Mother’s Day in the Kitchen

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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.

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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?

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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

Method:

  • 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.

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25 thoughts on “Mother’s Day in the Kitchen

  1. This is a sweet post. The Elo-Jhelo does not look easy to make. They are so delicate and pretty. Well done!
    (p.s. I am not sure that the mother’s day is only a western thing. For sure it has been in the Middle-East for centuries and the far east Asia). Hope your mum had a nice day anyway. 🙂
    Nargess

    • Thank you for your sweet words Nargess! 🙂 Elo-Jhelo isn’t really that difficult. They look more complicated than they are – kind of like women! 😀
      India gets influenced by the west, as in the US, a lot more than any other place. I’m glad they picked up Mothers Day because it is so special.

  2. Wow… those pastries look amazing! I love the shape; they kind-of remind me of cardamom pods (was that intentional, as in echoing the flavour in the syrup?). It’s wonderful that you’re passing on the tradition of making them to your own daughter. I love (LOVE!) family traditions, especially those based around shared meals. I hope to do the same to my own children one day! Thanks for sharing this beautiful post x

    • Hi Laura,
      The shape is very attractive. The original recipe does not call for cardamom so I don’t know if the original creator was thinking of it or not, but you are so right, they do look like cardamoms!
      I have started to build our own family traditions since i have had my daughter. Yes, I love them too and they are so important. Makes beautiful memories! 🙂

  3. wow wow wow–those are really cool 🙂 Love that you have that connection and tradition. Thanks for sharing! And hope you had a lovely Mother’s Day.

  4. These pastries have such a catching ‘architectural’ design and they sound delicious. Reading your recipe and instructions, I feel that I could make these in my own kitchen. Making these yesterday was a lovely tribute to your mother who is so far away; I’m sure the process made you feel closer.

  5. I have always had a salty version of this pastry, with lots of yogurt and tamarind chutney, almost like a chaat. Never knew that there’s a sweet version as well. Indian cuisine is really diverse. And mom’s recipes are always a hit. I am sure this must be a winner too 🙂

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