Bengalis have a saying that we have thirteen festivals for twelve months of the year (“Baro Mase Tero Parbon”) – implying that we barely need an excuse to celebrate. That probably also explains our healthy levels of food obsession and productivity! And festivals clearly meant , which invariably involves eating way more than we ought to.
One of my personal favourite festivals used to be Poush Sankranti that celebrates the harvest and the beginning of winter, and like all traditions around the world that celebrate food in sync with the seasons, it is celebrated with rice – since it is harvested then – and palm jaggery – that is produced only in that season. My grandmothers would then bring out the big guns to make the wonderful desserts with rice and jaggery, and the excellent vegetables in season in winter. My favourite dessert of these, was patishapta, or rice flour pancakes – with a filling of either coconut and jaggery, or sweet milk solid. The pancakes themselves are made with a combination of rice flour, wheat flour and semolina in a thin milk slurry, lightly pan fried and then rolled with the filling, almost like a soft, golden white cannoli.
I got my mother to teach me the pancakes with two kinds of filling – spiced coconut and jaggery,and sweetened milk solids. The pancakes like all such dishes I guess are a function of practice and my tenth pancake was better and smoother than the first, and the twentieth better than the tenth….and so on, you get the drift. Guess that’s why my grand mothers, who were easily a thousand plus pancakes down in their lives, were so effortless and consistent.
I also made the jaggery filling version at our dinner party, that we served with a lovely raspberry coulis that Priya prepared. I also took down the semolina content in the pancake batter….the semolina is there to give the pancake structure, but makes it a bit heavy, so I preferred the lighter version, though I needed to be a bit gentler with the pancakes. All in, a good effort, and a version I made at home got a final brush of cointreau. The orange notes were great and when has the right use of alcohol ever hurt a dessert??