Sankranti is not just one day celebration for us Bengali, but it is week-long celebration specially when it comes to relish those extravagant spread of pithe-puli . So today I am going to share with you very special family recipe and my favourite one too. For festivals like Sankranti every Bengali earnestly waited for three things, a good coconut, that elusive date palm jaggery and freshly harvested rice. And with just three ingredients an array of delicious spread is prepared that they relish not for just a day or week but for the entire winter months.
Rice is essential to this celebration, more specific the rice powder which form the base for many dishes. The coconut and date palm jaggery together makes that irresistible stuffing that goes in almost every dishes that are formally prepared for this festival.
To an urban Indian or Bengali for that matter, this pithe- puli spread may become a thing of past, most of the recipes are heirlooms, handed down through generations and are surviving in hands of few food enthusiasts who took the pain to recreate that magic. My Ma, aunts and my Grandma’s are all expert in these and they used to make not just one or two dishes but an entire gamut of pithe-puli, there may be dozen such dishes. And the high point is that they made these delicious dishes not just for their own family, but for the extended family, relatives and even for the neighbours, that too at such a ripe age of 80’s or 90’s. With so limited help and comfort available at that time they sweat in the kitchen for hours to prepare these dishes without complaining any thing. Their enthusiasm always amazed me !
Sometimes I think these comforts of life makes us lazy , we are unwilling to walk an extra mile to fetch something, and we want everything to be served and spoonfed, spoilt by the technology !
Gradually this sedentary lifestyle gives rise to so many ailments that we associate now with our lifestyles. I still remember that thought-provoking scene from the movie “Wall-E” where after a span of 700 years our bone strength and density reduces, the skeleton shrinks and we reduces to mass of loose fats, and where everything is remote-controlled ! Sounds horrific isn’t it but not unrealistic !
So even if it takes extra energy to cook something extravagant, this is definitely worth the cause (read good for health as it will flex the muscles, and will keep you in good shape, other than running, walking dancing or gymming !)
Coming to this special recipe (yes back in the track !) , the yellow lentils are first roasted, then boiled with just enough water and then mashed up and seasoned with salt and spices. Yes we make it savoury one, unlike the many who prefers a more sweeter version of it and so we don’t dunked it in the syrup . The lentil shells are then filled up with the coconut-jaggery filling and deep-fried in hot oil . The sweetness of the stuffing will beautifully balance the spiciness of the lentil shells, and you can enjoy them with your evening tea or in the morning breakfast as you love to.
- Yellow lentils / Mung beans : 1 cup
- Rice flour : 1-2 tbsp
- All purpose flour : 2 tbsp
- Salt to taste
- Spices (cumin and red chilli powder) : 1-2 tsp
- Oil for deep frying
- Coconut grated : 2 cups
- Milk / coconut milk : ¼ cup
- Date palm jaggery (crumble into pieces) : 1 cup + more
- Heat a nonstick pan and add the coconut in it. On a low flame, keep on stirring the coconut for few minutes and add the milk.
- As soon as the milk get absorbed by the coconut, add the jaggery.
- Keep on stirring on low flame till the jaggery melts and incorporates well into the coconut.
- Continue stirring, and this may take up to 20 minutes till you get a little lumpy mixture.
- Leave the mixture to cool for few minutes.
- Roast the yellow lentils in a pan till it leaves a beautiful aroma.
- Now add just enough water to boil the lentils.
- Once boiled, strain excess water if any, but do not discard it, use it in other dishes.
- Let it cool for sometime until easy to handle.
- Season the lentils with salt and spices and mashed it.
- Add the rice flour and all pupose flour to the mashed lentils to make a soft dough.
- Refrigerate for half an hour until it stiffens a bit.
- Pinch a walnut size ball from mashed lentil dough and with the help of your palm and fingers give it a small bowl like shape.
- Stuff it with the coconut – jaggery mixture , fold and seal the ends together.
- You can crimp or pinch the edges if you want to.
- Prepare a dozen of such stuffed shells and keep aside.
- Heat enough oil for deep frying.
- Fry the pithe or stuffed lentil shells in hot oil over a medium flame till they turns out golden in color and become crisp.
- Serve hot or at room temperature.
- They taste better the next day.
Milk is added to make the stuffing moist.
Add more milk if the coconut is dry, and less if it releases lots of milk and it also helps to bind the sugar / jaggery.
We make it savory but if you want to make the sweeter version, then omit the spices and after deep fried them dunked the lentil shells in sugar syrup.
Hope you have enjoyed this post and please pardon my poor photography, and partial blame to rain also, not a flicker of sunshine in last four days and yes sometimes I get confused too how to style the food 🙁 Does this happens to you too ?