Puddings, especially Lagan-Nu-Custard, are synonymous with Parsi desserts. But, they are not the pièce de résistance in the New Year spread of a food-loving community that thrives in cities like Pune, Mumbai and small pockets of Kolkata. Today is Navroze, or the first day of the Parsi New Year. To begin the year on a sweet note, dishes such as Sagan Ni Sev and Sagan No Ravo are served during breakfast.“Sagan means auspicious. Traditionally, these are the only two sweets for Navroze,” says food anthropologist Kurush Dalal who hails from the community. He adds that these days, kulfis, ice creams and puddings appear on the lunch or dinner table too.
Sagan ni Sev is a semi-dry sweet vermicelli dish, roasted and cooked in a little water infused with cinnamon and cardamom. Sagan No Ravo is a vanilla-flavoured porridge-like version of sooji halwa. Both are topped with a dry fruit mix containing pistachios, almonds, raisins and chironji. “The chironji is so expensive now that sometimes it’s substituted with cashews. The dry fruit mix is called mewo,” explains Dalal. Sagan Ni Sev is often accompanied by a small helping of sweet curd or Mithu Dahi.
In Mumbai, there are Parsi home chefs and caterers serving these dishes. One such venture is the Kitchen Factory run by Diana Mistry. On her Instagram menu (kitchen_factory_dm), the Sagan nu Ravo is simply listed as Parsi Ravo. It is served both hot and cold, and the distinguishing feature is its vanilla flavour and milky almost-pudding like creamy texture. Dalal says its preparation process requires a lot of "elbow grease", so some people put condensed milk as a cooking hack.
Mistry takes the traditional route and shares a recipe of Sagan No Ravo—the food highlight for Navroze and special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries in Parsi homes.
Sagan No Ravo
120 gms ravo (semolina)
850 ml milk
200 gm sugar
2 tbsp ghee
Half tsp nutmeg
Half tsp cardamom powder
180 ml water
Pista and almond flakes (not to be fried)
20 gms charoli/ chironji
20 gms raisins
20 gms sliced cashews
Half teaspoon vanilla essence
Put a large non-stick pan on slow flame. Add ghee and rava. Fry the rava till all the ghee is absorbed and the mixture acquires a rich ivory colour.
Add water and sugar and keep stirring till the sugar melts and the mixture appears sludgy.
Keep stirring while slowly adding milk like a gentle trickle.
Raise the flame and continue to stir for another 10 mins till it acquires a thick liquid form. Once the milk is completely soaked, taste to check if the rava is cooked.
Add nutmeg and cardamom and cook on slow flame for 3-5 mins.
As the rava thickens, it might form small lumps. So, it needs continuous stirring. The perfect rava is smooth. It will thicken and turn sticky. Remove from fire and add the vanilla essence.
Now, place them in bowls in which they will be served. Allow to cool.
In another pan, heat some oil and fry the raisins and nuts for no longer than a minute. Garnish the ravo bowls and voila!