The Glories of Raghava's Bag, Part 12

BY: SUN STAFF - 13.3 2023

Green Pea Sugar Sweets

A journey through the nectarian contents of Raghava's Bag.

Fused Pea Sweetmeats

Today's verse from Caitanya-caritamrta Antya lila describes yet another wonderful preparation stored in Raghava's Bag:

Antya 10.32

phutkalai curna kari' ghrte bhajaila
cini-pake karpuradi diya nadu kaila

phutkalai -- fused peas fried in ghee and soaked in sugar juice; curna kari' -- making into powder; ghrte bhajaila -- fried with ghee; cini-pake -- cooking with sugar; karpura-adi -- camphor and other ingredients; diya -- adding; nadu kaila -- made round sweetmeat balls.

Another variety of sweet was made with fused peas that were powdered, fried in ghee and then cooked in sugar juice. Camphor was added, and then the mixture was rolled into balls.

Fresh Garden Peas

In this verse we hear of another enticing confection made by Damayanti for Lord Caitanya, this one a preparation of fused peas. As mentioned yesterday, in today's parlance, 'fused' foods are those in which two foodstuffs are combined so the flavours blend. In this case, the Sanskrit term phutkalai is translated to mean peas that were powdered, then cooked, so the 'fusing' apparently came before the peas were powdered. Perhaps the fresh peas were soaked in a flavorful bath before being dried, or were ground and powdered along with spice. We can only guess at the masterful techniques Damayanti employed while cooking for Mahaprabhu.

So the peas were first powdered, then fried in ghee. Powdered peas can be prepared in different ways. The peas can be fresh dried, then powdered, or they can be cooked fresh, then dried and powdered. These two techniques would produce uniquely flavoured and textured sweetmeats, both very pleasing.

Damayanti crafted these sweets by taking the powdered peas, frying them in ghee to moisten, then cooking in a sugar syrup. By cooking the powdered peas in ghee first, the mixture would form some bulk, and that mass would then cook nicely in the sugar liquid rather than just dissolve into it, like powder straight into hot sugar water would. This same technique is used in making powdered rice sweets and similar preparations.

Damayanti's mixture was spiced with camphor -- clearly a flavouring agent of choice in her cooking for the Lord -- then rolled into ball-shaped sweetmeats, nadu kaila.

Fresh-dried Green Peas

Whole dried peas are known to have been used in cooking for at least 10,000 years. The most common type of powdered green pea used today is made from fresh garden peas, dried and ground whole or split, and this was no doubt the ancient process too. The powder produced from fresh peas is very nutritious, and the pea flour retains a nice light green color.

Pea powder has a mild flavour and a creamy texture when cooked into other preparations. In addition to forming a nice base for sweets, it serves as an excellent thickener for dal and sabji. Like rice powders, it can be blended into curd or sprinkled onto other foods.

While in this verse, Damayanti is make a sweetmeat confection, green peas also make an excellent barfi, and that recipe follows.

Green Pea Barfi

Grind fresh cooked green peas into a fine paste. Cook in medium hot ghee until it thickens, then add sugar, khoya kheer and cardamom powder. Continue to cook and stir and the mixture dries a bit. Turn the mixture out into a metal pan seasoned with hot ghee. Spread the mixture smooth and let it set. Garnish with fruits or nuts.

To make the khoya kheer: In a pot boil together 2 ltr. fresh milk with 1 cup of boiled rice and 2 cups of sugar, and cook until a paste is formed. Next, dissolve 3-4 tablespoons of custard powder in a little cold milk and add to the mixture. Stir frequently until the paste thickens. Let cool slightly, then add 1 can (small) of condensed milk and 250 grams of khoya (or substitute a very dry ricotta).

Powdered Green Peas