Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ash Gourd For Petha

Ash Gourd at the Alemany Farmers Market
Let's make PETHA

Petha is a famous sweet dish from Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal.
After peeling and slicing ash gourd, the next step in making petha is to prick the pieces with a fork, docking the gourd with holes all over. Then the pieces must be soaked in lime water made by combining a few tablespoons of Calcium Hydroxide with enough water to cover the gourd pieces. Calcium Hydroxide aka kitchen lime, mineral lime or simpley CAL is all one in the same. It is also used to make fresh masa for tortillas and tamales. A good Mexican market should stock Cal. This is the season for fresh tamales! I bought mine at the market in Goa and I just ask for "lime for petha" Although Petha is a specialty of Agra, it is sold in sweet shops all over India. Soak the ash gourd for one hour in the lime water and then rinse under cold water for 5 minutes.

Next, boil the gourd pieces in alum water. Alum is used for shaving in India. It feels great on the face. But it is also used for making petha.

Break off a small piece of alum and disolve it in boiling water to make the alum water. Simmer the gourd pieces until they become transluscent.
Once it becomes transluscent, drain and cover with a thick simple syrup flavored with rose or kewra [pandan leaf], or go against the tradition and flavor the petha with saffron, like I did. Simmer for 25 minutes over low heat and chill in the syrup. When chilled, drain and serve. Like nothing else.

The steel drummer of Alemany Farmers market

Tune: Esta Navidad by Héctor Lavoe and Willie Colón

Tune: El Año Viejo by Tony Camargo

Tune: Navidad Negra by Unknown Artist [Lita Nelson cover]

Tune: New Year Sikiza via Matsuli Music

One of the best Christmas gifts I ever received was the Nuestra Musica LP by El Gran Combo from DJ Don Bustamonte. The album is full of holiday tunes.
I share with you the first three songs from side A:

Tune: El Arbolito by El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico

Tune: La Fiesta De Pilito by El Gran Combo

Tune: No Hay Cama Pa' Tanta Gente by El Gran Combo

Tune: Ojos Chinos Mini Mix by Selecta Rajah

Ojos Chinos ~ El Gran Combo
Por Que Sera? ~ Jota Mayuscula, Orishas, Ari
Dominicana ~ Tego Calderon


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