I had been cribbing here about how I can’t make any Bengali dessert to suit my palate because it is not Nolen Gur season. Nothing in the Bengal sweetmeat scene deserves as much hoopla as nolen gur. I am not a ‘sweet’ person but during the winter months even I find myself automatically walking through the doors of Balaram Mallick to stuff myself with their nolen gurer kacha golla and nolen gurer souffle. Thankfully for 10 months a year my sweet intake remains remarkably low. That it is more than adequately compensated by my bakes is a story we’ll reserve for another day. If there has been one thing about the timing of Eat Like a Bong that has been bothering me, it is the non-availability of nolen gur. But…but…here is the twist in the tale!
Earlier this year, we had been to Shantiniketan…just for a day. It was right before Bashanta Utsab, a time when Shantiniketan is truly resplendent in its own glory. We were putting up at a Mama’s (cousin maternal uncle) place and were generously served bowlfuls of jhola gur before and after meals. I was so much in love with it that right before we returned my Mama packed a huge jar full of that jhola gur. In heaven, I was. After coming back I regularly savoured that jar of gur till the habit gradually withered away. I presumed, like anybody would, that the jar was over and we would now have to wait for next winter to get our refill. Till a couple of days back. I was asking my mother’s special advice as to what I should make for desserts in my ongoing series, when she very nonchalantly said, “Why don’t you make gurer payesh?” Completely oblivious to her plan of action I replied, “And exactly how am I supposed to get gur now?” to which the reply came even more swiftly, “Why? From the fridge!” My jaw dropped open. So my mother had saved some nolen gur in the freezer for rainy days, huh! I was elated. I wanted to make patishapta, ranga aloor pithey, baked roshogolla all at once, but because my mother had been nice and kind and such a saviour, I heeded to her advice and went ahead with Gurer Payesh. Her marriage anniversary last Friday (and my dad’s too!) also served as the “auspicious” occasion on which you usually make payesh in Bengali households.
Whole milk: 1 litre
Rice: 3/4 cup
Date palm jaggery/gur: 1 cup (I used jhola gur)
Cashew nuts, soaked in water: 1/4 cup
Raisins, soaked in water: 1/4 cup
1. In a deep-bottomed saucepan heat the milk. Bring it to boil 2-3 times and allow it to thicken a little bit, say for 7-8 minutes. Keep stirring continuously.
2. Paralelly, in another saucepan pour a cup of milk from the first saucepan and into it add the rice to allow it to cook. Rice cooks more easily in lesser milk. Stir both the saucepans continuously.
3. Once the rice is cooked add it, along with the milk, to the first saucepan. Stir on low heat for another 5-10 minutes.
4. Add the cashews and raisins and stir for 5 minutes. Once you’re happy with the consistency turn off heat and set aside to cool. Payesh becomes denser on cooling so stop cooking when it is slightly more liquidy than how you want it to be.
5. Let the payesh cool in the vessel. Once it comes to room temperature (almost) take the gur and very gently mix it with the payesh. Do 2-3 tbsp at a time for a smoother mixing. (In case you’re using patali/solid gur, break them up into chunks first). Serve warm or refrigerate upto serving.
Eat Like a Bong: Day 26