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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Phenomenal Pati-Saptas, a dream folded in three


Amazing Rice flour pancakes from the heart of Bengal, stuffed with kheer n Aam-satto/Aam-papad


When it comes to pati-spatas , everything becomes clear water, there is no conflict or confusion, it is delicious like a dream, soft like love n slightly crisp at times like reality itself. I have loved it all through my childhood, love it dearly now and as I make them I get dissolved in their being. We can call them sweet pancakes generally but trust me they are so much more than that.

The batter is made from rice flour mainly, sometimes semolina and flour is added to the rice flour and milk is added to get to the desired thin consistency. When it comes to the stuffing we have very beautiful choices, one is freshly grated coconut cooked with date jaggery which is the supremely delicious ‘Nalen Khejur Gurr’ or sugarcane jaggery which has its earthy sweet magic, another is kheer which is milk simmered until it almost solidifies n then mixed with a little sugar. In my version I have created a new flavor for the stuffing and it was inspired by a gift- some days ago my friend gave me a beautiful gift-home-made dry mango cakes-‘AAM-SATTO’, a box full of them. Aam-satto is made from fresh mango pulp mixed with water and a touch of spices, then the batter is spread thinly over plates and sun-dried until the water evaporates and the rest settles as a thick layer of cake-the flavor intensifies and changes under the sun light and we get aam-satto.

Back home I softened the aam-satto with milk, then mixed them with kheer until a beautiful rich mixture was obtained- sweet n with a slight touch of tang and filled with that mango flavor. When I stuffed them inside the soft pati-sapta they made me smile, they taste exclusively delish and my friend found them refreshingly different delicious.


Winter is a good time for pati-sapta, in fact every time is a good time for them but in the winter it gets special for a number of reasons, one is it feels great to bite into the warm pati-saptas in a cold afternoon, second in the winter the majestic nalen gurr which is a type of jaggery made from dates, becomes available and that takes everything to a whole different level.

Pati-sapta is a pithe, pithe is a term used for deserts made from mainly rice-flour or a combination of rice-flour n flour or semolina made during a certain season or festivals in Bengal.

So now since I cant wait any more for the recipe, here you go.

For The Recipe: you will need

For the Pati-Sapta

Rice-flour- 2 cups
Plain flour- ½ cup approximately
Semolina- ¼ cup approximately
Milk (full fat/skimmed)- 500 ml approximately
Salt- a pinch
Sugar- 2 tbsp
Vegetable oil/ghee- ½ cup

For the Kheer

Milk (full-fat)- 1 litre
Sugar – about 2 tbsp

For the Aam-Satto stuffing
Aam-satto/dry mango cake/aam-papad- 150 gm
Milk- a little to soak them
Kheer-Half the quantity of kheer made above

  1. Begin by adding the rice flour to the milk at room temperature, the milk should not be cold, whisk in the rice flour with a wooden spatula or wire whisk until the batter is smooth, then add the semolina and whisk until smooth, then add the flour n whisk until the batter is smooth. The consistency of the batter should be thin n flow-y, like if you pour the batter from a ladle on a pan , you should be able to spread the batter relatively easily over the surface of the pan. If the batter is not thin with the given measurement above add some more milk to achieve that consistency, then add a pinch of salt to it, mix well, now let the batter rest for about 30 minutes.
  2. Making the kheer is a complete new recipe, for that take full-fat milk in a wok/kadai with a large surface area and let the milk come to a boil, then reduce the heat to lowest and keep simmering until the milk reduces to a solid mass where all the water component from it has evaporated, this will take about 30 minutes. Keep scratching the sides every 4 minutes and incorporate that into the milk as it is getting done, don't leave the milk and go away when this is happening, if you are not using a heavy bottomed wok the milk can burn at the bottom and ruin all your effort, so if you can, use a heavy bottomed wok and stay near the milk and stir it well every 3 minutes. When the milk has been reduced to a solid mass almost, stir continuously until it becomes a solid mass, then add the sugar and let it melt completely, then remove it from the heat onto a plate, the kheer should be sweet but not too sweet.
  3. For the aam-satto kheer, soak them in warm milk for half an hour until they soften, then smash them with a fork until uniformly mixed, after that add half of the kheer n a couple of teaspoon of milk to make a spreadable consistency mixture. When that is done, you have to do the same with the kheer, if the kheer is very solid , add some milk and lighten it up.
  4. Time to make the pati-sapta finally, so take a flat frying pan or chatu or pancake pan, keep it on high heat and let it get hot, then take any flavorless vegetable oil like soya bean oil or ghee, smear it over the surface of the pan, pour 1 tbsp of oil and heat it in the pan then pour it over the batter n mix it well. Now make the flame go to minimum, smear the pan again with ghee or oil and take a ladle full of the batter and lift up the pan in one hand and pour the batter on the pan, then spread the batter in a round form, you can do it with a spatula too, just work with a light hand, push the batter lightly to create a round shape, then increase the heat the medium and give it about 1 minute, with a spoon lift the pancake slightly to see if the surface has caramelized, if not give it some more time, then take and place one tbsp of aam-satto kheer mixture and spread it in the middle of the pancake , then fold the pan cake in three parts, then take it off the pan.
  5. So now smear the surface of the pan again with ghee or oil and lift the pan, mix the batter well and pour a ladle full of batter on the pan and do like before. Keep the initial temperature of the pan low so that when you pour the batter it doesn't settle immediately in the pan, when the initial temperature is low you have time to spread the batter easily either by rotating the pan or by gentle spreading the batter with the spatula, once the batter is spread increase the temperature to medium and let the caramelize, then fold it in three.
  6. Similarly make all the pati-sapta, fill them with aam-satto kheer and kheer. And then we are done.

So here we are, we have successfully made all the pati-saptas and I am sure you have tasted them already while you were still making them, that's what I do all the time, now tell me, don't they just taste out-of-this world, soft succulent inside, crispy outside and so soft, so now share it with your loved ones, eat them warm or cold, they are delicious in every stage, so now you have one more great recipe in your collection. So you know what! Bon Appetit.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

E for Elo-Jhelo

A crispy sweet bite for Diwali, a beautiful Indian Bengali sweet Pastry, crafted with love, a little Elo-Melo (Tangled) n a lot of Elo-Jhelo!

So as it turns out on this Durga Pooja, I was thousands of miles away from Bengal, I couldn’t absorb all the flavors, fragrance and sound that is all there in Bengal during the pooja, but perhaps so couldn’t some of you, who had to stay thousands of miles apart because life is like this or if you are someone who is not familiar with it-I will say get into it. For my dear reader who is reading me right now, I couldn’t give you something nice during the pooja, but now I can and Diwali/Deepawali is in the air and everywhere soon there are gonna lit a thousand lights, so I had to tell you about how to make Elo-Jhelo.

Think about this name ‘ELO-JHELO’, interesting name isn’t it? When I look at the word I feel as if it comes from the Aztecs, however it comes from Bengal, India. It is a sweet pastry, made out of all purpose flour, vegetable oil n ghee, sugar and some touch of aromatic spices. The dough is prepared, made into small balls, then they are rolled individually, cuts are splashed across the surface of the rolled thin dough, then folded over n over until it gets all tangled n overlapping, producing a beautiful spiral like shape which looks like flower petals or the shape of a flame from a lamp n the rest is on your imagination.

When I begin to wonder about the name, I try to connect the dots, like elo-melo in Bengali would suggest tangled, so on that line ‘Elo-jhelo’ may come from ‘Elo-melo’ because you see the dough strands are tangled in a way but never messy, they are beautifully elegant.

This pastry is deep-fried in flavorless vegetable oil, then a sugar syrup is prepared on the heat until it gets as thick like honey going towards one string consistency, the crispy fried pastry is dipped into the syrup to coat them, then taken out after 1-2 minutes and  they are ready. This is a kind of ‘Nimki’ which can be both sweet n savory, a nimki is a Bengali term for fried pastry.

Diwali or as we sometimes we say it Deepawali is just around this weekend, this is the time to prepare a lot of sweets- Gulab Jamun, Kaju katli, Motichur ke laddu n so many more, so make Elo-jhelo, the great thing about them is that they are not overly sweet, slightly sweet, they look great, they are versatile and it is so much fun making them with the whole family sitting around, the father making the dough, the mother rolling out, the little kids making the cuts- well it is a possibility…ha-ha. Most important is the bite-literally delicious n you always wanna have some more without eating a lot of sugar.

I flavored my elo-jhelo with white n black sesame seeds, and green cardamom n a touch of saffron, a traditional elo-jhelo is devoid of any such extra flavors and is still very delicious, so you can always go the traditional way or sometimes add flavors that you like. I incorporated the cardamom n saffron flavor in the sugar syrup itself. So this Deepawali I expect some Elo-jhelo in your home, have fun, share it with your friends, it is a labor of love.

So let me tell you now the secret, here we go.

For The Recipe: we will need

For the Dough
All purpose Flour-4 cups
Vegetable oil-1/2 cup (I used ½ tbsp of ghee n so I used less then ½ cup of oil)
Salt- a pinch
Water-slightly less than 1 cup

For the Syrup
Sugar-2 cups
Water 1 ½ cups
Green cardamom-2, crushed n slightly powdered
Saffron strands-2 pinches

For Frying
6-8 cups vegetable oil

1. Begin by adding the salt n the  ½ cup vegetable oil or a combination of ghee n vegetable oil like I did, if you are adding both like me then reduce the oil by the same amount so the total goes to ½ cup, rub the oil into the flour , do it well, make sure the fat is well distributed into the flour, rub the flour n oil together into your palm with a light hand, it will take 3 minutes, then start adding the water, add half the water at first, mix n then add half of the half, mix, see how the dough is coming, we will need slightly less than 1 cup water, so start to gather the dough as you add more water, when you feel the dough will come together you can stop adding the water, there will be around 2 tbsp of water left in the cup which you don’t need. So now knead the dough for about 5-6 minutes, the dough will become smooth, we want dough which is slightly firm, not on the softer side, so it will a little hard work kneading the firm dough. When the dough is smooth after 5-6 minutes, divide it in half, the roll each half into a cylindrical log, then with a knife cut the log at 1 ½ inch interval or tear off small portions from the log and make into balls of 1 ½ inch diameter. When all the balls are done, cover n rest for 20 minutes.

2. After 20 minutes pour a little vegetable oil into a bowl, take one ball and dip your finger into the oil and with that touch of oil roll the ball into a smooth ball again, oil the surface of the wooden board or marble slightly, oil the rolling pin, place the ball on the surface n with your palm press on it to make it into a flat uniform round disc. Start rolling the disc with the rolling pin into a uniform thin circle of about 4 inches in diameter, lift it up and sprinkle some white n black sesame seed on the surface, then place it lightly again on the surface, then with a sharp knife make a slit leaving about ½ inch space at the ends, after that make parallel cuts at about less then ½ inch gap. When the cuts are done start rolling the disc carefully at one end, hold the top n down portions of the disc and with light hands roll the disc onto itself, the slit strips will come overlapping and keep your hand at both the ends as you roll and with another finger help the dough to come up from the surface as you roll. At the end the strips will be overlapped and the top n down will be pointed holding the whole piece together.

3. Prepare all the balls like this, now place deep pot of kadai/wok on the heat, add the oil and let it become medium hot, we don’t want the oil to be very hot or the elo-jhelo will color quickly. When the oil is medium hot take one piece and dip is slightly into the oil, it should not start to bubble vigorously, if it is the oil is too hot, take it off the heat, let it cool slightly, now when you place the elo-jhelo it will start to bubble up a little or a moment after it goes in the oil, always keep the oil to low n medium low, add about 5-6 at one time, flip them every 2 minutes, when they attain a light brown to brown color you can take them off which will take about 5-6 minutes.

4. In another wok add the sugar n water on medium heat, let the sugar melt, then make the heat high and let it come to a boil,  give it around 10 minutes, check the syrup by dipping a spoon and place some drops on a plate and then touch it, when it begins to thick a little stay alert, add the crushed green cardamom n saffron strands, test the syrup again, when the syrup gets thick like honey or when you place a drop between your fingers and you can see one string forming between your fingers it is ready. Place the fried warm elo-jhelo into the syrup, coat it well , give them 1 minute in the syrup , then drip off the excess syrup and take them off. Prepare all the elo-jhelo like this.  Start making the syrup when you put the oil into the heat, this way when you first batch of elo-jhelo will be ready the syrup will also be ready and you can dip them right away.

Note: instead of placing the disc onto the sesame seeds, you can toast the sesame seeds on a pan and then coat the fried elo-jhelo as they just come out of the sugar syrup with the roasted sesame seeds, they will stick on the sugary elo-jhelo very well.

Hey, they are all ready now! They look amazing right, I told you n now bite into one and hear the sweet crunch n after that share the sweet crunch with all around you. Happy Diwali, Shubh Deepawali, Subho Kaali Pujo and guess what? Bon Appétit! May the light bless us.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A tribute to Radha n Lord Krishno on Janmashtomi- Sooji Caramel Halwa with Taal Kheer

Suji Makhdi Halwa with Taal-kheer-Semolina Caramel Halwa with Sugar Palm kheer- A Bhog for Radha Krishno

This post is going to be about a sweet recipe that brings together two sweet elements together n will capture your imagination-one is a Sooji/Semolina Halwa with Caramel and another is a beautiful Taal-Kheer, which is classic Bengali dish. The season of the festivities is catching up in India, just 6 weeks ago it was Janmashtami-the religious celebration on the occasion of the birth of Lord Krishno, it was during that time when I created this dish keeping Janmashtami in mind. I wanted to create something unique for Lord Krishno, so this dish is dedicated to him.

Now let me tell you about “Taal” tree, it is called as Asian Palmyra palm, toddy palm, sugar palm, the tree is native to India n Southeast Asia, it is the ripe fruits of this tree from which the taal-kheer is made, brilliant orange in color, it has that unique flavor to it with a touch of bitterness to it, the bitterness is balanced by adding scarped coconut to it, the sweetness of the coconut balances the bitterness of the ripe taal juice.

The fruit is called Taal in Bengali, Tala in Oriya, Nungu in Tamil, Tari in Hindi, Tadfali in Guajarati, Taati ningu in Kannada, Munjal in Urdu. Ton taan in Thai. When the fruit is unripe the top part is cut and from there 3 jelly like portions are obtained which looks like fruits themselves, they have mild flavor n translucent to look at and on the inside each of them has a watery fluid- sweet n absolutely wonderful, the jelly like flesh is itself slightly sweet.

When the fruits ripen the outer fibrous portion becomes all orange and from them comes out the orange colored juice which forms the base of the Taal-Kheer. It is a tedious process to get the juice out of the orange fibers, often they are done by rubbing each seed on another or on a traditional grater. I will give you the recipe of the taal-kheer also in this post, the collected juice is simmered with grated coconut, sometimes with milk n sometimes with a touch of sugar until it becomes slightly thick like double cream and it has a beautiful orange color n amazing flavor.

The sooji caramel halwa is filled with the flavor of caramel n semolina, and it’s not overly sweet, the caramel has a slight touch of bitterness to it which only a super-taster will be able to identify, every bite of this halwa gives a enriching satisfying filling, it is soft, melts in the mouth. The caramel gives it the dark brown color and I added roasted almonds to it to add a new flavor at some bites. 

If you are trying to make this dish I will suggest you make the taal-kheer a day before, it develops its flavor over time being in the fridge and also it makes the work easier for us, so after you make the halwa we are ready to serve and it will be a true labor of love, shared with family n close friends. So here is the recipe.

For The recipe: You will need

For the Semolina Halwa

For the Semolina Halwa

Semolina/Sooji-1 cup/100gm, soaked in water for 20 minutes
Vegetable oil- 1 cup/250 ml
Sugar-1 cup/200gm
Water-1 cup/250ml
Green cardamom-2/3, slightly roasted n powdered
Almonds-2 tsp, chopped

I used Taal flavored oil, previously I made Taal dumplings/taal er bora in oil, I used that oil to make the halwa, it gives a background flavor of Taal in the halwa itself.

For the Taal kheer

Taal juice- juice of 1 medium whole Taal fruit
Grated fresh coconut- 1 whole coconut
Milk full Fat- 1 cup (optional)
Sugar- ¼- ½ cup
Salt – a pinch

1. Heat the oil in cooking deep pan/wok/kadai to medium high, add sugar and wait until it caramelizes, when the sugar start to go brown reduce the heat to low, sometimes the caramel goes to dark brown stage very quickly, we don’t want that, we want the caramel to be nicely brown and not overly burnt brown, the more dark brown it will reach the more bitter it will get, so when the caramel is a good brown, add the water carefully, it splits slightly n mix it well. After that add the semolina and stir continuously for 15 minutes. The semolina will go some transformation in these 15 minutes, at first it will be white, then soon it will be a mix between brown n white, after 10 minutes it will start to look a little glossy n translucent as if and it will start to release oil. The mixing is a little painstaking process, check it every 1-2 minutes because it starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, so scratch it and mix well. Add the roasted green cardamom powder n mix well, remove from the heat and add the almond slices.

2. Put the juice of the taal in a deep pot and make it come to a simmer, soon it will start foaming, with a ladle collect the foam and discard it, do it until the foaming almost stops, add the milk and keep simmering it, you can skip the milk too, add the grated coconut and keep simmering it for 20 minutes, check the sweetness, if the taal is still more bitter add some sugar to balance it, if you like the taal kheer to be more sweet you can add some sugar, the fresh coconut gives it a its own natural sweetness, add a pinch of salt in the kheer. After 30 minutes the kheer has thickened a bit, so take it off the heat and let it cool, then refrigerate.

3. Put the warm halwa in a plate, arrange the lightly roasted almond pieces on it then pour the cold Taal kheer around it and then dig in.

The warm halwa mixed with the cold Taal kheer, it is very hard to stop eating, in fact why do we have to stop? Gobble on. Bon appétit.