This week is Navaratri which is the nine day festival celebrating the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahisasur. The last five days of Navaratri is celebrated as Durga Puja in Bengal in Eastern India. Durga Puja is the most important festival for Bengalis (or Bongs) and Bongs at home and abroad celebrate these days with more vigor and enthusiasm than what they would display on any normal work day!!!! In my childhood, making homemade sweets (or desserts) was an important part of tradition during Durga Puja. I have managed to hold on to the same tradition and make at least one or two traditional sweets during the festive season. To check out more recipes for traditional Bengali sweets look up the link for Bijoya sweets http://www.examiner.com/article/five-indian-desserts-for-fall-bijoya-sweets
Both my mother and my grandmother (Didima) made some sweets that were specific to only this festival. Langcha is an oblong, fried dumpling in syrup (like gulab jamun) and my Didima modified it to make mishi alur langcha or those made of sweet potatoes during Bijoya. My mother made another sweet called daler rasobhari where she used ground chana daal (cholar daal) to make oval cakes, fried in oil and then dipped in syrup. It wasn’t a great favorite of mine at that time. Seriously which 10 year old likes daal? So I have combined both my mother’s and grandmother’s recipes to make a sweet which is shaped like eyes. I have named it Trinayani in honor of the three eyes of Goddess Durga. Normally sweet potato is a little fibrous, so it is difficult to turn it into a dessert. If you use a food processor and grind it with the daal, it loses its fibrous texture. Try out this recipe and I wish all my readers a Happy Navaratri and Durga Puja!!!!!
- 1 cup chana daal (soaked for 2 hrs in 2 cups water)
- 1 sweet potato (or yam, boiled and mashed)
- ½ cup grated coconut
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- ½ tbsp all purpose flour (maida)
- 1 tsp kewra essence
- 4 cups canola oil
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 cups water
- 2-3 cloves
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- White and black icing (for decorating)
Drain the excess water from the soaked daal. In a blender or food processor, grind the daal into a fine paste. Add the sweet potato, grated coconut and cardamom powder and mix with the ground daal in the food processor. Add a little maida at a time so that the mixture is of the consistency of cake batter. In a frying pan heat 1 tbsp canola oil. Lightly fry the daal-sweet potato batter in the oil for 5-8 minutes till the mixture thickens. Add the kewra essence and leave in the pan to cool down.
While the batter thickens, make the sugar syrup. Add the sugar to the water and boil vigorously for 15 minutes. Add the whole cloves to the sugar syrup. If you can get some date palm jaggery (patali gur), add a 4”piece to the syrup for improved taste.
When the daal-potato batter cool down, form 3” flattened cakes with the mixture. Smear some ghee in your palms when making the shapes. Shape them like ovals with the ends tapering (the shape of eyes). Lightly dust them with bread crumbs and keep aside. Heat the remaining oil in a deep skillet and fry the eye shaped daal cakes in the oil in batches. Drain the excess oil on paper towels. Soak the daal cakes in the hot syrup for 20 minutes. The syrup should not be boiling but should be hot for some syrup to seep into the cakes. Drain the daal cakes from the syrup and arrange them like a pair of eyes with a third eye (Tri-nayan) on a flat platter. Use the white and black icing to make the eyelids and pupils on the eyes.