Some time last year, I was finally able to lay my hands on three beautiful blocks of Patali gur (also called Khejur gur or nolen gur in Bangla) from West Bengal. Even though Sroboshi no longer worked with us in the office in Delhi, she sent the promised gur, that had arrived with her parents from Kolkata, through a courier from Bombay where they had all moved to. It is always a busy time here and more often than not, I put such gifts into the refrigerator, where they
hide reside till their time. Only destiny decides when that might be. This one was languishing in the office refrigerator along with some dried shrimp that had been stored there all winter as well. Come summer, the refrigerator was required for mundane purposes, such as providing chilled drinking water, to all of us in the office. TH put his foot down, and I had to remove the offending package – the shrimps. With that I re-acquainted with the blocks of patali gur. They were in double packaging and looked as good as new. These were removed to the fridge in the kitchen downstairs.
Patali gur is an unrefined sugar made from the sap of the date palm. You might compare it to jaggery made from sugarcane, but it would be inappropriate. I am not about to take sides here; they are not as different as chalk and cheese, but I will say that they may not be substituted for each other, and that I love them both. Patali gur definitely has a more intense caramel-ly, smoky flavour than jaggery.
Patli gur is made from tapping the date palm in winter, when the sap is the sweetest, from November to about February. It is prized by Bengalis to make payesh and sandesh in winter months. I will have you know that it tastes as good in a summer kheer, although you may not be able to source it in your local Bengali market in the summers. You have now been informed that it can be stored very well in the fridge to last all year long!
Last week TH’s Indian-American cousin was expected to visit us for lunch, along with his brother who lives in Bangalore. You know how limited my repertoire of desserts is. What’s better than chilled kheer, again! And, again! It was a weekday, so I planned to get started early morning to give the kheer time to chill through the day. I measured out rice to soak and set about my morning tea. TH fetched fresh milk for kheer. Tea done, I got to kheer. I had three (additional) litres of milk, but had soaked only a katori of rice; just 2 litres would be enough. I didn’t want too much milk sitting in the fridge too long. We are lazy, and try to buy milk to last two days, but in the summer the milk spoils sooner even with refrigeration, what with the fridge being opened incessantly to get to chilled water. The fridge door had been acting up – the door gasket was loose, and the door not sealing shut. I decided to add the additional milk to the kheer itself.
I followed my recipe for regular kheer albeit with the additional milk, replaced half the sugar with patali gur, and omitted all the spices – no cardamom, or saffron. The changes in the list of ingredients is reproduced below. The extra milk, and the rich colour of this gur, made for an excellent kheer. I will make it again despite the rest of the family rooting for the old favourite.
Patali gur er payesh
Kheer with Date Palm gur
1 katori (about 3/4C) long grain rice
2.75 litres of milk (3% milk-fat content or whole milk)
3/4 katori sugar
1 katori Patali gur
1 katori almonds, blanched and chopped
We had lots of it too. As soon as I had put the pot on the gas, we got a call from the cousin that they were not taking the flight out of Bangalore just yet – the NRI had suffered a classic case of the Delhi Belly! Plans were changed; the other cousin and his family joining us cancelled. Remember, this was a workday. But I was already committed to the kheer and the quantity! Some had to be stored in the office fridge for a bit.
By the way, this week, we bought a new 430+ liter capacity SHARP refrigerator, the largest that can fit the spot in the kitchen. I now have twice the refrigerator space (so very like all you NRIs/Americans out there!)! The package of shrimp is waiting its fate. I have to hurry before something gets it in this damp weather. Cannot store it in any of the refrigerators, obviously. Any ideas?
Yes, it’s still Bong food here on AMTP! You have another couple of days to win a copy of the Bong Mom’s Cookbook – there is a recipe for Khejur gur er payesh in there! Leave a comment here to enter the give-away!