Friday is Sankranti, which means its time to get Nolen/ Notun/Khejur Gur and keep a flickering tradition alive. The winter sun is at its glorious best today, it reminds me of my younger days in India, when my parents would get this famous date jaggery, Bengalis lovingly call Nolen Gur.
We would wait in anticipation when my Grandmother and Mum would get busy in the kitchen, breaking the gur down for sweet winter delicacies - pithe, puli, and payesh. All that is a thing of the past for me now.
What remains now, is just a taste in my mouth, and thankfully its not bitter. Its the smoky, sweet taste of Khejur Gur.
All I have today is a bowl of Nolen Gurer Payesh sparkling in the afternoon sun to remember my past and some forgotten traditions. And I’d like to share it with you…
Ingredients for Nolen Gurer Payesh:
1 liter half and half cream/full cream milk
3 tablespoons Basmati rice, washed and soaked in water
6-7 tablespoons of grated date jaggery/ nolen gur
Begin by doing this test. Boil half a cup of milk and add some nolen gur in it. If the milk curdles, you cannot use that jaggery for your dessert. If it doesn’t you are in for some treat.
In a thick bottom saucepan, boil the milk on low-medium heat, stirring continuously. When its reduced to half its original quantity, add the Nolen Gur. I grate my jaggery and then add it to the milk. It helps to quickly break it down in the hot milk.
Keep cooking the milk and gur by adjusting the heat from time to time. You literally have to babysit the cooking process. The last thing you want is to burn the milk and your precious gur.
When the milk starts to thicken, add the washed and drained rice.
Do a taste test and add a little more gur only if necessary. Remember all food tastes less sweet (or salty) when they are piping hot. Do not overdo the sweetness in the payesh, no one likes a sinfully sweet payesh.
Its also legal to make Payesh with plain white sugar. Here is the recipe if you don’t have Nolen Gur this winter.