It’s fun to read old books and this one is no exception. The quality of language and writing is far superior to contemporary authors of similar books, the recipes are brilliant and it gives me a kick to see paragraphs committed to the author’s belief that Bengali sweets have a bright commercial future. How true did her words turn out to be?!
The author, Mrs. J. Haldar has written many pages explaining the different terms used in the cooking and preparation of Bengali confectionery and her book, published in 1948, also includes illustrations of the different types of utensils and implements used. I find most cookery books today to be about more style than substance, more quantity than quality (recipes) and it is the rare author who has the knowledge, time and inclination to actually explain things to the reader, most of whom sorely need help with understanding the basics of food and cooking. By the time you’re done with this book, I have little doubt you will gain a thorough understanding of Bengali sweet-making.
Here’s a simple recipe for Radhaballavi from the book.
- 1lb Flour (whole wheat)
- 2lb Kalai Pulse
- Ghee, gram meal, soda bicarb
- Spices: Chilli, black caraway, cumin seed, ginger, asafoetida
- Steep the Kalai pulse in water for 6 – 8 hours and remove the husks by rasping in several changes of water.
- Bray the blanched cereals into a pulp
- Season it with the spices and salt. (use powdered chilli, ginger juice and asafoetida solution)
- Make the paste somewhat stiff by incorporating with it gram meal and shorten by the addition of soda bicarb.
- Finally knead it with a little ghee.
- Prepare this stuffing in time and divide it into suitable pellets when required.
- Now, measure the flour and shorten it as usual and knead to a dough. For the preparation of salt stuffed articles like Kachuri and this one, the dough is further treated by the following method. Take a little ghee and beat it with salt, sprinkling water. Smear the dough with this paste and knead it again till it become smooth and lithe. The flour thereby becomes elastic and afterwards, flaky.
- Divide the dough into rounds; stuff each one with one of the above pellets. Roll out to a large circle about 6 inches in diameter.
- Melt the ghee in a pan and remove it to the ground. Throw in the circles one by one. Place the pan on the fire when they will sink. In this way they will be puffed.
- Serve hot with curries.
As you can see from the recipe above, while the author assumes some knowledge on the part of the reader, she’s clearly the type who likes to explain and even reading this one recipe was an experience for me. The recipe also appears to be quite different from the current versions I’ve seen.
This is a rare review where you’ll get the book too! So, either read it below (first page is blank) or use the link to download (logged in users only). :)