When it comes to winters in Kolkata, one cannot ignore the presence of date palm jaggery (known as nolen gur) in sweets. Everyone is looking forward to those rich and flavourful sweets made with nolen gur, which are available only in winters. Be it from the shops or made at home, sweets made with nolen gur or date palm jaggery are a sinful delight for all with a sweet tooth. The heavenly taste that accompanies the syrupy finger-licking consistency of this jaggery elevates the joy of eating to a whole new level. In present times, a number of sweet shops buy the jaggery in bulk during winter season and preserve it to meet the demand of nolen gur sweets throughout the year. However, the flavour is kind of lost in the sweets when sold during summers and more importantly, the preserved gur does not allow all kinds of recipes. There are only certain sweets that can be made with preserved gur. So yes, we do have to wait for winters to enjoy this luxury.
Every household in Kolkata also stocks up nolen gur in both liquid and solid form. It is used to make payesh, various kinds of pithe or simply have it with roti for dinner. The sweet shops have an enviable variety of nolen gurer sweets.
Nolen gur roshogolla, perhaps is the most popular one. No words can truly describe how the humble roshogolla becomes so opulent with the caramelised gur. The syrup also has some gur in it and each bite is an unforgettable experience. This one is available in all sweet shops during winters and is one of the highest selling items.
Makha sandesh is another hot popular dessert made in winters, especially during marriages. When the chena or the paneer is cooked with gur, the soft sandesh becomes a sensational dessert. Warm it up a bit and it is a perfect way to end your meal on a cold winter night.
Gur jol bhora sandesh, which originated in Chandan Nagar, the erstwhile French colony an hour drive from Kolkata, finds its way to almost all sweet shops in Bengal during winters. It is basically a hard sandesh, flavoured with gur, which oozes gooey syrup of gur once you break it open. It is a bit old fashioned but remains a favourite amongst many during winters.
There are many varieties of sandesh that are made with nolen gur, but the next two are traditionally made at home. Due to the fast paced life of younger generations, sweet shops are indulging in these traditional sweets too. One is the patishapta and the other is doodh puli.
Patishapta is a rice pancake with a stuffing made of either coconut or kheer. In winters, grandmothers and mothers make these in plenty and keep. The sugar is replaced with nolen gur giving an incredible result. The patishapta is made with ghee and sticky coconut combined with nolen gur – it is a match made in heaven.
Doodh puli, on the other hand, makes an entry sometime in January right after Sankranti. It is a sweet potato dumpling stuffed with caramelised coconut and stewed in gur flavoured milk. It is also available in shops now for those who do not have the time or energy to make such complex desserts at home, even though they crave for them.
Winters are here and so is the time to slurp your way through nolen gur!