Doodhi Burfi (a non-recipe)
Some of my most favourite topics for essay at school were “The day everything went wrong”, or “If I were a millionaire” and “If I were Prime Minister or Principal for a day”. These topics had so much potential for a wordster like me to spin yarns. They allowed, nay – called for unhinged flights of fancy, allowing a limitless scope for farfetched fantasies. The whackier, the better! And the best part of it was you could be as brash and brazen as you could bring yourself to be, sass as much as you could stomach, without any fear of consequence.
These were rare occasions in our little contained world, that we would be certainly rewarded for the cheeky proposal to ban exams if we were the principal for a day. And when else could you expect to get a big tick for your precocious remark that had you been a millionaire, you wouldn’t be writing a piddly essay on this topic.
All you needed was to give dainty disclaimers declaring the caprices wrong, impossible, improbable, and provide a happy denouement – such as waking up and realising it was but a dream. Then again, if you coveted that + on the A and threw in something about helping the poor and uplifting the downtrodden, you could get away with the kill.
But in real, grown-up life, one needn’t necessarily have to contrive any whimsical misadventures – if things have to go wrong, they will - every step of the way.
Kitchen catastrophes are in this category, where often times and for lesser mortals, (just kidding!) there is no salvaging of situation.
However, being my mother’s daughter, I have inherited the make-do-with-makeshift, dish-fixing, disaster-recovery gene.
Mother, who never believed in “chucking” any food without a good reason, was always successful in rescuing the most seemingly gone-cases of dishes.
Once, after her annual sun-dried potato chip making binge, she decided to use the dregs of the sedimented starch to make some soup. The soup was thick and gluggy, so Mother didn’t get any brownie points for innovation. The next day, when we came home from school, ravenous, we were greeted with the most delicious savoury pancakes.
Not so smart this time, we unsuspectingly gobbled up the pancakes, much to the amusement of a mysteriously reticent mother.
And then there was the time, impressed by a recipe doing the rounds of the staff room, I slid some uncooked gulab jamuns balls into hot oil, and they immediately burst and started the oil started foaming. Some quick thinking on my part and the disintegrated dough was mashed further, the one-string syrup was fortified into an almost hardball syrup, and –
Voila! I had a lovely halva, cut into nice rhombus shapes.
For days later, the staff room resounded with laughter as colleagues recalled my recipe of the gulab-halwa, which was prefaced by the much-hyped gulabjamun recipe till the point “deep fry the balls in oil” – and then epilogued with the rescued recipe.
The ricotta rasgullas, based on a recipe shared by another colleague in another country faced a similar kismet. I believe this cunning co-worker had very generously shared the sweets with us, lapped up all praise, but deliberately left some important detail out of the recipe that we begged of her.
It’s only because I have that gene I was talking about some paragraphs ago, that the curdy mess of dissolved ricotta and syrup metamorphed into an exquisite kalakand.
The doodhi halwa I made this time takes the cake for calamities.
The sugarfree mawa I had made last week with a cup of milk powder and four tablespoons of cream zapped for 30 seconds in the microwave, had left a nervous aftertaste in the mouth, brought about by the stevia based sweetener.
But it clinched the deal on what to make for dessert when we had some friends over. Out came the doodhi from the fridge, peeled and grated into two cups, to mingle with the blob of mawa and a cup of sugar and the requisite cardamom into a wide heavy bottomed pan. I even added a tablespoon of ghee to make sure the mixture wouldn’t stick to the bottom.
This time, mind you, I followed two internet based recipes for doodhi burfi – one of them a TV masterchef’s rendition!
But no! No amount of stirring and scraping inspired confidence in me that this mixture would set. So in went half a cup of powdered pistachio and almonds, which I had rescued when my daughter wanted to rubbish them after she (slightly) burnt them.
Well, still no luck with the caking, so I added two tablespoons of icing mixture. Ok, that seemed to have worked, so the hot mixture finally was patted to rest in the greased plate.
To err the side of caution (as if I hadn’t erred enough), I reasoned that placing the plate in the fridge for an hour or so would help it set perfectly.
But the stage was not yet set.
If I were infirm of purpose, I would have served the unset mixture as a halwa in a bowl, or rolled it into small balls coated in some more of the powdered pistachios. But now I was a woman scorned, whose fury was greater than the 80C in the oven, where I placed the plate to dry out for about 30 minutes.
Running out of patience and time before the guests arrived, I cut the squares, and YESSS, I was able to pluck some of the squares out.
A bit of reshaping here and there, some powdering up with pistachios, and a bolstering of the morale with lovely yellow daisies, my delicious burfi was ready to be presented.
2 cups grated doodhi/lauki (peel the doodhi)
1 cup mawa/khoya
For home made mawa/khoya - mix 1 cup skim milk powder with four tbsp light cream and microwave covered for 30 secs, mix again and if required, microwave again for another 20-30 secs.
½ cup milk
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup powdered pistachios and almonds (reserve a little for garnishing)
1 tbsp ghee
½ tsp powdered green cardamom
2 tbsp icing mixture
Grease a 9-inch plate/thali or similar tray with some ghee and keep aside.
Squeeze most of the juice from the doodhi. If you retain the juice, it takes much longer to dry the mixture. It’s ok if you are making a halva – but if you intend to make the burfi, that’s one of the mistakes you could avoid.
But please don’t discard the juice – add it to any dal or sambar or even roti dough.
Heat a heavy bottomed and wide pan, add the ghee and the grated lauki and milk and cook on low heat till the mixture thickens, stirring and scraping the pan from time to time to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom or burning.
Next add the sugar. The mixture will suddenly become a little loose when the sugar dissolves. Cook till the mixture thickens again, stirring frequently. Add the powdered nuts and cook for a few seconds to get the nutty flavour. Crumble the khoya and add to the mixture and mix well and cook further till the mixture is ready to roll into a ball.
Remove from flame and add icing mixture and mix vigorously and then turn the ball onto the greased plate. Pat the mixture evenly in the plate with a spatula. Sprinkle the reserved powdered nuts on the top and pat them in gently. Allow the burfi to set, if required in the fridge. Cut into squares and serve.
Store in the fridge.