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Poush Parbon

Pithe Utsab

Poush Sankranti, the last day of the Bengali month Poush, is also known as Makar Sankranti and marks the day for harvest festival in Bengal. According to the Hindu philosophy, this day is the beginning of the sun’s northward journey from Tropic of Capricorn to Tropic of Cancer (also called Uttarayan; it must be opportune to submit here that Science says the journey commences on 22 December, Winter Solstice). Earth and its revolutions apart, Poush Parbon (or the Festival of Poush) holds immense importance, specially in rural Bengal, where the first grains of the year are stocked up and Nabanna (Naba means new + anna is rice) is worshipped. Notun guud (jaggery) and rice form an important part of this festival, as the prime ingredients of the delicious sweets, Pitha (or Pithe as ghotis call it).

Having grown up in a small town in North Bengal, my childhood was spent witnessing many beautiful rituals which are only archived in pages of history now. Still remember the early morning hustle-bustle at home, the sudden pain in the stomach which would excuse me from attending school for the day, and thus ensued a day-long festivity. The beginning would be the customary offering of patisapta to Raghunath, the “kuul debota” of our family. As long as the puja continued, someone would clean the courtyard of our house, with water and gobar and make “alpona” with rice paste. [I must mention here, most Bengali homes of the yesteryear’s had two sections – andarmahal and bahirmahal, or inner section and outer section. The courtyard i mention is the inner section]. Much to the chagrin of us, the little ones, a cow (or were they buffaloes?) was brought in, worshiped, fed some pithe and released.

What followed was day-long merry-making, as delicious smell of freshly prepared patisapta would fill the air. Maa, Kakimas and Jethimas would all toil in the preparation of various forms of pithe – patisapta, chitoi pithe, puli, and several others. In fact, lunch that day would comprise only pithe. And for us kids, a holiday would only mean taking our daily games to the next level. Yes, i used to play rannabati with my sisters, and i have no qualms in admitting that i thoroughly enjoyed playing those.  One of the inseparable parts of Poush Parbon used to be this special show on DD7 about a Bengali Hindu family who discriminated against a Muslim vegetable seller but eventually in the end communal harmony would prevail.

Times change. The joint family is no more, most family members (like yours truly) are scattered all over the country. The last Poush Parbon at home was celebrated in 2004, thanks to the dwindling number of “helping hands”. The situation is same across households in Bengal (and dare i say, on the other side of the border too). The current generation, and the previous one, are starkly oblivious to the rituals of the day. People would much rather buy pithe from sweet shops than spend an entire day in the kitchen; who has the time for it? Like other festivals, Pithe Parbon has now shifted to the “Bengali restaurants” or the sets of TV shows, heavily commercialised. But in one corner of our hearts, we all yearn for those days of childhood, wishing that someone weave a magic wand and shoo away the vast void of loneliness in this global village, where everything is just a click away.

Poush parbonOn a happier note, here’s how you can make a patisapta at home

  1. In a bowl, take some suji and add maida, milk and sugar (to taste) to it. Mix well.

  2. For the filling – you can make a filling of kheer or grated coconut. For the latter, you need to mix grated coconut and molten guud (jaggery) into semi-solid cylindrical shapes. I am sure, all of you know how to prepare kheer (just heat milk in a saucer till it attains a dough form).

  3. Now in a non-stick pan, add the batter you made with maida and suji. Spread it with a small, round bowl. When the batter starts hardening, put the filling in the centre and roll the batter (which by now has become crispy).

Patisapta is ready to be eaten.

Recipe of Doodh Puli

poush parbon1. Let’s make the stuffing first – in a bowl mix grated coconut, sugar and molten jaggery. Make small balls of the mixture, in any shape you like.

  1. Take some suji and maida in another bowl and add water to it and knead well to make a dough. Make balls from the dough.

  2. Press the dough balls to make a flat circle. Put the stuffing in the centre and fold the dough in the form of semi-circle (just like momos).

  3. In a pan boil some milk, add sugar and let the milk keep boiling. Now add pulis and cook by stirring the milk for about 10-15 minutes. Doodh Puli is ready to be devoured.

[You can even make small lechis, or cylinders, from the maida dough and add them to boiling milk to make Chandrapulir Payesh].

P.S. – If you are fond of Bengali sweets, take a peak Inside Durga’s Kitchen to find some more offings for your sweet tooth.

Wish you all a happy Poush Parbon.

Poush Toder Daak Dieche, Aay Re Chole Aay Aay Aay

DISCLAIMER – All images used in this blogpost have their own copyrights.

Inside Durga’s Kitchen

“What does Durga Pujo mean to you” – if this question was put to an audience, the response would be varied. Fun, festivity, tradition, pandal hopping, get togethers, going back to family – Durga Pujo cannot be restricted to just the reference of Ramayan. And an inseparable part of Durga Pujo is the quintessential sweet dishes that are made as special offerings to the deity (only to be devoured by mortals later).

Durga Idol at our home - 2007

Bengalis are born with a sweet tooth. Known for their rosogolla and sandesh world over, many Bengali culinary dessert delights can put the world’s best pastry chefs to shame. From the pithe to naaru, a Bengali kitchen will never disappoint anyone who indulge in sweet nothings.

In this post i wish to share the recipes of some of the “prosad” that makes Durga Pujo so special (for me at least) :

1. Naaru

Naaru or small coconut balls are nothing out of the ordinary but as the famous brand says “Ek se mera kya hoga?”. Found in two major varieties – brown and white – naaru constitutes the integral part of prosad in any Pujo.

Naaru

Ingredients for Naaru

Grated Coconut (1 cup)

Jaggery (2 cups)

Sugar (acc to taste)

Take the jaggery and heat it to melt. When the molten jaggery is still hot add the grated coconut and mix well. Add sugar according to your taste and mix. Turn off the oven and let the mixture cool. Then make small balls and serve in a dish or store in an air tight container.

Many people add til or dry fruits to enhance the taste. It is up to the discretion of the maker.

[Naaru making starts on Mahalaya at our home and continues till Dashami. It lasts for a long time so you need not eat it all at one go, no matter how tasty it looks].

2. Tokti

This one is my favourite and is a MUST for the Aparajita Pujo that takes place at our home after Durga idol immersion is over and everyone is back home for Bijoya. Again a coconut dish, it is a type of coconut barfi, but can have any shape – from a cone to square, rectangle, rhombus, pentagon or even shapes of animals.

Ingredients for Tokti

Grated Coconut – One cup

Sugar – One cup

Mix the coconut and sugar in a bowl. Take a “chhanch” (mould) and place the mixture in it to obtain shape of your choice. Tokti is ready.

Tokti

[To spice up this simple preparation, you can add dry fruits, khoya, chocolate, or molten jaggery. Easy to make and good to eat, Bijoya is made awesome with tokti].

[P.S. – Measurements are purely to give an idea of the ratio, the dishes are prepared on a much larger scale]

3. Murki

Murki without naaru is like Jay without Veeru. Made from khoi and jaggery, it can easily be eaten with anything from tea to chicken gravy (yours truly tried it all 😛

Making murki is not difficult at all. First you have to separate the “bad” khoi from “good khoi” just like one cleans rice grains. Thereafter, melt the jaggery and add the khoi to it. Mix well and make sure it forms a semi solid lattice. Now store the murki in a air tight tin.

4. Moa

Made famous by Jaynagar, moa is a dish with variety. Moa can be made from muri (puffed rice), chire (chiwra) or mix of milk and either muri or chire. Moa is best if served with tea but it doubles up as prosad too.

Moa

Just like you make murki, follow the same procedure for making moa (just replace khoi with chire/muri). In the end make balls with the mixture. Your moa is ready 🙂

5. Mihidana

When i was a kid i used to call mihidana a brother of Bundiya. They are same in all respects, except the size and taste. Mihi means small or smooth and dana means grains. It is made by making a batter of besan and water and adding it to a sieve with tiny pores to allow small grains to fall in the oil where it is fried. When they turn yellow in colour, they are removed from oil and placed in a bowl containing sugar syrup.

Mihidana is a MUST for the Dashami breakfast. Served as dessert after Luchi and chholar daal, mihidana makes up for the gloom for imminent separation of Ma Durga. Well almost……..

6. Chhanar Payesh

This is an Ashtami/Sondhi Pujo special and very simple to make. The same way payesh (or kheer) is prepared with rice, chhanar payesh is made with chhana or paneer.

To prepare Chhanar payesh, boil about 2 cups milk in a bowl and a tea spoon of lemon juice to it. When the milk is curdled, separate the curd from the excess water and make small balls out of the chhana. (If you are using paneer, you need not go through this step and directly make small cubes). Add these chhana balls to a bowl of boiling milk, add sugar and stir well. After about 15 minutes add cream and your payesh is ready to be served.

Chhanar payesh

7. Durga Doi

The name says it all. This is a special ghol/lassi made in our home on Nabami. The recipe is a family secret and traditionally passed on from a generation to the next. Offered to Ma Durga and then served as dessert during the lunch, it helps us digest the mutton and pulao which is mandatory on Nabami 🙂

Durga doi is also offered as prosad on Dashami. The elders say it is offered as food for the journey back to Kailash.

I promise to come up with some mouth watering Pithe recipes in January. Till then savour these delights and enjoy the Pujo with joy. Sharadiyar Subhecha and as they say – Bolo Durga Mai Ki……………..

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