I would know the tin even if I were blindfolded.
Battered. Long past its prime. The Parle biscuit label, an adorable child against a sunshine-yellow backdrop, long forgotten.
I stand on my tiptoes this morning, reach out for that very familiar tin on the upper shelf in my pantry and prise open the circular lid with the back of a spoon.
I pick a fistful of gobindobhog grains from the ancient tin, hold it to my nose, close my eyes and take a d-e-e-p breath.
Exactly as Grandma would do when Bhola, the farmers cricket-loving son, would arrive with a deranged confusion of gunny sacks of rice tied to his rickety bicycle.
The perfume of the aromatic small-grained rice sends my olfactory nerves to a sublime ecstasy.
As it always does.
Well, if there’s an ingredient in my pantry that I am unabashedly biased towards, it has to be gobindobhog rice.
That I absolutely adore this rice is an understatement.
No trip to Kolkata is ever complete without me hoarding supplies of the fragrant rice, enough to last me a good couple of months.
And whenever any friend or family comes visiting, it’s invariably the same plea – ‘If you don’t mind, can you please get me some gobindobhog rice ? ‘
Such that, nowadays, I don’t even need to request.
The scented rice just lands up in my pantry.
Lucky me, I have often mused, to be blessed with such loving friends and family.
So no surprise, when my father-in-law gets home plump parwals this morning (Reached Bangalore this morning, as the local vegetable seller had reminded him with an air of pride), I know it’s time for Grandmas sublime chal potol.
Chal Potol. Fried parwals. A throw of the fragrant gobindobhog rice. The intoxicating perfume of whole spices. The warmth of ginger. And the mellow sweetness of luscious raisins.
This is indeed an assault on the senses !!!
Chal Potol (Parwal / Pointed Gourd with Fragrant Rice)
- 8-9 Potol (Parwal / Pointed Gourd) peeled and halved longitudinally
- 3/4 cup gobindobhog rice washed and drained
- 2 tbsp raisins
- 1 tomato pureed
- 1/2 tbsp ginger paste
- 2-3 green cardamom
- 1-2 cloves
- 1 one inch cinnamon stick
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
- 3 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tbsp ghee
- 1 tsp sugar
- salt to taste
- Soak the raisins in water, keep aside.
- Rub the parwal halves with a little turmeric powder and salt.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan, shallow fry the parwals till light brown. Keep aside on a kitchen absorbent towel.
- Add the remaining oil and 1/2 a tbsp of ghee in a deep bottomed pan, when smoking hot, throw in the crushed cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and bay leaves. Allow the spices to release their aroma.
- Now add the pureed tomato, sprinkle in the salt and cook till the tomatoes are done and the smell of raw tomatoes is no longer there.
- Stir in the ginger paste and cumin powder, splash a little water, saute for a minute or two.
- Now add the soaked rice, sprinkle in the turmeric powder and sugar, saute for 3-4 minutes over a medium flame.
- Throw in the fried parwals and raisins (drained from the water they were soaking in), add 1.5 cups of warm water, cook over a low flame till the rice is cooked to perfection. Splash a little water if it is getting a bit too dry.
- Finish with a generous dollop of ghee and a hearty sprinkle of garam masala powder. Allow to rest for 10 odd minutes.
- Serve hot.