January is drawing to a close, and we are in a hurry to enjoy what is left of the winter season. When the morning's fog clears, the marigolds in the garden look as if you could drink the sunshine out of them. There are fresh oranges to juice up, and though they get more expensive every year, they taste great.
Home-made Marmalade - No sitting in the sun and making this!
Sweet and golden are the days spent idling in the winter sun. The festival of sun-worship, Sankranti/Pongal, just went past. The Bengali month of Poush finished in mid-January. It is a special month for foodies : a host of traditional sweets are prepared with 'khejur gur', the jaggery made from date palm syrup. Jaggery is a wonderful thing to eat in winter, and far more healthy than refined white sugar. Date palm jaggery has a mature mellowness and booziness which is quite missing in sugar cane jaggery. It is sold in rounds like this one, below.
Khejur gur and Sandesh
When the month of Poush began in mid-December, I started checking with our general store owner in town whether his stock of Khejur gur had arrived yet. He said, 'Abhi kahaan itna thhanda hua hai? Thhanda hone se aayega' (Is it cold these days? the gur will only be ready when it is really cold.) The 'gur' needs sunshine as well as cold to reach the right levels of sweetness.
Golden brown Khejur gur Roshogollah puts regular white Roshogolla in the shade. Khejur gur roshogollah, sandesh, paayesh and kalakand are sold in shops. The best sweets, though, are the ones made at home. Bengali women who are experts in the kitchen make amazing sweets from khejur gur. When my mother is here, she too makes her special 'Thenga Paal Payasam' with Khejur gur. I find myself closing my eyes just thinking about that Payasam.
The 'Paayesh' in this picture was painstakingly prepared by Mrs. Rama Mitra-Majumdar in Moraghat and sent to all the bungalows a couple of days ago. The base is paayesh, thickened milk sweetened with Khejur gur, and the rice flour peetha/dumplings are filled with coconut and jaggery paste. Simply heavenly.
26 January is a favourite date for picnics. We had our garden families' picnic at the Pump House in the "NG" Division, on 25th January. The smiling faces say it all.