(I am a bit late in writing this post coz Makar Sankranti has long gone..but nevertheless, please read it :D)
As you know mid of January is the time for celebrations all over India. Between 13th Jan to 16th Jan, numerous festivals like Makar Sankranti, Lohri, Pongal, Magh Bihu, Uttarayan, etc. are celebrated all over India by various communities. Since India is primarily an agricultural country, many of its festivals coincide with important dates of sowing and harvesting. Mid of Jan marks the end of winter and beginning of spring in most of the Indian calendars (different from the Gregorian Calender). Now like all festivals around the world which mean food, family and more food, these festivals too are heavy of food and emphasise family unions. For 2 consecutive years, I have had the privilege of being in Purulia, Ma and Baba’s hometown, during Makar Sankranti which enabled me to gorge on loads and loads of different varieties of Pithas, the traditional dish for this festival and understand the family rituals around it!! In Indian states like Assam, West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar and Jharkhand, sweet and savory versions of Pithas are a common sight in most households on this day.
At home in Delhi, Baba and Ma try to make some every year but in small quantities; so when I was at my relatives’ the sheer amount of stuff being made startled me!! Choto Mamima (Ma’s younger brother’s wife) says that on an average in a family of four, 4-5 kgs of Parboiled and Normal Rice is used along with 3-4 kgs of Jaggery, 3-4 fresh Coconuts and 1-2 kgs of Sesame Seeds for making sweet pithas during this time. There are also savory pithas made of Lau (bottle gourd), Seem (flat beans) and cabbage. In joint-families the amounts simply double as there are more hands for moulding the pithas. Sometimes, if relatives are not around, friends and neighbours extend helping hands to each other to create massive mounds of Pithas!! Hence in every way the festival is an opportunity to meet, gossip and bond over food.
The sweet varieties like Sheddo Pitha, Puli Pitha, Gokul Pitha, Moong Puli are awesome but I have never tried making them (maybe next year!); so I made the most easy one – the Pati Shapta. For savories, I made the Lau Soru Chokli and I tell you, they were yuuummm!!
Here is how you make them!
For 8-10 Lau Soru Choklis
1 large Bottle Gourd (I didn’t get them here, so used 3 Zucchinis which give a similar texture)
4 tsp grated ginger
1 tbsp Green Chillies
1 bunch fresh Coriander Leaves
1 tbsp each of turmeric, coriander powder, chilli powder, cumin powder
3-4 cups Rice flour+2 tbsp White Flour
Salt to taste and Mustard oil to fry
Boil the peeled Zucchini with 1/2 cup water, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp turmeric and then allow to cool. Place the boiled zucchini in a bowl and mash well. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well to form a thick batter. You can add or reduce the amount of rice flour according to the amount of liquid you get from the boiled zucchini. Check seasoning by tasting the batter and roll out thick pancakes using mustard oil in a hot pan. Please note that these take longer to cook. So cover them and cook on medium heat. If it gets difficult to spread the batter evenly, use your fingers like in the picture to even them out. Serve hot with Khejuur Gud (Palm Sugar Jaggery) and enjoy!!
Patishapta (makes about 20)
Prepare a coconut laddoo mix by cooking 2 cups desiccated coconut in 4 cups milk for an hour (normally this is made of khoya and coconut, but since khoya isn’t available here readily, I devised this method to get a similar texture). When the milk has evaporated, add 3/4 cup sugar/brown sugar, 1/2 tsp cardamom powder and cook till you get a sticky mix. Let this cool slightly and roll out finger-sized cylindrical shapes. Then soak 1 cup semolina in 1 cup milk for 3-4 hours. To this, mix in 1 cup of white flour and more milk to make a smooth batter. In a pan make thin palm-sized crepes and insert one coconut cylinder in each. Allow these to cool and then serve. I like it with kheer, which is made by cooking 1 litre milk till its reduced to 1/6th and adding 3-4 tbsps of sugar.
Since the winter is still around in India, give this a shot and enjoy hot Soru Choklis with Khejuur Gud to get instantly warmed up!! 🙂
Till next time,