Growing up doesn’t seem to have made me less rebellious. It seems to me that even now, my Mom only has to tell me that something is not a good idea, and suddenly it suddenly becomes the most attractive option.
So there I was, stuck with a gallon of expired milk, as I mentioned in my earlier post. Rasagullas were the only way to go, my Mom told me. Theratti paal was a definite no-no, it would take far too long and I would be bored. Are you surprised, then, that I suddenly wanted to try making theratti paal ?
It seemed the simplest recipe on earth too. Boil milk. Add sugar or jaggery and (optional) elaichi. That’s it. Even making Maggi noodles involves more steps. (Boil water. Break Maggi brick into little pieces. Add masala powder. Add (optional) peas, vegetables.) So how difficult can theratti paal be, I thought.
Except, of course, Maggi is usually finished, if not in two minutes, at least in five. Theratti paal is not a dish that cares for Time. You can see that this dish belongs to the times when people had never heard of kitchen timers and dusk meant that the cows came home (or the husbands did). The men spent hot afternoons sleeping or chatting at the village pipal tree (and in later generations, reading the Hindu). The women, meanwhile, passed their time making theratti paal. You might, of course, consider that the women were wiser. Making theratti paal is way more interesting than reading the Hindu. Watching paint dry would be more interesting. But I digress.
There is no quick way to making theratti paal. Boiling the milk in the microwave doesn’t help either. It still takes close to an hour, I am told, and continues to require constant attention and stirring. This dish is an attention-seeker cum laude.
I had chosen to boil the milk on the cooktop. I divided my gallon of milk into two saucepans. One was destined to become rasagullas and the other, theratti paal. The rasagullas were progressing at a fast pace. But the milk in the other saucepan was still boiling sedately. At least, the milk was still good, despite being a week past expiry. Otherwise, I doubt if I could have made theratti paal at all.
I finished making the rasagullas and peeked in. The milk was still turning over lazily, blowing bubbles at me. It had shrunk to half its volume, but did not seem any thicker for it.
I was suddenly assailed by doubts. Wasn’t the milk supposed to change color before you add the jaggery? Wasn’t it supposed to thicken and turn creamy and stick to the bottom of the saucepan? Did this milk know what it was supposed to do? Does theratti paal only work with whole milk? Then I realized that the milk you get in India does not remotely resemble whole milk, and brightened up.
I turned up the gas. I stirred madly. Nothing happened. I left it alone. Normally, the milk would have boiled over the moment I ignored it. But not this time – it just ignored me back and continued to boil lazily. What was it thinking – its toasty here, nice and cozy, let me snooze?
I lost patience and added the jaggery. I added 1 cup of jaggery to the roughly half gallon/ 1 liter of milk, though you can add more if you have a sweet tooth. In an ideal world, you would powder the jaggery, but small blocks are fine too; it’s going to melt in a few minutes anyway.
At least the color changed to brown now 🙂 The milk also seemed thicker, though it may only have been due to the jaggery. I then added the elaichi.
The theratti paal started looking thicker, suddenly. The milk had come out of its siesta and realized it was supposed to do something. So it stopped blowing bubbles and started sticking to the bottom of the saucepan. It was clearly agitated. I let it simmer for a few minutes before turning the gas off.
Next morning, on Skype, my mother couldn’t believe her eyes. Rasagullas AND Theratti Paal? Made by her daughter? What was the world coming to? And then she wondered why I wasn’t making any of this stuff when she was here last.
The question remains – would I do it again? The next time I find milk expiring on me, that is? Or the next time my parents visit? Reason tells me rasagullas are tastier and much easier to make. But I am too irrational to rule out the possibility 🙂 Maybe all it needs is my Mom to tell me the theratti paal success was just beginner’s luck, or a flash in the (sauce)pan!