Nolen Gurer Patishapta
(Bengali crepes with Date Jaggery)
Lost traditions , Date Jaggery and Bengali Crepes (Patishaptas)
So what you take for granted at one point becomes necessarily important on the road of life. So my year started in this clean coastal town of Vizag at my mother-in-law's. Lazy days, a beautiful view of the sea right from the balcony, morning walks made easy with a wonderful rule of no traffic on the road right adjacent to RK beach. "Rotte" (a fluffy crispy idli) for breakfast made by my adorable mother-in-law who adores me and spends her time writing science books while I engage in dinner.
Without internet connection I was happily immersed in Anna Karenina , morning walks, lazy mornings enjoying rottes, making rajma or chole or something else in the evening when I suddenly heard my husband speak about sankranti. True it was spoken in a language completely alien to me and other then the word sankranti I did not understand a word but that itself opened my inner window to all those years till last year when my grandmother would churn out these Bengali sweet delights on Sankranti, the festival celebrating harvest. Since back home my doctor father still kept our Rice business alive I am even close to this beautiful festival and images of white "pithas" (stuffed sweet treats which are steamed) and browned "pithas" (stuffed sweets which are fried but my favourite are these pancakes or crepes with stuffing. Now there is no hard and fast rule to what one uses as stuffing but for me these treats with Bengal's other reason for joy during the winters, the fabled "Nolen Gur" Palm date jaggery is blasphemy itself. That typical delightful taste is exotic and delicious.
So in a land far away with reminiscence of my grandmother using the bell. Well here is what would happen , my mother's method of teaching was what legends are made of. So every evening from 6 to 10 it would be war with my mother's shrill voice and my voice which would range from squeaky to whiny. In-between my grandmother would provide these amazing comic reliefs by suddenly pressing the bell. Well when you stay in an old house which is multistoried it is essential to adopt some method of communication other than the most natural way unless you are happy having screamed and sounding like a croaking frog. So just when my mother was ready to throw a book at me ting tong came the sound and during this time of the year it would essentially mean a plateful of pithas and patishaptas.
I decided on the crepes because it is easy and being far away from home and my mother-in-law having just moved from Ranchi and having three huge chunks of date jaggery had me craving for these Bengali crepes doused in liquid date jaggery. I was superbly satisfied with the results when my lovely grandfather-in-law (my mother-in-law's) husband asked for a second helping and could not stop praising these "amazing sweet dosas"
So for this recipe you basically need a little bit of hard work but its all worth it. I have used the date jaggery with homemade reduced milk and grated coconut as a filling which made it the most wonderful delight.
Start by making the reduced milk for which you need :
1 litre full cream milk
1 teaspoonful of ghee
2 green cardamom
1 big bay and 1 small bay leaf
Bring the milk with the ghee and spices to boil and simmer for 1 hour 45 minutes. Now the usage of ghee (clarified butter) gives the reduced milk an amazing smoothness and besides that it ensures that the milk doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Now if you are planning to make the dish during the evening I suggest starting in the morning hours. Say 11 a.m.to keep everything ready because making the reduced milk takes some time say about 1 hour 45 minutes and one very important point to note is that one must use low flame and must keep stirring from time to time and after 1.5 hours one must stir continuously.
For the filling one needs:
3/4th of the reduced milk
3 cups (250ml) of grated coconut
2 tbsp ghee
1 green cardamom
Grated Jaggery as per taste
Start by gentle heating the ghee and sauteing the coconut with the cardamom and add the reduced milk and slowly add the grated jaggery. Now for the jaggery keep adding a bit and stirring and taste and add more if required. When the content becomes pudding like and everything mixes well and the educed milk si well incorporated you are done. Now remember once you are done with cooking the cooked coocnut will anyways dry up a bit more so keep it a bit soft.
For the crepes or pancakes one needs
1 cup all purpose flour'
Half a cup semolina
Half a cup rice flour
Mix everything with 1.5 cups water but when mixing mix bit by bit so that no lumps are formed. Spread it on a girdle as you would make crepes but thin ones turn and immediately add the stuffing and fold from both sides and serve drizzled with liquid jaggery or the saved reduced milk.