Monday, January 19, 2015

Malpoa for the festive season

Last quarter was hectic, both professionally and personally. While retailers gear up for for the holiday season, software providers need to ensure they beef up resources for their customers. On the personal front, it was the season of parties . For Indians living abroad, the festival actually starts with Navratri/Dussehra, followed by Karva Chauth, Halloween, Diwali, Thanksgiving and Christmas. In short,  it was a pretty festive season and with that, came the potlucks and parties where you get to taste all the traditional goodies.

There is a saying in Bengali “Bangali r baroh maashe tero porbo” meaning “Bengalis celebrate 13 festivals in 12 months”. I am pretty sure the number of festivals and gatherings  is much more altogether than 13. It is true we need just a reason for merry making, be it traditions, a gathering over literature and art, or simply somebody’s birthday or anniversary. We are equally proud of our food, revelries and garments as much as we are of our culture and traditions.

It was also a season to make sweets/desserts for friends and family. For one such gathering, I decided to make a traditional Bengali dish known as the Malpua. Now, the traditional way of making malpua is time-consuming as you have to boil the milk to the right consistency. So, I decided to use some of the easily available ingredients in a grocery store to make this process a bit simpler.

Evaporated Milk -  1 can
Flour – 1 cup
Cardamom seeds (roughly crushed)  from 4-5 cardamoms
Fennel seeds - 10-20 seeds
Oil to fry
Simple syrup (made of brown sugar and water)

The first step was to prepare the simple syrup by boiling the sugar and water for about 20-25 minutes till it had a sticky consistency.

In a deep bowl, I mixed the evaporated milk, flour and crushed cardamom & fennel seeds with the help of an electric hand-held mixer. Meanwhile, I heated the oil (preferably saffola) in a cast iron wok. Cast iron woks were traditionally used at Indian homes  and I have found that they impart the best taste to any food cooked in them. Many of my friends who have tried them have agreed. Their maintenance may be a bit cumbersome but once you have mastered the tips and tricks on how to best use them, they are quite handy.

When the oil was hot enough, I dropped a ladle full of batter into the oil and fried it till the rims were dark brown and the center was mildly golden. The fried malpua was then taken out of the oil and immersed immediately in the warm syrup. I still remember when as a kid, I would look greedily at a quarter plate fully covered by a single malpua that my mother would make for us during the festive season. We were told not to ask too many in front of guests, lest there was a shortage – a very embarrassing situation for a Bengali host. My brother and I would marvel at our plates for some time, comparing whose malpua was bigger in size and then eventually  give in to devour them.  My dad would always say that malpuas during his times were better and bigger – almost the size of a dinner plate and we would longingly wonder how that must have been. But to dwell in the past – isn’t that intrinsic to human nature? J

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