Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Aflatoon – Mouthwatering Mumbai Memories


I wrote this post about AFLATOON around 14 years ago, in the year 2003, after one of my food-walks in Mumbai.

This piece is included in my book of foodie adventures APPETITE FOR A STROLL.

I loved to eat Aflatoon, especially in winter...

Mouthwatering Mumbai Memories

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. 

Aflatoon is a rare baked delight. 

Now that is what this blog post is all about.

First  I will tell you about Aflatoon.

Then – I will give you my improvised “try it at your own risk recipe for Aflatoon – a rich fortified nourishing sweet – ideal for the winter season.

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 does not believe in the dictum: “There is no greater love than the love of eating”

So she 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 have had Aflatoon is on Mohammed Ali Road in Mumbai, atSuleman 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.


(Try it at your own risk !!!)
First, with a fork, I thoroughly beat 3 Eggs till fluffy, added one cup (vati or katori) ofsugar (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, then blend in the sugar, then eggs, then maida 
– for Aflatoon you start off with beating the eggs, then the sugar, the khoya, the rawa-maida flour, and last 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.

 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 some dry fruit 
– 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 walk down to Zam Zam or Suleman Mithaiwala – and go ahead and relish the original Aflatoon.  

Happy Eating !!!
Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
1. This is an improvised recipe  so try it at your own risk.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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This article written by me Vikram Karve 14 years ago in early 2003. The article is included in my book APPETITE FOR A STROLL (2008) and was posted online by me a number of times in my blogs at urls:

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