This ones from grandma’s kitchen, an age old recipe that demonstrates, simplicity is the highest sophistication. Growing up with close ties to tropical regions of southern India, I have seen metamorphosis of very few locally available ingredients into great dishes with slight change in the process. The Jackfruit triple role is one of the demonstrations of this. Another one of the ingredients that I have seen being used in innumerable dishes in many different ways is Plantain. The skillful use of few locally grown and often seasonally available vegetables in every form and stage to bring out totally different taste profiles is simply masterful. There is hardly any part of a Plantain tree that is not used in cooking, be it the fruit, flower, leaves or even the stem. Hopefully, MangoPickle will try to present all forms of Plantain based cooking going forward. For now, here is a dessert made from raw plantain dipped in Jaggery syrup, yes, this very tasty dessert requires just 3 ingredients & known as “Sanjeevini”.
The name of the recipe is unique and another interesting tradition that is difficult to reason out. “Sanjeevani” is a Sanskrit word which means immortal & features in Indian mythology as a plant that saved the life of Lord Rama’s brother Lakshmana. It’s a mystery to me why this deep fried dish with dripping sugar syrup was given this name but,given the pattern of naming dishes with mythological characters in this region, I am not surprised. One thing sure though is even after having a name that means immortal, the dish has not quite achieved that status. It is almost extinct from modern kitchens and I have not seen it being prepared in ages though it takes few simple steps & doubt if it is known to many of younger generation even in the regions of its origin.
Green Plantains – 2
Jaggery – 5 to 6 cubes (roughly 3 cups)
Cardamom – 2 to 3
Oil for frying
Cut off the tip of Plantains on both ends wash them and place it in a pressure cooker with water cover the Plantains. The Plantains can be cooked with skin removed as well, but, having skin on helps it cook well and easy to remove. It may also be possible to cook it in microwave but, I haven’t tried it. The Plantains should be cooked enough to be able to mash them into fine dough, which would usually take about 3 to 4 whistles.
Once pressure cooker cools down, the skin comes off fairly easy, remove them and place the plantains in a blender. Without mixing water pulse blender a few times to make them into a fine paste. You can sprinkle very little salt but, remember the Jaggery syrup that it will go into is generally salty and usually sufficient.
In a separate pan, place 5 to 6 blocks of Jaggery add 2 cups of water and turn on the heat to medium flame. The Jaggery will melt and start boiling after about 15 mins, keep turning the mixture occasionally and let it thicken into a syrup. The best consistency for syrup is when it forms thin threads when touched between thumb and the forefinger. Basically it should neither be too runny nor too thick. When the syrup is thickening enough, just before turning the heat off, sprinkle crushed cardamom powder of about 2-3 cardamoms (or half a teaspoon powder) & stir it well.
Heat about 4 cups of oil good for frying in a shallow pan and turn the heat down to medium flame. Make dough into several golf sized balls, spread some oil on to your plams and press the Plantain dough to flatten it into a small circle of about 3/4 a centimeter thickness. Slowly place the flattened dough into the oil for a very quick fry. Since the dough is nothing but mashed Plantain, it’s very soft and has the tendency to absorb lot of oil, so, quickly turn the sides after about 2 seconds and fry till both sides turn golden grown, this should not take more than half a minute. Key here is to keep the heat adjusted so that oil is not too hot or too cold otherwise, it will either burn the dough or make the dough absorb too much oil.
Once removed from oil place the fried puffs into paper towel to drain off the excess oil and then place it into the Jaggery syrup press it lightly into the syrup, turn to other side press it again and leave it for couple seconds and transfer it to serving bowl.
Optionally you can also sprinkle some dried toasted coconut flakes on top. The Plantain Sanjeevani is ready to serve your taste buds & is absolutely phenomenal. It tastes best when consumed hot, however, you can preserve it in the fridge for a week and eat it as well.