Wednesday, July 25, 2012

EATING OUT IN MUMBAI - THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING - AFLATOON


THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING IS IN THE EATING
AFLATOON
Mouthwatering Mumbai Memories
by
VIKRAM KARVE


Aflatoon is the Persian name of Plato the Greek philosopher. 

Aflatoon also refers to a person who talks about improbable ideas. 

Aflatoon is also the name of a sweet, a delicious dessert, a pudding, made in India

Now that's what this blog is all about.

Here is a recipe for Aflatoon – a rich fortified nourishing sweet. 

Aflatoon is a rare baked delight. 

AFLATOON
 
Cooking is more a qualitative art, rather than a quantitative science.

The other day, a friend of ours dropped home a packet of scrumptious Dharwadi Pedhas.

My dear wife [who does not believe in the dictum: “There is no greater love than the love of eating”] promptly put them in the fridge and forgot about it.

Now what greater inanity can be there than consigning fresh soft flavorsome mellifluous Pedhas to harden up in some remote cold corner of the fridge?

So when I first discovered the packet of cold hard Pedhas lying hidden deep inside my fridge during one of my surreptitious midnight raids, when my better half was fast asleep, I was first miffed, then improvising, decided to soften them up in my microwave oven.
 
I put a piece of warm softened-up Pedha in my mouth – Lo and Behold! – The Dharwadi Pedha had metamorphosed into a Lal Peda.

Yes, it tasted like genuine Banarasi Lal Peda with its unique wholesome “crispy roasted milky taste”. Now that’s serendipity. I’ve searched for Lal Peda all over but nothing could match the authentic Lal Peda I used to enjoy near Sankat Mochan in Varanasi.
 
I love sweets – especially Indian Sweets – Pedhas, Barfis, Rosogulla, Gulab Jamun, Kala Jamun, Cham Cham, Sandesh, Jilebi, Imrati, Son Papdi, Mysore Pak, Petha, Mahim Halwa, Malpua, Karanji, Anarse, Chirote, Lavang Lata, Ladoos – you name it, I love it – and one of favorites is a superb wholesome treat called “Aflatoon”.

Now the only place I’ve had Aflatoon is on Mohammed Ali Road in Mumbai, at Suleman Mithaiwala near Minara Masjid, and I think also at Zam Zam a little distance down the road.

Aflatoon not only satisfies your sweet-tooth; it provides rich nourishment and is blissfully satiating too.
 
I am in Pune now.

Like my search for Lal Peda, my search for Aflatoon also remained elusive, so I decided to improvise and hope for the best.

Now remember, My Dear Reader, I am no great cook, nor am I a high-falutin connoisseur, nor a culinary expert. 

I am just a simple down-to-earth trencherman, an avid foodie, so I asked around, searched around, explored, extrapolated, reverse-engineered, and here is what I improvised, a purely ingenious adventurous concocted experimental recipe.

IMPROVISED RECIPE FOR AFLATOON

(Try it at your own risk!)
 
First, with a fork, I thoroughly beat three fresh eggs till fluffy, added one cup (vati or katori) of sugar (add more if you like it sweeter) and then vigorously whisked away till all the sugar dissolved and the mixture was nice and fluffy.
 
I had already switched on my oven – yes, Aflatoon is a baked delight – one of the rare Indian sweets which are baked in an oven.
 
I rubbed pure ghee on the palms of my hands and kneaded half a kilo of fresh Khoya [khava, mawa made from buffalo milk] till it was slippery smooth.

Then I blended in and coalesced the Khoya into the feathery egg-sugar emulsion and whipped strongly with my hands till my wrists pained, and my biceps and triceps strained, and the khoya had fully dissolved and merged into the mélange and the fusion was complete, the rich blend velvety smooth.
 
Now in a plate, I mixed together one cup of rawa, half cup of maida, and a pinch of baking powder, and gently folded this mixture, spoon by spoon, into the egg-sugar-khoya amalgamation and robustly swirled and pasted the batter with my hands, till my hands got tired again and my muscles ached.

Here, there is no exact proportion of how much rawa- maida mixture is to be added to the batter; my hands tell me when to stop – later I can always add a bit as and when required to get the right baking consistency.
 
Now the interesting part – I lovingly blended in three katories or vaties[yes, three full cups – one cup per egg] of pure ghee and churned with my hands for a long time till the ghee fully dissolved into the delectable mixture, indiscernible.

Now here is the difference in sequence of ingredients – while baking a cake you start of with creaming the butter, than blend in the sugar, then eggs, then maida; here you start off with beating the eggs, then the sugar, the khoya, the rawa-maida flour, and now comes the pure ghee (clarified butter).
 
Hey, remember to lick your fingers from time to time and taste the delightful mélange at each stage and plus-minus the proportions accordingly.

Also, your fingers will tell you when the consistency is perfect.

That is why I never use mixers, blenders, juicers, measuring cups and all those hi-fi gadgets when preparing dough and batter for baked delights, or cooking dishes – I always rely on my own tongue to tell me the precise taste, use my hands to cream, blend, the concoction to the right consistency, improvise the ingredients and proportions accordingly – if you want to cook creatively, there is nothing to beat your own sensory perception, isn’t it?

And yes, don’t forget to use your nose too – food must be fragrant, appetizingly aromatic, besides looking deliciously mouthwatering and tempting to feel and touch!
 
Now I mixed in the spices – powdered jaiphal, dalchini, elaichi, lavang  - and, while gently stirring with my hand, slowly poured in yummy thick creamy buffalo milk, about half a cup, till the consistency of the smooth paste becomes soft and silky, and ready for baking.

Remember to always have the rawa-maida flour ready in stand-by mode to even up the batter, if required.

Then I mix in kismismanuka, crushed pasted khajur, squeezing my fingers.

Oh, just a minute, I thoroughly mix in a few drops of vanilla essence to make even the slightest trace of the smell of eggs go away.

Finally I embellish with crushed dry fruit like badam, pista, kaju etc.
 
I now pour in the rich creamy dough into pure-ghee greased baking trays and bake it in my conventional pre-heated oven at medium heat till the characteristic mouthwatering aroma wafts through the kitchen and the Aflatoons looked appetizingly brown.

With all the khoya, creamy milk and rich ingredients it sometimes takes almost an hour or so to be done. Time doesn’t matter, when cooking, as in eating, I like to be unhurried – the slower the cooking the tastier the food. I always like to keep the heat moderate and my senses, especially olfactory, alert.
 
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. 
I was dying to sample the result of my culinary experiment, so I didn’t even wait till it cooled – Oh yes, it tasted wholesome, sumptuous, appetizing, good.

Just imagine if you fortify milk-cake with eggs, enrich it, spice it up, and roast it well – that’s the nearest I can describe how aflatoon tastes.

I wonder if aflatoon can be made by roasting it on a tawa instead of baking it!
 
I relished my homemade “aflatoon” – but then nothing can beat the original aflatoon for which I’ll have to head to Mumbai.

Till then, I’ll keep savoring these – I’m sure with all the pure ghee imbibed in them these aflatoons will last for days – provided I keep them hidden away from craving children and other insatiable trenchermen like me!
 
Dear Reader, and fellow Foodie – why don’t you too improvise, be creative, experiment, use your own ingredients and proportions, conjure up your very own aflatoon, savor it, try it out on your family and friends, and tell us all about it.

And if you happen to live in Mumbai, why take all this trouble – just go ahead and relish the original.  
 
Happy Baking! 
VIKRAM KARVE 
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2012
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Did you like this foodie blog post?
I am sure you will like the 27 fiction short stories from my recently published anthology of Short Fiction COCKTAIL 

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories, creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional research papers in journals and edited in-house journals for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

Vikram Karve Academic and Creative Writing Journal: http://karvediat.blogspot.com
Professional Profile Vikram Karve: http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve
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Vikram Karve Creative Writing Blog: http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm
Email: vikramkarve@sify.com
vikramkarve@hotmail.com

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
  
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