Bengali

Nolen Gurer Sandesh (Bengali Cottage Cheese Fudge with Date Palm Jaggery)

2:14 AM

The word ‘Nolen Gur’ is enough to make all Bengalis nostalgic. This Date palm jaggery is an intrinsic part of our (Bengali) culture and for some foodies like me, is synonymous to winter. We await the whole year to taste this seasonal delicacy and for us winter is incomplete unless and until this jaggery makes its appearance on our dining tables. Yes, we can have it with our breakfast, as an after lunch dessert, as part of something sweet with evening tea and for our must have lip smacking dessert after dinner. Go to any sweet shop and you will see all our famous sweets prepared with this jaggery. Be it the most famous Rasogolla (Cottage cheese balls simmered in light syrup), sandesh (cottage cheese fudge), Kanchagolla (softer version of Rasgulla), Jalbhara (Sandesh with juicy center) or bhapa sandesh (steamed Sandesh) every sweet in the shops take on a new avatar with the colour and the unique flavour borrowed from Notun gur.  This slightly smoky and one of its kind jaggery smells unbelievable when paired in milk based desserts.

photo courtesy Banglatorrent.com
Back home it’s a ritual for most of us to make those early morning walks to the nearby villages to drink this juice collected in the earthen pot throughout the whole night. In our ancestral house this is a must do affair. We have several date trees around our paddy fields and ponds and the collection process starts in the evening. First the earthen pots are disinfected by warming them on fire, then the sap is extracted and collected by a tapper. Typically the sap is collected from the cut flower of the tree. A container is fastened to the flower stump to collect the sap and left there all night. The white liquid that initially collects is very sweet.Every morning it is customary to gather around the ghat (sitting area around the steps leading to the pond) where the juice filled pots are carefully brought down. The juice is to be drank fresh, early in the morning, otherwise as the day progresses it starts to ferment and by evening it turns to toddy.
Picture belongs to Mollah Ishtiaq, see his photostream HERE
Apart from having the fresh juices, once or twice every winter more juices are bought from local suppliers to prepare jaggery. The juice is boiled in a huge flat metal pot called Shalti and is reduced till it thickens and takes a cake-y form called patali. Sometimes the gur is made to a syrup-y form called Jhola gur. My boro jethi or eldest aunt makes a very flavourful patali with fresh ginger, black pepper and dry roasted Bengal gram…which we love to have with another Bengali snack called chalbhaja (a variety of puffed rice).

As far as am concerned I can plan all four of my meals around this jaggery. Starting and finishing the day with this delightful taste of nalen gur. Baba dint get anyone this winter to send us some Nolen gurer sandesh but both hubby and I were craving for it badly. Finally decided to try my hand in this very soft sandesh making.  This is the first time that I tried it and truly proud to see the great results. Trust me on this when I say this is exactly what we get in the shops and by that I don’t only mean the look or the shape but the taste, colour and texture are exactly like the store bought ones. and the best part is it is as easy as counting 1-2-3. once you have made the cottage cheese, you are only 15 minutes away from this blissful dessert.

Nalen Gurer Sandesh
(makes 14-16 pieces)
Ingredients:
Full fat milk: 1 liter
Juice of ½ a lemon
Powdered sugar: 2 tbsp
Nalen gur: 4 tbsp

Method:
First you need to make the cottage cheese. For this bring the milk to a rolling boil and pour the lemon juice. Mix and stir. The milk will curdle, keep on boiling till a clear whey separated from the cheese.

Pour this in a muslin cloth and wash under running water to get rid of the lemon-y smell.

Tie the loose ends of the cloth and hang to drain all the water. Do this for an hour and then place the cottage cheese on a plain surface (I placed it on the back of an inverted steel plate) and press with something heavy (I used my shilnora or the stone mortar and pestle).

After another hour take this cheese in a flat plate. And start kneading with the heal of your palm. Once the cheese becomes smooth (approx 5 minutes) add the sugar and again knead till all the sugar melts in (another 2-3 minutes). Finally add the jaggery before kneading the dough for another couple of minutes.

Take this in a non-stick pan and on very low heat cook this for 3-4 minutes. Do this by stirring the dough continuously. Don’t panic if you find the dough  little soft, it will harden as it cools.

To give shape to the sandesh use the stone or terracotta moulds. Brush the inside of the mould with little oil or ghee (clarified butter) and press little bit of the dough to transfer the design.

Serve whatever way you want warm, cold or at room temparature, this delightfully light dessert will make you speechless with every bite.


Those of who want to try it at home but dont get Khejur gur here is another tasty option. Make this Aam Sandesh. similarly you can use strawberry as well. The texture of this Aam sandesh is different and not as soft as the jaggery one. 

A homemakers Note:
Do not cook the mixture more than 3-4 minutes if you want a soft and melting in the mouth texture. If cooked for long it will become comparatively hard and little chewy, that is another form of this sandesh called Kara Pak. I tried this (with 8 tbsp jaggery) and the result is the black ones. Hubby liked it but the rest of us were bowled over by the soft ones.

Store in covered container in fridge, this stays good for 2-3 weeks if kept properly.


If you dont get this particular jaggery use kesar to make normal sandesh. 


Event:
Sending this to Aliena's Delicious Dessert hosted at What's Cooking today.

Sending this to Rumana's treat to Eyes; Series 2.



Tags
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Bengali

Gokul Pithe for Poush Sankranti

11:31 AM

Poush Sankranti or Bengal’s very own harvest festival is a very traditional one. Focusing on the season’s bounty, the freshly harvested paddy, coconut and notun gur (date palm jaggery) the food loving Bengalis prepare finger-licking delicacies called Pithe Puli. But before that a neivedya (food offering to God) is prepared with atop chal (unboiled rice), banana, gur (jaggery), coconut and milk as an offering to the Godess Lakshmi for blessing us with good harvest. To know more about Bengali tradition and rituals around Sankranti go HERE.

I have grown up seeing all these customs being followed in our ancestral house and with time I have become very fond of this festival. Eversince I can remember the most awaited winter season neared the evitable ending with this sweet comfort and we truly loved it. Dida (grendmother). Maa, Masimoni (maternal aunt), mami (aunt) all ladies of the house gathered in the big old kitchen, nestled in the warmth of the stoves on the coldest days spent hours preparing varieties of pithe for us. Those days are now kept safely in my memory and now Maa makes pithe during Poush mela when friends and family gather in our house in Santiniketan. And on sankranti she makes very few pieces just to keep the tradition alive.
 Sankranti delicacies posted on this blog

After my marriage I have started making them and every year try to make something new to learn and renew this old custom. This reminds me of the funny conversation that I had with my mischievous brother yeaterday. Maa this year had learnt and made one new pithe called Pathor kata pithe (literally means sweets that can cut rocks, funny eh!!!). the pithe tastes great and is made by cooking all the ingredients together and then cooling the sweets on a stone plate before cutting and hence the name. But my brother picked the literal meaning and told me yesterday that Maa has made rock solid sweets to throw and pick mangoes from trees.  We had a great time laughing on this.

Now back to the recipe of today. Gokul pithe is a fried and syrup soaked dessert traditionally made with flour and coconut. These are widely available in almost all sweet shops in Bengal during this season, but somehow I never liked the taste. Sometimes they are not properly cooked or the frying oil makes for a bad odour in the finished product. It is never made at our house so none has a recipe. I wanted to make this for hubby who has mild lactose intolerance and avoid milk-based products. Last year I made Ranga alu’r puli or Shahi Gulab Bagh for him and this year its Gokul Pithe for him and I finally decided to go with my own recipe. I have vague idea that traditionally it is made only with coconut stuffing but I added some homemade cottage cheese to it and finally soaked the deep fried balls in notun gurer rosh (date palm Jaggery syrup). The end result is a divine taste that everyone simply went ga ga on. The ambrosial taste of these syrup soaked balls with a delicately flavoured soft inside is sensational. We enjoyed it immensely and will not wait for another Sankranti to make this delicious dessert again.

Gokul Pithe
(Makes 18-20 pieces)

Ingredients: 
For the stuffing:
Cottage cheese from ½ liter milk (to know how to make cottage cheese and prepare it for making sweets at home see THIS.)
Freshly Grated coconut: ½ cup
Mawa/khoya/milk solids: 3 tbsp
Date Palm Jaggery (Khejur gur): 1/3 cup; if you don’t get this use same quantity of sugar
Sugar: 2 tbsp

For the batter:
Flour: 2/3 cup
Semolina/suji: ½ cup
Milk: 11/2 cups

For the syrup:
Sugar:2/3cup
Water:  11/3 cups
Khejur gur (jaggery): 2 tbsp

Oil for deep-frying

Method:
Start by soaking the semolina, as this will take 30 minutes to soften. For this take the semolina in a big bowl and pour warm milk on top. Don’t add all the milk as the quantity of milk required on the type of semolina. Add half of the milk mix and see if it soaks all the milk. Add little at a time to get a thick mixture. Cover and set aside for 30 minute.

In a non-stick pan or kadhai mix the sugar and coconut. Cook it by stirring on low flame till the sugar dissolves and the coconut becomes dry. To this add the drained cottage cheese and cook till the mixture leaves the side of the pan. Add the jaggery and milk solids and cook for another couple of minutes till the mixture is dry. Pour in a bowl and let it cool down.

In the mean time in another heavy bottom pan take all the ingredients for syrup and boil to get thick syrup (approx. 5-8 minutes).keep  it warm.

Mix in all other ingredients to the semolina mixture and fold gently to get a smooth homogenous mixture.  If needed add more water or milk. The consistency should be very thick but pourable.

Heat the oil in a kadhai or thick bottom pan for deep frying. In the meantime make small balls from the coconut mixture (I got 20 pieces to end up with a Ping-Pong ball sized Final product).

Dip these balls one by one in the batter to uniformly cote them and carefully place them in the hot oil. Fry on very low heat till they are golden brown in colour.

Drain the oil and immediately drop them in the warm syrup. Let it stand there for an hour to soften and soak up the delicate flavour.

Here is a glimpse of my Pithe spread this year. Anti clockwise, Nolen Gurer Rasogolla (recipe coming soon), Dudh Puli with jaggery and coconut stuffings, Gokul Pithe, nolen gurer Sandesh (recipe coming next) and nolen Gurer Patisapta.

Yes, we truly are having a grand Pithe Parbon (Pithe festival) with mouth-watering date- palm jaggery flavoured delicacies. It’s a lot of work indeed but at the end of the day am proud to be one of them who try to keep traditions alive and pass it on to the next generation.

Happy Sankranti!

You can find more Pithe recipes at the top left bar of my home page.

A Homemaker’s Note:
Replace jaggery with sugar if needed.
You can omit milk solids and cottage cheese if required. It will still taste good.
Pithe always taste best the next day :-)
I was just thinking that the store bought gulab jamun mix should work as a replacement of this semolina-flour batter. But while mixing the batter should be very thick to create a chunky cover for the stuffings. 

Tags:
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Events Awards Interview

Arusuvai Friendship Chain: Season 2; Round Up

12:43 PM


When I decided to renew the charm of the Arusuvai Friendship chain little did I know that it would become so popular. Within the first week itself we had several interested bloggers to the list and till date everyday I open my blog I see new entries. Right now we have 36bloggers from India and 4-5 interested bloggers from abroad, whom we plan to link in the chain at the last stage of Arusuvai.

Bharathy and Srivalli both warned me of the difficult job of co-ordinating the whole system of linking up one blogger to another. And truly it’s a huge task of contacting the interested bloggers, collecting all the information, co-ordinating the chain and keeping track at each and every step. But all thanks to our wonderful participants whose co- operation made it all so easy. Above all I always know that Bharathy and Srivalli are there to help me out with everything. They always encourage me and share experience at each and every step.

Right now the chain is in the fourth link of the chain and am glad that every participant is pleased to have taken part. Every day it brings smile to my face when I read their mails conveying the message as how much they like to meet and make friends for life through this chain. That’s the reward for my effort. Here is a glimpse of the chain so far…


The chain was put to start by Bharathy of ‘Spicy Chilly’ in October. She sent Pumpkin seeds to me (Sayantani). Check the Baked Masala Peanuts recipe that I cooked for my family.

Sayantani of ‘A Homemaker’s Diary’ sent mustard powder to Bharathy with which she made a traditional Kerala style Banana stem pickle called Vazhapindi Achar.



Divya Kudua of ‘Easy Cooking’ received Panchforon from Sayantani with which she cooked a Bengali style Potato and peas curry.



Gayathri of Gayathri's Cook spot received Mace or javitri from Divya and she baked a batch of Aromatic nutty Muffins.

Megha Goyal of Live to Eat received Star Anise from Divya and she prepared Sauteed Mushroom.


Shalini of Sanctified Spaces received yellow mustard seeds from Gayathri. She prepared a tongue tickling Crunchy Carrot and Chili Pickle.


Priya Hari of Priya's Kitchen received Black sesame seeds from Hema. She prepared a spicy Milagai Podi to spice up breakfast.


Nisa Homey of 'Cooking is Easy' received Palm jaggery fom Hema, with whcih she prepared a mouth watering delicacy called Kozhukattai.






Hema of 'Chef Hema' received dried green peppercorns from Sayantani and she whipped up two mouth watering dishes. Green Peppercorn Rice and Green peppercorn garlic kuzhambu





Veena Arvind of 'Kitchen Celebrations' received Kokum from Megha and she prepared a healthy and tasty Ayurveda inspired recipe from Sukham Ayu. A must check recipe of Gujarati Dal.



Kajal of 'Kajal Dreams' got a lovely Valentine themed package from Shalini. She got poppy seeds and made delicious Potato Curry and Poppy seeds Halwa.
Keep on checking this page to know what Archana and Aparna are cooking next. I will be updating this page as and when participants post their Arusuvai recipes. The link would be placed at the top of my home page.

Bengali

Ilish Macher Paturi (Hilsa cooked in Banana Leaf)

12:11 PM

Before all Bengalis jump in their feet and come running to ask me where I got Ilish in winter let me clarify that this post was long overdue and am clearing my draft folder. I cooked and relished it when got these freshest and tastiest Ilish flown from Kolkata, courtesy my beloved father. Somehow could not post the recipe then. Most probably the Christmas cookie mania in my blog wiped all other food from my mind. 

Paturi is a cooking process in which leaf wrapped marinated fish , cottage cheese or vegetables are cooked. The final cooking is done wither by steaming or by roasting the leaf wrapped envelops on griddle. I already have posted one Paturi recipe so am not discussing anymore about this cooking process. If you are interested in the background please go here. The spices remain more or less same that are generally used in cooking hilsa the traditional ways but the cooking process brings in a lot of different flavour and taste. 

If you follow the minimalist Approach of Bengali cooking closely you will se that by charring, grilling, boiling and steaming how different foods are being plated with almost same spices. For instance go to this recipe of mine where I cooked the Hilsa with a light soup like jhol, then this Bhapa Ilsih or the steamed version or this Hilsa in thick mustard gravy or Sorshe Ilish, where almost same spices are used to result in a thick spicy coating gravy. Even in this dish the spices are more or less same but by the quantity and cooking process it gets a total new avatar with a light charred flavour.

This is a very versatile and effortless recpe. Once you get the idea of how much spices yyou like to balance the dish half of your work is done. Then all you need is to mix everything and roast. Isn’t it simple? The biggest hurdle I had was to acquire some banana leaf. Hubby had to go all the way to Madiwala to get these, but then I lured him with nothing less than hot and spicy Ilish Paturi. 

I can still remember the divine meal we had that day with another very earthy rural Bengali dish of Ol makha (Mashed Elephant Yam), which is nothing but mashed Elephant yam(boiled) mixed with salt, chopped green chillies, chopped onion, kasundi (Bengali mustard sauce) and scraped coconut. Finished with little mustard oil poured on top. Simple but Yum!


This is a very versatile recipe in the sense that any white fish that cooks fast could be prepared this way. So go ahead and cook with any white fish. Here is my quick recipe:


Ilish Paturi

Ingredients:

Hilsa steaks: 4 pieces

Mustard paste: 21/2 tbsp

Green chilies: 5-6; depending on how hot you want it to be

Mustard oil: 3+1 tsbp

Salt: as per taste

Turmeric

Banana leaf

Cotton thread

Method:

Crush 2-3 green chilies in a mortar and pestle or grind them together with the mustard seeds.

In a wide plate take the mustard paste, salt, turmeric and some chopped chilies. Keep aside 1 tsp mustard oil for roasting the fish and mix the rest in this. Check the taste.

Add the Hilsa steaks in this spice mixture and rub to coat them thoroughly.  Cover and keep aside for minimum 20-30 minutes.

In the mean time cut 4 big pieces from the banana leaf. Lightly roast it on open flame to make it soft and foldable.

Grease the leaves with few drops of oil and place one fish steak on each. Divide the spice to coat both sides of the fish properly. Pour little more mustard oil on top and place one slit green chilly.

Wrap it and secure with the cotton thread.

Heat a tawa or pan with little mustard oil and place the fish parcels on it. Cover with a dome shaped lid or a big bowl. Cook on low heat till all the sides of the parcel turn black (approx. 10 minutes). Let it stand for 5 minutes.

You can also cook it in Oven. To do that preheat the oven at 190C and cook the envelops for 20 minutes or till the leaves turn black.


For other cooking method please see the NOTE below.

Open the packets and serve hot with steamed white rice.

A Homemaker's Note:
There are several cooking process of this dish. once you make the envelops you can either
1. do the way I roasted them on a griddle.

2. can bake them in the Oven.

3. can pressure cook them

4. can steam the packets in a bamboo or idli steamer. 

5. you can also cook it by placing the packets on the slow embers of burnt wood and covering it with same. This is a very common process in rural Bengal. Sometimes cow dung cakes are also burnt and are used to give the final finish to the paturi this way.
Prawn Paturi in pumpkin leaf recipe HERE.
6. My Dida sometimes used to place the envelops in bhater handi (Rice cooked in big, kind of flat vessel) when it was just done. To do this you need to cut the fish pieces very small and then proceed to make envelops and put them inside the hot rice vessel and cover the packets again with hot rice. Let it stand there for 20 minutes and during this time don't open the lid. The steam works on the leaf and the fish inside is cooked beautifully. but you need to cook a big quantity of rice (min 3-4 persons).

7. In a similar process you can make chhana'r paturi or cottage cheese.

Tags:
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Bengali

Jibe Gaja or Bengali Fried Pastry

11:25 AM

The year started with a bang this time, which makes me look at it with great new hopes. We had great fun together with friends and families and brought in the year with firecrackers and music. Food always tops the priority list of any Bong party and we enjoyed the vast spread that we pampered ourselves with. And then unlike most weekends the beginning of the year saw us lazing in the house and having great time with the baby and some very close friends.

But the New Year also brings in the inevitable question of new resolutions. I know many of you do not believe in making resolutions for a year and even some says that we can set goals any time of the year. True, but I always make new resolutions on every first day of a brand new year, with the hope that this year I would be able to stick to my promise…. Its another case that most have them are never realised. But the gone year has taught me many a valuable lessons of life and now I approach and analyze things in a realistic manner. So this year at the time of setting goals for myself I tried to fix achievable goals. Am no Super woman (between do they wear salwar kameez, scrub sink, feed wailing babies and change diaper???) and so no super goals for me this year. I have set some simple goals to make our lives healthy and finally have left the desire of being stick thin.

So I have promised to walk for 30 minutes everyday, without any excuse. If it rains outside I will walk in my drawing room (with the inevitable situation of the baby hanging from one of my knee. Trust me he does that).between if you want to do the same check this.
On weekends I will do aerobics for at least 30 minutes.
Will not skip breakfast and will eat one fruit everyday.
Will at least have one serving of soup and five servings of lentils every week.
Also will drink atleast one cup of green tea every day.
Will limit sweets to only 2 servings every week.
Otherwise am happy with the way we eat at the moment. We don’t eat white bread, only eat rice on weekends and do all the housework by ourselves.

My work, blog and my garden are my priorities the way they appear in the list. And will give them the time they need.

On personal front the birth of my son has changed a lot in me. Now am less lazy, more active, much more patient, very very loving and quite practical. Looking forward to many more years with him to learn and do things together.

That’s it for the moment. What are your resolutions for 2011? If you want to share am all ears.

Well I know this recipe doesn’t go well with my goals of healthy eating but these are part of those sinful delights, which make life desirable J

Jibe gaja pronounced, as jee-be-gaw-ja is a traditional Bengali fried dough food or dessert. This is the Bengali cousin of North Indian Shakkar para. The name literally means tongue shaped gaja or fried pastry.  Flour is kneaded with lots of shortening (traditionally with ghee or clarified butter) and then rolled, slathered with more ghee to create layers. Deep fried and then dipped in thick sugar syrup to create these sinfully delicious fried goodies. This is very Famous in Orissa also, as this comes as a part of the offerings to The Jagannath Temple. We generally make this during the Bijoya Dashami time (the last day of the Durga puja or the Day of dashera) to feed the guests who come to exchange Bijoya greetings. This year we were not in a mood to share happiness during that time and I made this to send to a special person as a part of Arusuvai Friendship chain.

Here is the recipe:

Jibe Gaja
(Makes 3 dozens)
Ingredients:
Flour: 11/2 cups
Vegetable oil/ghee/butter: 4 tbsp (I used saffola gold)
Salt: 1/3 tsp
Nigella seeds: ½ tsp
Water
Ghee: 1 tbsp
Rice powder: 1 tbsp

For the syrup
Sugar: 1 cup
Water: ½ cup
Cardamom: 2 no.s; crushed

Oil for deep frying

Method:
In a big bowl mix the flour, salt and nigella seeds.

Pour the oil in it and rub with your finger till a breadcrumb like texture is achieved.

Add water very little at a time till you get smooth dough. Knead the dough on an oiled surface till it becomes soft. 

Cover and set aside for 30 minutes.

Mix the ghee with the rice powder and make a smooth paste. Keep aside.

Take a medium size ball from the dough and roll to 1/6 to 1/7” thickness. Make another one of almost the same size.

Spread little of the ghee mixture on the top surface of one roti and cover it with another one. Again smear the top of the second roti with little ghee mixture. cut the sandwiched rotis in half. 

working with one half, roll it tightly to a log. Cut 1” pieces from this log and roll out each piece to a long thin rectangle. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Keep these covered in all stages.

Once you are ready to fry the gaja put the oil in a heavy bottom pan. There should be enough oil for deep frying (min 2” oil). 

Switch on the heat and keep on low. The temperature of the oil is very crucial and more heat will make the gaja raw from inside. Please see note below.

Fry the gaja till golden brown, drain and keep on absorbent paper.

Once you are done with the frying let the gaja cool down.

In the meantime make the syrup by boiling the sugar and water together. After 3-4 minutes check the syrup by taking a drop between your fingers. Press and release, if you see one thread is forming between your fingers you are ready to go. Mix in the crushed cardamom.

Add all the gaja and very quickly stir to coat them evenly with the syrup. The syrup will solidify once the gaja comes in touch with it. 

When done spread them on greased plates and let it cool down.

If you desire you can dust them with powdered sugar…I did as am in love with the dreamy snowfall.

Store in an airtight container and enjoy!!!

A Homemaker’s Notes:
  1. The heat of the oil is very crucial and I can’t press this point enough. This is what I do. I always heat the oil to smoking point and then switch off the heat and again switch on after 3-4 minutes. That way the raw smell of the oil is gone and the oil is hot enough to cook the gaja till light brown. Also keep on adjusting the heat by increasing or decreasing the flame.
 2. You can also check the syrup by putting a drop of syrup in a bowl of cold  
    water; if it doesn’t dissolve and immediately comes on the surface…the 
    syrup is ready. 

Events:
Deep Fried Snacks at Tickling Palates.


Tags:
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