeks. I was seeing it every day and was very sure I would have to throw it out. However this one is a tough nut, literally and metaphorically. It has a hard woody shell. It does not go bad so easily. I used a pestle to break it open just like a coconut. The pulp was ripe brown and very aromatic with a very faint fruity sourness. This fruit is know to be a cure for all ailments of the digestive system.
I went to my bookshelf and referred to "Annapoorna" by Mangala Barve. It gave a recipe that I knew I would atleast like if not love. Enumerating it here for you.
1 bel phal / wood apple
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
2-3 cardamoms powdered
1/2 teaspoon pepper powder
Juice of 1 lime
More water to make the drink
After breaking the fruit with a spoon scoop out the pulp. In a steel box put the pulp and add sugar. Mix it a bit add a cup of water. Close the box and put it in the fridge. The sugar will dissolve over a couple of hours and will make the fibrous pulp easy to extract. The fibrous pulp has a lot of seeds embedded in it. To remove the seeds the pulp has to be strained through a mesh.
Pour the pulp in a juice strainer and press it down with the back of a spoon or spatula. Tap the strainer a bit to remove all the pulp. Spice up the drink with powdered cardamom seeds and pepper powder. Add the lime juice to impart a freshness. Now this pulp can be refrigerated and used when needed.
To serve in a glass take thick pulp and top up with chilled water. Adjust the consistency of the drink as you like. I wanted to consume all of it so made just three glasses of the juice. It was very thick hence you can call it Bel Nectar!