Monsoon has finally bid goodbye…for the moment at least. The rains have just shifted base…Instead of the skies it’s raining from every pore of our body! The season is well on the road to being that horribly sticky and sweaty post-monsoon kind of weather which we dread. The other day my parents came over as there was no electricity at their house for two whole days, can you imagine their plight… They came bearing a fruity gift from their garden. The Tal (Sugar Palm or Palmyra Palm). This is one pungent smelling fruit, sweet with sometimes a bitter after-taste. I love to eat the unripe fruit when the seeds are jelly like and filled with a syrupy liquid, I also love to drink the freshly harvested, unfermented sugary sap called tal rosh. For many years I couldn’t stand the strong aroma of the ripe Tal, just as I couldn’t palate the ripe jack fruit. I think it has to do with the fact that as children growing up in Delhi we were not exposed to these fruits which are probably an acquired taste. Living in Bengal one can’t help being made familiar with such fruits, especially during the season when you come across it everywhere. Here in Santiniketan, these palm trees are a familiar landmark. You are most likely to be scared out of your wits with the sudden thud of a falling fruit right behind you, especially in the dark! Over the years I have grown quite fond of certain sweets made from this. Some like the Tal Kheer ( The pulp of the ripe fruit mixed with fresh grated coconut and thickened milk) and the Tal Boda ( Tal pulp and Rice fritters) is quite a favourite. Baba (father) wanted me to make something different with the Tal. I thought of making a quartet of Tal dessert, with a fusion of traditional and non conventional sweet platter. He was so enthusiastic about the idea that he helped me to extract the golden pulp from the fruit, which truth be told is quite a messy job, and one that I would have delegated to you , my dear Rinki had you been here : )
Quartet of Tal dessert
My platter consists of four dishes – Tal Coulis, Tal Bora (Tal and Rice Crispy fritters), Tal Kheer and a Tal cake.
To Extract the Tal Pulp Peel the fruit and separate the three Nuts( there are usually three segments) cut off the fibres with a scissor. As I do not possess the traditional bamboo extractors, I used an inverted colander as a pulp extractor. Takes a bit of elbow grease and an unconventional method which works just fine for me. The important bit being getting the pulp out! Just rub the fibre over the colander holes till the pulp goes through to the other side. Collect the pulp once all the fibre has been given this scrubbing. Pass it through a sieve. Collect the golden pulp which is ready to eat.
For The Tal Coulis: Extract the golden yellow pulp from the fibers of the fruit. Sieve well to remove fibers.
For The Tal Cake: (see Sinful Dark Chocolate Cake for basic cake recipe. Instead of Cocoa add 3-4 tbsp Tal Pulp)
For The Tal Kheer
1/2 litre milk thickened till it coats the back of the spoon.
3-4 tbsp freshly grated coconut
3 tbsp Tal Pulp
2-3 tsp sugar
Mix everything and blitz in the blender. Cool in the fridge till needed.
Can use Condensed milk, but then don’t add sugar.
For The Tal Boda ( Tal and Rice crispy Fritters)
1/2 cup rice soaked for a few hours and ground to fine thick paste.
1/2 cup freshly ground coconut
3-4 tbsp Tal Pulp.
Sugar to taste
Oil for deep frying
Mix everything together to from a thick batter. Using piping bag pipe small rings directly into the hot oil. Fry till Golden brown. serve hot.
To assemble I smeared the Tal Kheer on a serving dish, over that a piece of the Tal cake, a few rings of the Tal Bora, and a Quenelle of Tal Coulis over the cake. A few dots of the Coulis on the plate finished the look.I think the end result looks quite exciting…and the whole experience of the soft flavourful cake along with the rich creamy Kheer, the crisp Fritters along with the burst of pungent Coulis provides a complete Tal experience.
I know this recipe may be a bit difficult to make in Australia, but I wanted you both to have an experience and taste of the season. One may not always be able to eat in person but we can always devour with our eyes : )