There is no love lost between me and the winter season. With frostnipped hands and feet, through out the peak season, who would like it anyway? (Btw, I used to apply kerosene oil on the affected area and it was really helpful for the itching and bringing the swelling down; a nuskha told by an old granny. Try it. It works.) But I used to love winters for its produce and its food. The hot piping Gobhi Parathas with dollops of home churned Cultured Butter & Winter Mixed Veg Pickle, Makki ki Roti and Sarson ka Saag, the sweet endings to meals with Gajar ka Halwa, or the syrupy hot Gulab Jamuns or Besan Ladoo (which never lasted long), Gachak (Peanut Brittle) or Gajar ka Murabba to munch on, a hot bowl of Lup’pi or Kahwa (Saffron Spiced Tea) to sip on and wind up the day with. And how can I forget the hot Samosas right out of the wok or the crispy tangy spicy Palak Patta Chat (Spinach Leaf Fritters) on the weekends. These yummy foods ensured that I always stayed focused on the silver lining to the dark grey cloud called winters.
The villages around my home town produce a good harvest of sugar canes which they sell to the sugar factory in the town. Some villagers used to make fresh jaggery or gur (गुड़) using the cane juice and sell it at local markets. Gur was therefore always made to order by my mother. She would carry spices such as ginger powder, crushed cardamoms, fennel seeds and roasted peanuts, sultana currant (मुनक्का), dried dates (छुहारा), dried & chopped coconut (khopra – खोप्रा) in a certain amount to the gur maker. He would add these spices and nuts while making our batch of the customised gur. This way, the gur not just tasted better but these spices and nuts took its health value a few notches up. This gur was served to us as a digestive after meals.
She would also buy a batch of regular gur from them but from their last year’s produce (The older the gur, the better it is considered to be.) She would use this to make stuff like pickles, gachak, Murunde, sweeten a pudding or make this chawal. With days and weeks passing by, the gur would mature and attain an even deeper tone and a richer taste. Try to get your hands on organic gur.
250 gm Basmati Rice
500 ml Water
250 gm Jaggery (Gur)
3 tbsp melted, Ghee (do not compromise on this quantity) – Vegans can add coconut oil although I have never tried it
½ tsp Cumin Seeds (Jeera)
½ tsp Black Pepper Corns (as per taste)
2 Black Cardamoms (Moti Elaichi)
1 tsp Cardamom Powder (Hari Elaichi)
3 tbsp sliced, Dry Whole Coconut / Khopra (in half an inch length)
½ cup roughly chopped, Walnuts
2 tbsp roughly chopped Cranberries or whole Raisins
Scrap the jaggery and mix it in 250 ml of water in a pot. Put the pot on heat and keep stirring while the gur just melts. (Ensure that the mixture does not come to a boil whlile you are heating it) Remove from heat. Sieve it to remove impurities, if any. (I sieved it through a sieve lined with muslin cloth) Set aside.
Pick, wash (till the water runs almost clear) and soak rice for half an hour. After half an hour drain the rice and discard the water.
On medium heat, melt ghee in a broad heavy bottom pan. Add the cumin, black pepper corns and black cardamom. Fry for a few seconds and add the drained rice. Stir the contents very gently with a spatula so as not to break the rice. Add 250 ml water and bring it to a boil.
Once the water begins to boil, reduce the heat and cover the pan. Cook for approximately 5 minutes. Uncover the rice and add half of the jaggery water. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Uncover the rice again and add the rest of the jaggery water along with the sliced coconut, walnuts and cardamom powder (& raisins if using). Stir very gently with a fork or back of a spoon. Cover and cook again for 20 to 25 minutes or till the water is completely absorbed.
Turn off the heat and let the rice sit for a few minutes before you open the lid. Gently fluff the rice and serve hot.
P.S. – Don’t worry if the rice turns some what crisp and brown or slightly burnt at the bottom while cooking. We used to allow the rice to burn slightly & just like the tahdig, it was a delicacy served to the guest. Everyone used to hanker for it coz it tastes beautifully caramelly. Try it if you may.
Note: The cooking time and the amount of water required to cook the rice may vary slightly depending on the quality and variety of rice being used. Add more water if required.
Note: The colour of the jaggery rice will depend on the colour of the jaggery. Mine was deep and dark brown in colour.
Note: The amount of walnuts, raisins and coconut is a matter of personal taste, so feel free to vary their amount. You can omit or add what ever dry fruits you wish to.
Serves 6 – 8
Other winter desserts you might want to check out: