Guest Post: Bhapa Pitha

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While the entire world is busy dieting and maintaining a good figure, we Bengalis can’t just get rid of our sweet tooth. Come January and here’s another reason to celebrate the genetically transmitted sweet loving characteristics of Bongs. The reason this time is simple – Sun (Lord Surya) has come to visit the house of his son, Saturn (Lord Shani) – yes, you have guessed it right its Makar Sankranti held each year on 14th January. This day celebrated as Poush Sankranti (sankranti meaning end of a month). There is a whole range of sweets prepared especially for this occasion, named as pitha – these may be steamed, boiled, or even fried; the main ingredients being rice flour (rice grains ground to fine powder), jaggery (the golden harvest of winter in entire Bengal) and coconut.

This day is celebrated throughout India in different ways; it’s the time of harvest. You can search an array of recipes from throughout India in the Harvest the festival of rice event round up part I and part II.

Our guest, Dipanwita Sarkar was good enough to share a recipe of bhapa pitha with us. If you don’t like it that sweet you make it like savory dumplings.


Ingredients:

  • Rice flour 2 cups
  • Grated coconut 2 cups
  • 1 cup jaggery
  • Hot water for kneading the dough

Preparation:

  • Make a dough with the rice flour and boiling water [Boiling water is important otherwise pithe will break]
  • Heat a wok, and mix the grated coconut and the jaggery with continuous stirring till it becomes dry. Keep aside and let the filling cool.
  • Now make very small balls from the dough and press each ball with your finger to make a small bowl shape to put in the filling [The thinner the outer the tastier the pithe but be cautious that it should not break.]
  • Put the filling and close the bowl in whatever shape you like. [You can give a triangular shape with frills at the borders. Be creative give different shapes for different fillings].
  • Steam the pitha in a steamer/rice cooker or simply place the pitha on a sieved bowl and place it over boiling water.
  • It takes almost half an hour to be fully cooked. [So pour water accordingly. Make sure water doesn’t touch the pitha.]
  • Check at intervals. First it feels sticky, but when it feels dry, then it is done.
  • Remove and keep open for 5mins to evaporate touches of moisture on it. Then you can store in a casserole or enjoy steaming hot pitha then and there.
  • Serve pithe with liquid jaggery.

Hot Tips – You can prepare savory pithe similar to this. Just replace the coconut and jaggery filling with vegetables (Dipanwita has used potato and cauliflower) or even minced meat or chicken. If using vegetables cook the vegetables with ginger paste, chili powder and/or tomato puree and coriander leaf. Dry out excess water while preparing the filling. You can also use mashed peas for the filling. Cook the mashed peas with roasted cumin seeds and red chilies. Serve the savory pithe (steamed dumplings) with coriander dip.

 

Further Readings – Patishapta, Chaler Payesh

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Announcing event – Harvest: The Festival of Rice

Each day of the year flies off so fast that its hard to believe that we have crossed 365 days and even more on leap years between to New Year celebrations. The winter sets in with loads of happiness. Christmas and New Year rings the bells for enjoyment and merriment. It is the time of harvest in India. US celebrate it as Thanks Giving, but that is couple of months before hat in India. In India the harvesting festival is celebrated with much glory. It is called by different names in all over India – Nabanno, Makar Shankranti, Pongal are just a few to mention.

While most of the Hindu festivals are followed according to the lunar calendar, the Sankranti festival is celebrated in accordance with the solar calendar, and so the date never changes from the English date of 14th January. It is the day when the Hindus believe that the Sun god begins ascending to the Northern Hemisphere.

The Puranas say that this is the day when the Sun-God visits the house of his son Shani, though the son and father do not get along nicely. So this is day has an important significance of father son relationship.

It is also said that this the day when Lord Vishnu ended the terrorism of the Asuras and buried their heads under the Mandar Parvat. So this day also stands for the end of evil and begins an era of righteousness.

In Uttar Pradesh this day is called “Khichdi”. Taking a dip in the Ganges is thought to be auspicious on this day. The Magh Mela is celebrated during this time of the year in Prayag, better known as Allahabad.

In Maharashtra and Gujarat it is celebrated as Sankranti. Sweets made of sesame seeds and jaggery are distributed among families. Married women are invited to their relatives’ houses and are offered utensils. Especially in Gujarat kite flying is a marked for this day.

Lahari is celebrated in Punjab where families gather around a bonfire and throw in sweets, sugarcane and rice. The next day of Lahari is Maghi. This day is marked with the famous Bhangra dance in Punjab.

Bihu festival of Assam is celebrated on this very day.

Bengal sees a huge swarming of devotees from all over India and also abroad to take a holy dip at Sagar Islands, where the Ganges meets the Bay of Bengal.

Andhra Pradesh celebrates it as a four day festival. The Telugus call it the Pedda Panduga, naming each day as Bhogi, Sankranti, Kanuma and Mukkanuma respectively.

As mentioned above, almost every state of India has its own way of celebrating this festival. It is the day of celebration and bringing home the newly cut harvest from the fields.

Every year my mom prepares different kinds of sweets all made of rice or rice flour. So this time I thought of celebrating it in my way, with you all.

Prepare anything where the main ingredient is either rice or rice flour. The preparation can be vegan or non-vegitarian, depending upon your choice. You can also take some idea from the following recipes.

khichudi patishapta chickenbiriyani chaler-payesh2 lemon-rice

Send in your entries to bengalicuisine@gmail.com with the Subject as “Harvest: The Festival of Rice”, with the following details.

  • NAME:
  • BLOG NAME:
  • BLOG URL:
  • POST NAME:
  • POST URL:
  • Attach a picture of the preparation in jpeg, jpg

The last day for receiving all entries is 31st January 2009. No late entries will be entertained. I’ll post the round up on 2nd February.

harvest-the-festival-of-rice

Feel free to use the event logo, and put a link on your blog for this event. If you want to send any old posts then please update it with the event logo and a link back to this announcement.

Those of you who don’t have a blog, send in your recipe along with a photo of the dish to the above mentioned e-mail id.

It would be nice of you if you can also add your memories related to this time of the year, also post photos if you have decorated your house for the event.

There is no limit to the number of entries you can send, so put on your aprons and start preparing.Happy Cooking and Happy Eating.

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