I grew up in a home with diverse cultural influences and the kitchen clearly reflected that. We enjoyed some hearty dishes from the Afghani cuisine, like Kabuli pulao and Borani Banjan. Then there was a touch of old Delhi/Dilli always on the daily menu with a variety of parathas, chaats and chutneys. But the dominant shade was always the bright and bold colour of Punjab. And boy do we Punjabis love to eat!
The best thing about Punjabi food is that it’s always simple, made with available local produce. Then the loving hands of grandmothers and mothers transform them magically into food that makes you lick your plate clean!
Gur Wale Chawal is one such culinary ritual. Yes, not just a food but a ritual because it has been cooked for ages in rural Punjab for every special occasion – childbirth, wedding, good weather, successful crops, even to appease God! Yes, please God grant my wish and I’ll feed sweet rice to 20 people. And the deal somehow worked for mommies at that time 😄 because I saw mine distributing gur wale chawal quite frequently!
Three main ingredient, jaggery, rice and ghee, make a dessert that becomes a lifelong happy memory. Ghee was commonly prepared in every Punjabi home till a couple of decades back by slow cooking and then straining butter to get a liquid gold like consistency.
Jaggery or gur can be made from various sources, like date palm and the sap of coconut. But sugarcane has always been a major crop in Punjab and gur made from sugarcane juice is the most commonly used. It is prepared by boiling sugar cane juice till it solidifies and then put into blocks.
I remember my father used to eat a tiny peace of gur everyday post lunch and dinner. It is believed in our culture that gur has many health benefits; it improves digestion and immunity, controls body temperature and cures flu like symptoms.
If you can’t find it, you can use dark brown sugar in its place or molasses.
You can also find this recipe and many more sweet and savoury recipes in Diwali special collection on my friend Jayashree’s blog Ever Green Dishes .
2+1/2 cup long grain basmati rice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2+1/2 cup gur/jaggery crushed
1 stick cinnamon
4 black peppercorns
Seeds from 4 green cardamom pods
4 tablespoons ghee(clarified butter) or olive oil
1/2 cup mixed almonds, pistachios and dried coconut for garnish (optional)
This Is What You Do:
Rinse and soak rice for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile fill a deep pan 1/2 with water. Boil water.
Drain soaked rice, add to boiling water with whole spices and salt. Cook till rice are almost done, but not completely.
To check, press a grain between your thumb and index finger. It should break into two pieces without getting mashed.
Drain the water.
Add oil to the same pan. Add crushed jaggery and cook on medium low heat for 3-4 minutes or till jaggery/gur begins to melt in oil.
Add rice. Carefully stir to mix rice and jaggery.
Place a tawa/griddle or heavy frying pan under the rice pan. Wrap the lid of the pan in a cotton kitchen towel. Cover the pan tightly.
Cook the rice on very low heat for another 15-20 minutes or till the rice soak up all the liquid from melted jaggery and are fluffy.
Garnish with your choice of nuts and dried fruits or serve as is.
Serve hot for dessert or breakfast.