The sweet scent of raw turmeric wafted through the air and the nostalgic memories of 15th August back home in Goa came flooding back to me. It’s Independence Day for India, but it is also the feast of the Assumption of Mother Mary for the Christians… and the patoleos cooking were in honor of Mary – the Mother of Jesus.
The Feast of Our Lady of Assumption is celebrated with great pomp & enthusiasm in the tiny state of Goa especially by the Catholics. An evening tea is never complete on that day without some piping hot patoleos (also called patoli). Although this favorite Goan delicacy is prepared on this feast day, it is also prepared on the feast of Sao Joao (St. John’s Feast) and for the Konsachem Fest (Harvest Festival). Traditionally, they are also a part of the vojem (trousseau) sent to the groom’s house, both by the Catholics & Hindus.
Hindus prepare patoleos on the second Sunday of Shravan, on Nag Panchami and on Hartalika, the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi. Salt free patoleos, are offered to Goddess Parvati, who the legends say had a strong craving for these sweets during pregnancy.
Surprisingly, patoleo are quite simple – and relatively easy to make. The aromatic and steamed sweet is made on a base of rice paste spread over a turmeric leaf and filled with a stuffing of Goan coconut jaggery and fresh grated coconut. The aromataic flavor comes from the turmeric leaves that would be grown in almost every home garden in the old days.
Today, most of the steaming is done in steamers unlike the traditional Goan preparation where it is done in a large copper steamer called the ‘komfro’.
Incidentally, raw turmeric is also known for its medicinal properties. Crushed and boiled in milk, it is a common remedy for coughs and colds.
When my wife Zelma said she was making patoleos to celebrate the feast, most here in Abu Dhabi were surprised. From where would she obtain the turmeric leaves? Trust me – they grow well in you just take the trouble to plant some fresh raw turmeric, usually available at all Lulu’s.
For those who need a recipe (you could use banana leaves instead), here goes:
200 gms. Goa Red Rice or boiled rice
1 fresh Coconut (scraped)
2 cakes Goa Coconut Jaggery (grated)
Cardamoms (peeled & powdered – optional)
1 doz. Fresh Turmeric Leaves
Salt to taste
Clean and wash the rice well and allow to soak in water for about an hour. Drain the water, add a little salt, and using as little water as possible grind into a fine thick paste. Knead the dough well with your hands until it is firm.
In a deep bottomed pot place the scraped coconut & grated jiggery, add water and let it cook. Stir to ensure that it does not stick to the bottom of the vessel. Let it cook until it thickens. (You can add the ground cardamom if you like to the mixture). Set aside until it cools.
Wash the turmeric leaves and wipe until completely dry. Trim away the stalk and the tip of the leaf. Place the turmeric leaf with the plain surface facing upwards and taking a small ball of the rice dough, spread it evenly over the leaf with your fingers, moving outwards.(Do not apply the dough right till the edges of the leaf).
Now add sufficient filling and carefully fold the leaf along its length to enclose the filling. Ensure that the leaves are well sealed. Set your steamer to boil and spread the patoleos directly on the tray and leave to steam for about 25 minutes. A good indicator is a change in color of the leaves from a dark green to a more lighter tone.
Enjoy the fragrance of the turmeric leaves as the patoleos cook.
Serve hot without removing the leaves.