Ranga Aloo-r Malpua with Rabdi (Indian Sweet Potato Pancakes)

Indian desserts are so passe. The only saving grace to their community is nolen gur and anything made out of it. But the rest -- roshogolla, pantua, shondesh, jilipi -- make little or no sense to me. Don't get me wrong, I am a true-blue Bangali, and even though I occasionally enjoy the Bengali-food paraphernalia, I hardly swear by Maachh, Mishti and more.
There's one aberration to this rule though. And that is peethe/pithey. Pitheys are generally deep-fried dumplings stuffed with a mixture of coconut, kheer or gur. They are traditionally made in January to herald the new harvest season or poush sankranti. Now, my family doesn't need tradition to make pitheys and with the arrival of notun gur in the market, my thamma would be seen making her way into the kitchen and dishing out a variety of tantalising pitheys for us to devour. My favourite of the lot would be ranga-aloor pithey (deep-fried bomb-shaped dumplings stuffed with coconut and kheer and dunked in a jaggery syrup). Oh my, I could kill for it. After my thamma's demise, my Mother and Rika (aunt) have taken over the responsibility of providing us with our yearly quota of ranga aloor pithey. For a reluctant (but still amazing) cook like my mother, it sometimes happens as late as March, but it happens nonetheless! In my house, ranga aloor pitheys are made in humongous batches, with each one the size of a bomb, and I relish them, one at a time for days to come.
In my Bangalore kitchen, I haven't yet taken up the project of making ranga aloor pithey, and even though my mom claims it's downright easy, I get the jitters about one too many dirty utensil! But what I did make with ranga aloo was another Indian dessert: Sweet Potato Malpuas inspired by my blogger friend Dolphia. Now if you haven't checked out her blog Story of Cooks already, stop right here and hop over. Photographer par excellence, Dolphia's blog is replete with breathtaking shots of her cozy home, picturesque Boston (where she lives), her travels and of course her mouth-watering food (mostly heirloom recipes passed down from her mother). A sight for sore eyes indeed! Dolphia posted a sweet potato malpua recipe right before Diwali and taking her cue, I too made it a part of our Diwali dinner. I made it again for December 31 lunch, when we had friends over from Chennai, and by the turn of the year, not a single piece was left!
Makes: 18-20 malpuas

For malpuas: 
Sweet potatoes: 500gm
Flour: 1 cup
Semolina: 2/3rd cup
Khoya, crumbled: 3 tbsp
Green cardamom seeds, crushed: 2/3rd tsp
Sugar: 1 tbsp (optional)
Milk: 4-5 tbsp
Soda bicarbonate: 1/4th tsp
Canola or vegetable oil: For frying

For sugar syrup:
Sugar: 2 cups
Water: 2 cups
Saffron: a pinch
Green cardamom seeds, crushed: 1/2 tsp

For rabdi:
Khoya: 400 gm
Milk, warmed: 1/2 cup or thereabouts


1. Wash the sweet potatoes well, boil till tender, skin and mash them and keep them in a large wide bowl.

2. To the sweet potato, add the flour, semolina, khoya, cardamom and sugar. Mix well.

3. Add a little bit of milk at a time till the constituency is thick but smooth and lump-free Keep this mixture in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

4. Five minutes before frying, add the bicarbonate to the batter and mix again.

5. Once you're ready to fry, in a non-stick kadhai, heat sufficient oil for deep-frying. Once the oil is piping hot, ladle some batter in a roundish spoon and drop in the oil slightly spreading it. Adjust heat. Flip after 2 minutes and cook on the other side till golden brown in the centre and crispy on the edges. Take off from heat and allow them to cool.

6. While the malpuas are cooling, make the sugar syrup. In a pan, heat water and sugar till the syrup is of one thread consistency. Turn off the heat. Sprinkle the cardamom powder and the saffron. Stir once and let it rest for 10-15 min.

7. Now dunk the malpuas in the sugar syrup. Allow the syrup to get soaked in by the malpuas before you even think of attacking the lot! I kept my malpuas dunked in syrup overnight in the fridge.

8. For the rabdi, I chose the easiest path. I crumbled around 400 gm of khoya, mixed it with warm milk, and heated it up slightly in the microwave to help mash the entire thing together till it was thick and smooth. I tucked it away in the refrigerator to chill it before serving.

9. Once you are ready to serve, you may either heat the malpua + syrup a little bit or serve them at room temperature or straight out of the fridge. In my family, we have takers of each of the three kinds! Slather it with rabdi, garnish with some chopped nuts if you wish, and wow your guests.
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