August 18, 2008
Savoring Puli Pithe
For the last month I have been enjoying the different Bengali recipes - puti macher jhol (small fish curry), different kinds of dal (lentils), labra (mixed veg), lau ghonto (bottlegourd) etc. But when my parents offered to make puli pithe for a family gathering I was excited. It's been ages since I ate pithe.
My fondest memories of pithe are during winter when my grandmother would make several kinds catering to each of our requests, pathi shapta for me, puli pithe for my brother and gokul pithe for my dad among others.
Pithe are a winter affair, around Poush Sankranti (somewhere in mid Dec - mid Jan) to celebrate the harvest festival of the new crop.
Pithe's made of rice flour or wheat flour which forms the base or pouch. Inside the pouch filling or pur made of grated coconuts and sometimes sweetened vegetables is stuffed. The pouch can be of different shapes - flat like a crepe, oval, round etc. The pithe can be prepared by frying, steaming and then cooked in a milky syrup.
Some of the famous pithe are: pati shapta (like crepes with stuffing inside), ranga alur pithe (made of sweet potato), dudh pulli (with payesh kind of preparation of milk), chandrapulli and gokul pithe. I am sure there are more varieties of pithe. Please leave the names in the comments and I will add it in the list.
The ingredients for Puli Pithe is a small list - coconut, rawa (sooji), milk and sugar, but when they all mix together, it tastes heavenly. I love gurer (jaggery) pithe, so we tried to replicate it with brown sugar and I loved how it added that deeper taste to the pithe. Here is how they made it.
2 cups grated coconut
1 cup rawa
1 1/2 cups half and half
3/4 cup milk (I used 1%)
1 3/4 cup brown sugar (adjust to taste)
Heat a thick bottomed pan or karai (wok) and cook the grated coconut, rawa with 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup half and half till the mix comes together and starts leaving the sides of the pan. In Bengali, it's called paak.
Once it's done, take in off the heat and roll them on your palm as little cylinders. You won't need any extra oil for the rolling.
In the meantime, heat the rest of half and half with milk and sugar on low heat till it starts to thicken. It may take about an hour for the milk to become a thick creamy base. Once it done, put the coconut and rawa pur in the milk and let it boil for another 5-10 minutes to let it absorb the milk and cream.
You can sprinkle some cardamom powder on top before serving. But I like it without it to full savor the taste of milk, coconut and sugar cooked together.
Serve warm or cold. I have had it both ways and am still deciding which way I like it best. :)
Also a big thanks to Sandeepa of Bong Mom's Cookbook for the beautiful green spread that you see in the picture. It arrived with a beautiful handwritten note embellished with Little S' drawing and a set of beautiful coasters. Thank You Sandeepa!