Happy Poush Sankranti or Makar Sankranti to all my readers. These festivals are good excuses to relive a bit of our childhood days. For example, Poush Sankranti reminds me of my mother’s excellent Pithe-Puli-Payesh-making skills and how lovingly she used to feed us. Those flavours linger in my mind even now. I remember the aroma emanating from my mother’s kitchen on this day. The best date-palm jaggery (Nolen Gur) and date-palm molasses (Jhola Gur) in earthen pots would grace one corner of her kitchen during this time. I remember various delectable Bengali sweets churning out from the delicate hands of my Ma, who never seemed to be tired making a variety of Pithe-Puli dishes, along with the mandatory Gurer Payesh! I remember devouring Patishapta after Patishapta from the huge pile of Patishaptas made by Ma for friends and family. Those delicate crepes made with rice flour with a sweet coconut-jaggery filling were absolutely divine. Each year, on this day, bowls of Dudh Puli and Chushir Paayesh were made, too! Around this time, Ma also made Mugshamli, Ranga Alur Pithe, Aske Pithe and Shoru Chakli. Although my all-time-favourite is always the evergreen Patishapta with my newly added Signature Nolen Gurer Shondesh Icecream for sure, I do love all kinds of Makar Sankranti sweets. Admittedly, my Sankranti isn’t as grand as my Ma in terms of cooking out various Bengali desserts or sweets using Nolen Gur, coconut and rice flour as main ingredients. Still I do try to make atleast a few Bengali Sankranti sweets, spread over a few days around this time of harvest or Sankranti. I try and learn more and more traditional Pithe and Puli recipes. This year, I made Chitoi Pithe for the first time. I didn’t have the traditional earthen mould for that. So, I used the commonly available non-stick South-Indian Appam mould. If you live in Kolkata, I am sure you can easily find a Chitoi Pithe Chaanch or indented earthenware or cast-iron mould.
Traditionally made in clay oven, Chitoi Pithe probably originated in Bangladesh. If you are making rice flour at home, the ideal rice flour would be a mixture of Sheddho Chaal (parboiled rice) and raw rice (Aatop Chaal) in 2:1 ratio. Some prefer to add thick rice starch in place of water to make the batter. For making this Pithe, the Chitoi Pithe mould has to be very hot. We have to then decrease the flame and add the batter of Chitoi Pithe (not too thick, not too thin in consistency) into ghee-greased indents of the moulds. When the mould is covered with a dome-shaped or a conical lid, the steam inside cooks the Pithe in just five minutes. This is the time taken if you are using Appam moulds. However, it might take more time if you are using traditional moulds with deeper indents.
These can be eaten with generous amounts of Jhola Gur or date-palm molasses. Alternately, toss the warm Chitoi Pithes into reduced and thickened milk sweetened with aromatic Nolen Gur or Notun Gur. In that case, the dish is called Dudh Chitoi or Dudh Chitoi Pithe. Some freshly grated coconut can be added, if desired, while making the sweetened milk for Chitoi Pithe. However, adding cardamoms, bay leaves, etc., is not preferred if using Nolen Gur as a sweetener.
Enjoy the recipe of Dudh Chitoi and have a great Makar Sankranti!
Happy Poush Sankranti with Dudh Chitoi Pithe (A Makar Sankranti Bengali Sweet)
- Rice flour ideally a mixture of parboiled and raw rice in the ratio of 2:1: 200 g
- Warm water: ½ tall steel glass
- Warm rice starch solution _Bhaater Maar_: 1 tall steel glass
- Salt: ½ tsp
- Baking soda: ½ tsp
- Cow Ghee: ¼ small bowl
- Chitoi Pithe Mould or Appam mould
- Softened Nolen Gur: 250 g
- Thickened/reduced cow milk slightly warm: 1 l
- Mix the rice flour in warm water and warm rice starch solution for 1 h. This will make the rice flour soft.
- After 1 h, add salt and baking soda. Mix properly and whisk lightly to create air bubbles.
- Meanwhile, mix the Nolen Gur with slightly warm milk, until homogeneous. Set aside.
- Heat the mould over gas stove until very hot. Reduce the flame. Grease the insides of the indents of the mould.
- Stir the batter and pour into the indents, leaving a little space for the cooked Puli to rise. Cover with a dome-shaped or a cone-shaped lid.
- Cook for 5 min. No need to flip the Pulis.
- Immediately remove the Pulis from the moulds carefully with a teaspoon.
- Throw the Pulis into the sweetened milk. Enjoy after 1 h.