food talk
From Gurudev’s kitchen
Easy to make and refreshingly light, tarhgurer payash with rosogulla was one of Tagore’s favourite desserts

This year an exultant nation is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize and the poet who has penned our National Anthem. That myriad-minded man has many other claims to fame. He was a trendsetting painter, musician-composer of great originality and a visionary educationist. He has been a source of inspiration to creative artistes as different as Ritwik Ghatak and Satyajit Ray. He was in addition an intrepid traveller, who strode the continents of Asia, Africa, Europe and America, making himself effortlessly at home everywhere. Mahatma Gandhi treated him as an equal and valued his counsel, despite differences. What most people remain unaware of is that the bard was an epicurean — fond of good things of life and was a connoisseur of good food.

Trying to cash in on the anniversary, some enterprising folks have`A0designed a commemorative platter offering to paying patrons a taste of some of Robi Babu’s`A0favourite delicacies.

What is a bit jarring is that the menu is loaded with phirang stuff. The justification is that the great man was a cosmopolitan with eclectic taste. He relished exotic dishes that were served to him on foreign sojourns and asked his Thakurbari cooks to replicate these. By this logic, everything from noodles and miso soup to Indonesian sate to Kabuli kebab can claim the pride of place! Didn’t the man, who is remembered
for Kabuliwala also sang
Ogo Videshini!

We think time has come to face the facts. What Tagore enjoyed most was home-made Bengali fare — simple and sublime at the same time the dishes on the thali changing with the cycle of seasons and striving to provide all the six basic flavours. Bengali repast is seldom monochromatic and is brilliantly balanced. Tagore had no need to stray far from his beloved Santiniketan in search of mouth-watering, lip-smacking dishes to tickle his own or guest’s palate. Long years ago, we had the good fortune to be fed by Protimadi (Tagore’s daughter-in-law, who had a soft corner for mother, who had studied and taught at Santiniketan in the 1930s). She treated us to a tarhgurer payash with rosogulla that was out of this world. We have reasons to believe that this
was indeed one of Tagore’s favourite desserts.

This is easy to make, refreshingly light and strongly recommended. As a matter of fact, we ‘assemble’ it in summers with rosogulla bought ready-made or out of a can Amul or Haldiram, Bikanerwala or any beloved neighbourhood halwai and substitute payash with mishti doi. Purists won’t approve but we plead ‘loss in translation!’

Tarhgurer Payash with Rosogulla

Rosogulla six to eight
Rice (picked and soaked in water) 1 tbsp
Milk 1 litre
Palm date jaggery (grated) 150 g

Boil milk in a thick-bottomed pan till it is reduced to a quarter. Add rice and continue to cook for another five minutes till the milk acquires custard consistency. Remove from flame. Stir in the jiggery, mix well, pair with rosogulla and take a bow!