Published: Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Winter pitha

winter pithaFor over millennia, winter has remained a time for celebration in rural Bangladesh. Farmers who have already harvested paddy in the month of ‘Hemanta’ (Late Autumn) are now busy husking them into rice.
Women are busy grinding the new harvest into powder for making pitha (winter cakes). It is also time for extracting juice from the date palm trees. By boiling the juice jaggery is made, which lasts for the whole year.
Urban life is different – busy and mechanical. Here, people have practically stopped preparing pithas at home, mainly because it is tedious and time-consuming. To meet this demand for pithas shops selling rice cakes have sprung up around the city.
This week I have assembled a few recipes that can be prepared at home with ease and in comparatively less time.
Bibikhana pitha
Bibikhana is a popular pitha in Bikrampore and Netrokona districts. This is perhaps the only pitha in which the rice-powder is fried before use.
1½ cup rice-powder (fried)
1½ cup jaggery
½ cup grated coconut
2 eggs
1 cup milk cream
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp cardamom powder
½ cup oil/ghee
Fry the rice powder slightly, as you do before cooking semolina. Beat the eggs thoroughly and mix all ingredients with it making a thick batter. Grease a mould of about 6-inch diameter with ghee or oil and pour the mixture in it. Pour water in a steamer for steam baking. Place the mould (with the mixture in it) in the steamer and steam-bake for 1½ hours. Keep the lid on so that the steam does not escape. When baking is done, remove the mould and prepare to serve when cold.
Tips: You may use your rice-cooker or even pressure-cooker for steam-baking. Instead of steam-baking these can be baked directly in oven. Sometimes women in rural areas bake them in earthen oven.
Chirar Paesh (Sweet dish made of pressed rice)
Paesh (or sweetened rice) made of pressed-rice is an uncommon preparation and I have never seen it cooked anywhere outside my family, and I am not even sure of its origin. I have heard that my grandmother used to prepare this dish for her husband, which he appreciated very much. You will notice that I have not used any spice in it so that the original taste and flavour of fresh date-juice is not over-powered.
1 cup pressed rice (preferably brown)
2 liters milk , 1 kg fresh date-juice
2 tbsp grated almond and pistachio
Wash the pressed-rice and let the water drain away. Boil the date-juice until it reduces to one cup. While boiling the date-juice huge amount of froth will be formed on the surface. Continuously remove them using a ladle.
In a separate pan, boil the milk and reduce it to half. Now add the pressed-rice to the boiled milk and cook in low heat for ten minutes. When the mixture becomes thick, add the date-juice and cook until the desired thickness is arrived. Remove the pan from the oven and pour in the serving plate and garnish with grated almond and pistachio.
Tips: Date-juice tend to ferment within a short time after extraction from the tree. So boil it as soon as you can. Some people do it before sunrise. Milk often curdles when date-juice is added to it. This can be avoided if you can maintain a steady temperature while mixing them. You may use little amount of baking soda while boiling the date-juice. This will give it a nice golden colour.
Malai poa
winter pitha1Teller pitha is one of the most common form of rice cakes prepared in households. However the taste truly unfolds only during winter when fresh jaggery and rice-powders are available. Sometimes these are served in date-juice.
Malai Poa is an improved version of the teler pitha with lots of cream used in it.
1 cup rice powder
2 tbsp brown atta
¾ cup grated date jiggery
2 liters milk , ¼ cup sugar
2 tbsp grated pistachio
Oil for deep fry
Heat the milk with sugar and keep on stirring until it reduces to about 2 cups. Keep this cream aside for next step. In a bowl, mix rice-powder, brown atta, jaggery and a little water to make a thick but smooth batter and keep for half an hour to rest.
In a pan heat the oil. Take one spoonful of batter at a time, release in the hot oil and fry until dark brown. When all the pithas are done, arrange them on a serving plate and pour the hot cream over them. Now garnish with pistachio and serve.
Tips: While frying the pithas if you have difficulty in getting perfect round shapes, then you may use a small aluminum bowl in the hot oil.
Jhal-pitha (Spicy pitha)
In northern districts these pithas are prepared throughout the year as afternoon snacks or to entertain guests. It requires less ingredients and can be prepared in a fairly short time and hence is very popular.
1½ cup rice-powder
4 eggs
½ tsp ginger paste
¼ tsp garlic paste
1 leaf bay leaves paste
¼ tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp cumin powder
½ tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp chopped green chili
¼ cup chopped onion
2 tbsp chopped spring onion
Salt to taste
Cooking oil (for deep frying)
Beat the eggs thoroughly. Mix all the ingredients – except the oil – to prepare a thick batter. Heat the oil in a pan for deep frying. Take one tablespoonful of batter at a time and release in the hot oil. It takes less time to fry these pithas and they remain golden yellow and soft inside. Serve with mint or coriander-leaf chutney.
Tips: These pithas will puff up and remain soft inside due to presence of eggs. However, if you want them to be fluffier, add a little baking powder to the batter (about ¼ tsp per cup of flour).
Mixed vegetable patishapta (mixed-vegetable sweet roll)
Patishapta pithas are prepared mostly with cream stuffing inside. This particular pitha is a variation, where mixed vegetables have been used as stuffing to bring about a change. This dish is a winning recipe.
Ingredients for batter –
2 cup rice-powder
1 cup grated jiggery
¼ cup flour
1 pinch salt
Oil for frying
Ingredients for stuffing –
½ cup grated carrot
½ cup grated papaya
½ cup grated cabbage
½ cup grated pumpkin
2 liters milk
½ cup sugar
2 tbsp ghee
Heat the milk with sugar and keep on stirring until it reduces to ½ litre. In a separate pan pour ghee, add all the grated vegetables one after another and shallow fry them for three minutes. Now add the reduced milk to it and stir continuously until it turns into a thick halwa. This will go as stuffing inside the pithas.
In a bowl, mix the rice-powder, flour, salt and a little water to make a batter. Heat the frying pan and grease a little oil on the surface. Now take small amount of batter at a time and spread on its hot surface in round shapes. (these will look like a South-Indian dhosa or Mexican tortilla). Take two spoonful of stuffing, place on one side of the pitha and roll into a cylindrical shape. Arrange in a plate and prepare to serve.
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed