This Mother’s Day when I called my Ma in India to wish her a happy one she did not ask me what ‘that’ was for a change. She actually knew what Mother’s Day was. Finally. We did not grow up celebrating Mother’s Day, or Father’s Day, or Valentine’s Day either in India. Children’s Day and Teacher’s Day were what we celebrated with just as much enthusiasm. It’s a Western thing to celebrate a day for each parent which India has finally caught on to. My gratitude goes to the television media for keeping my Ma up to date. I called her and spoke to her for a few minutes before she had to hurry. The sun was out and strong she said – she had been sunning my sarees this afternoon. I missed her. I know she missed me even though she doesn’t say so as much, but she had said once that when she misses me she takes my clothes out and organizes them.
Before hanging up I asked Ma for her ‘Elo-Jhelo’ recipe – a fried dough pastry dipped in syrup. A treat she always indulges me with, either across the seven seas or here in the Atlantic. Ma makes the best ones, undoubtedly. She really does. When I told her that this morning she said she had learnt to make them from her eldest sister-in-law – my Boro Pisha who was an extraordinary repository for authentic Bengali cuisine. Not a lot of families make Elo Jhelo anymore, she said, and no one uses khoya kheer(solidified milk) or dips them in light syrup like we do. I must admit and I’m not being a total braggart but her recipe is far far beyond the others in taste.
So I got busy all morning. It was the right kind of busy on Mother’s Day. I thought of my Ma making them the last time she visited me when Saira was born. She made a lot of Elo Jhelo. A lot. She wanted me to eat to my heart’s content. And eat I did – two pounds more on weigh scale in a week. Ma’s fault, totally! Today I made them for Saira, hoping she would acquire the same longing as me some day. I did not have any intention of blogging them but the more time I spent making them the more I thought about my Ma, and the more I missed her, and the more I wanted a Mother’s Day post to remember this year. What would I ever do without her?
ELO-JHELO – A traditional Bengali fried dough pastry dipped in cardamom sugar syrup
Recipe adapted from my Mother. Original recipe uses khoya kheer(milk solids) and fries the pastry in ghee. I substituted khoya kheer with milk powder and ghee with veg oil. The addition of cardamom to sugar syrup is non traditional as well.
Ingredients for Pastry:
- Flour: 1 and 1/2 cup
- Whole Milk Powder: 1/2 cup
- Unsalted Butter: 2 tbsp melted
- Salt: a pinch
- Sugar: 2 tbsp
- Baking Soda: 1/2 tsp
- Water: as needed
- Vegetable oil: or frying
Ingredients for Syrup:
- Sugar: 1 cup
- Water: 1 cup
- Cardamom: 4 pods crushed
- Mix flour, milk powder, sugar, salt and baking powder together.
- Make a well and add enough water and the melted butter and start kneading to make a soft dough.
- Knead for at least 5 mins after the flour has come together.
- Let the dough rest covered for 15-20 mins.
- Make sugar syrup by boiling water, sugar and cardamom. Syrup needs to be just enough thick to coat the back of the spoon and slightly sticky.
- Divide dough into small balls about the size of a table spoon each. Keep dough balls covered.
- Roll out dough into a thin oblong shape.
- With a sharp knife make slits (1/2 inch apart) on the rolled pastry starting from top to bottom, left to right, making sure to leave enough space so as not to tear the pastry.
- Now with both your index finger on the sides where the slits begin, start rolling the pastry carefully.
- Secure tip by slightly twisting the ends.
- Heat oil on medium high.
- Fry the pastry till golden in colour two at a time.
- Immediately dip the elo-jhelo’s in the sugar syrup for 5 mins, then transfer to your serving dish.
- Enjoy hot out of pan or at room temperature.