A birthday yet.....this time dear husband's and it was his star. I went about the usual routine and just was not planning anything until quite late in the afternoon. Last weekend when I was at the regular vegetable vendor, I spotted fresh supplies of ash gourd / white pumpkin being brought in from their farm. I asked the assistant to cut a big chunk for me, planning the kootu while my husband asked if that was for another round of Kashi Halwa.
During the last visit I had seen that he purchased the petha from the highway A2B outlet and relish. So I promised him that I will make him that for his birthday. But I clearly had no time on the birthday weekend to read up a recipe thus far not familiar and try it. Then I checked many other blogs and zero-ed in two recipes one from Nags' Agra Panchhi petha
and the other from indobase.com.
Thus I have made good my promise albeit not on the exact day yet the birthday!
As I proceeded through the recipe I was surprised that it does not use any form of dairy and apart from the extra small quantity kitchen lime (Calcium carbonate) and the alum powder (potassium aluminium sulfate) for cleansing, and the flavour adding essences, you only use two ingredients.
And the process is not as long drawn as some of the common Indian sweets too.
I have used around 1 lb vegetable that is less than half of the given recipe in the link above.
450 grams white pumpkin / winter melon / ash gourd (after cubing pieces)
350 grams sugar
1/4 teaspoon powdered alum
1 teaspoon kitchen lime
Few drops of Kewra essence
Few drops Rose essence
Juice of one half of a lemon
Slice the peel off the ash gourd, remove the seeds and the softer inner layers of the vegetable.
Cube the harder part in 1/2 inch thick cubes. Pick them through with a fork or toothpicks, so that they will absorb the syrup while cooking.
Dissolve the alum powder in about 1/2 cup water and set aside.
In another bowl, dissolve the kitchen lime in about half a litre of water and immerse the ash gourd pieces in this solution for about 30 minutes.
Drain in a colander and wash thoroughly off the lime.
Now transfer the pieces to the alum solution and toss them to coat in the solution.
Rinse this also well.
Drop the cured ash gourd in sufficient water and allow to cook until soft and transparent. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile make a syrup with the sugar and some water in another heavy utensil until you achieve a double thread syrup. To check the consistency, take a very small quantity of the syrup and try to hold it between your thumb and forefinger. The syrup will be very sticky and as you release your fingers apart the syrup will be pulled in two thick threads between the fingers. At this stage the syrup will thicken further very quickly as it cools down. Add the juice of the lemon in order to avoid crystallising the sugar.
Now drop the drained ash gourd in the syrup.
The syrup will become rarer as the vegetable is cooked in the syrup. Allow to cook until the syrup thickens and the ash gourd acquires a sheen with the sugar.
Remove the utensil from the stove. Pick out the pieces from the syrup and set them on a flat plate.
Keep the reminder of the syrup covered overnight.
The next day, transfer the ash gourd pieces back into the syrup and cook until the syrup thickens and thoroughly coats the pieces.
Whilst the pieces are warm yet, add the essences and toss the petha cubes well.
I had cut the cubes quite small. Also that since the vegetable I bought was not very mature and hence very soft. I am also wondering how I did not get the sugar coating crisp, it was well coated over the pieces yet not like tiny crystals all over. It was more glossy and sticky too. Would like your suggestions on these points.
The taste was excellent in any case.
Enjoy the petha!