Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 6, Issue 02, Tuesday, January 11, 2011




Winter breakfast

By shawkat osman

Winter Breakfast
Sometimes the day itself is like a cherished guest--especially in early winter, when the air is crisp and the sun makes you want to sit outside and enjoy it. Breakfast can be the most exciting meal of the day, whether consumed in the company of those you love, or eaten alone.

It can also be delayed to that charming social hour called brunch. Be it a spur of the moment decision or a pre-planned event that you are planning to host, the menu given below will help you break your fast well on a winter morning.

What we have in mind is a simple meal, starting with 'sprayed bread' and spicy scrambled eggs; followed by the Bangladeshi pancake with 'khejur gur'. The syrup made from the sap of the date palm is at its best during winter.

Thin Rice Bread
These are artistically crafted delicate ruti (bread) with lacy edges that crumble when touched; traditionally served with spicy scrambled eggs.

Chita ruti
Serves 8
3 cups rice flour
1 tsp turmeric powder
1½ tsp red chilli powder
2½ tsp ginger paste
1½ tsp cumin powder
2 tsp salt
2/3 cup mustard oil

In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except oil, with enough water to make a runny batter. Heat one teaspoon oil in a wok, swirl the oil by gently rotating the wok, this will help coat the entire surface of the wok.

Using your hands, release small scoops of the rice batter into the heated wok. This is best done by opening the clinched fingers in a burst and simultaneously jerking the palm at the wrist.

Repeat and cover the whole surface of the wok. Go light on the edges, so that a lacy border is formed.

Cook until the batter sets and the centre looks well-cooked.
Run a metal spatula under the entire edge of the ruti and gently slide it under its centre. Smoothly pry the ruti of the wok.

Fold the ruti twice and serve immediately, with dim chawra.

Thick rice bread

This is a basic recipe to make chitol pitha, Bengal's very own pancake. The best type of pot for making mess-free, near-always perfect chitol pitha is a flat matir patil (clay pot), covered with a clay shora (domed lid).

Clay is a porous material. When the dough is placed in the pot, it tends to get saturated. The water in the batter seeps through the pores of the clay pot to the outer surface, and evaporates quickly. During the cooking, the batter continues releasing water. This water cannot escape until the pot is completely dry. The water released from the batter as steam remains trapped in the pot and helps in cooking the pitha. Sprinkling water on top of the clay lid prevents it from absorbing the steam.

Preheat the pot over a high flame. Test it by sprinkling a few drops of water. If the water crackles and evaporates quickly, the pot is ready. You could make chitol pitha the size of a tangerine to that of a CD disc, which is the popular size. You can top the pitha with a pre-cooked hilsa steak in the middle of the cooking process, or soak the freshly-made pithas in thick sweetened milk to form a dessert. Otherwise, just eat it hot and plain with honey, mustard paste, hidol shutki bhorta, torkari or salon.

A clay pot is easy to clean because the surface is non-sticky (unless, of course, you burn food in it). Simply let the pot cool after it is removed from the heat and soak in warm water for a few minutes. Sprinkle some salt and scour with a stiff brush. Rinse the pot and let it drain until dry. (As clay is porous, it is not wise to clean it with detergents or scouring powder).

In case you don't have a clay pot, use a heavy griddle and a domed lid to cover.

Serves 8
4 cups aatop (husked rice) flour
1 ½ tsp salt \
Hot water

Put the rice flour and salt in a mixing bowl; pour enough hot water to make a thick batter that might be easily poured in a container. Put the matir patil (earthern pot) on high heat, dispense a ladle full of batter, and cover with a shora (earthen lid). Sprinkle water all over the shora, and put some in the cup shaped handle on top. If using any other kind of lid, place a wet towel on it.

Wait till steam gushes out of the lid's sides. This indicates that the pitha is ready (Water in the handle-cup drying up indicates you have overcooked the pitha). Take off the lid, run a metal spatula under the edge of the pitha, moving it gently along the surface of the container. Slip the spatula beneath the pitha; gently pry it off the patil.

Spicy scrambled eggs (dim chawra)
Serves 8
Dim Chawra is otherwise known as scrambled eggs. It's considered one of the easiest ways of cooking an egg, but getting the basics right is important. This is a classical side dish, to be had with the crunchy chita ruti.

8 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp green chillies, chopped
4 tbsp onions, chopped
½ cup cilantro, chopped
½ cup ghee

Break eggs into a bowl, whisk well with a fork. Now blend in salt, chilli, onions and cilantro. Whisk again, but do not overbeat the eggs; the goal is to combine the ingredients thoroughly, not to incorporate air.

Place a large non-stick, 20cm saucepan over a medium flame. The bigger the pan the more surface area for the eggs to spread out, and the faster they will cook.

Pour ghee and when hot, tip the egg batter into the saucepan, and let the mixture settle for about 30 seconds.

Now stir continuously using a wooden khunti or a rubber spatula, whichever one you prefer.

Cook until the batter turns soft, thick and creamy. Do not overcook the eggs, as that makes them dry and tough. Scrambled eggs should be moist, even when well done.

Khejur gur
Serves 8
1 bottle (jhola khejur gur) liquid jaggery
Date Palm Syrup

Khejur gur is made from the sap of the wild date palm tree, collected by tapping the topmost part of the tree trunk. Date palm juice ferments very easily and hence winter mornings are an ideal time to transform this juice into gur (jaggery). The sap boiled huge iron korais over wood-lit stoves. The seasoned expert knows best the exact extent to which the sap ought to be cooked to acquire the correct texture. The concentrated date palm sap is made into three types of gur: jhola gur (liquid), chaka gur (grainy, in the form of halved coconut shells), and the hard patali gur, resembling solid chunks of pata (stone). In case you want to relish the gur round the year, boil chaka or patali gur with water to make the syrup to your taste.

Put the bottle of gur in a bowl of warm water. Pour liberally over the hot and steaming chitol pitha and enjoy the goodness of sweet taste.

Photo: Star Lifestyle Archieve

A winter date

“Rosh…rosh…khejurer rosh” cried the peddler walking through the aisle of the train compartment carrying an aluminium pitcher. It was 10 am and on chilly winter mornings the juice of the date palm tree was popular among the people.

There was a time, not so long ago, when date palm trees were found in many a household in Dhaka. As rampant apartments were, and still are, being constructed, most of these trees have vanished from the urban scene. Yet, it is not too uncommon to see, in railway stations, bus stops, and launch terminals and sometimes in kitchen markets, vendors selling date juice for Tk5-10 per glass.

The juice is collected from the trunk of the tree. The hard bark must first be chiselled from the top portion of the tree. A stick is then inserted into the trunk and an earthenware container fastened with rope, placed beneath the open end of the stick. The juice sap of the date tree -- is collected overnight and best drunk fresh early in the morning.

Date juice has a unique, sweet taste that compliments its sugary flavour and fragrance. Taken early in the morning, it knocks the senses and often makes a cold chill pass down the spine. That however, is part of the joy of having date juice in cold Januaries.

Due to the high content of glucose, date juice ferments easily, within a few hours. Preservation techniques are used to prevent fermentation by bringing the juice to a boil. This, to a great extend dampens the flavour, but the juice retains its sweetness.

The juice is popularly boiled on clay stoves, using wooden sticks (lakri). This imparts a “burnt” texture to the juice and adds to the aroma.

By Mannan Mashhur Zarif



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