Wishing you a Happy Makar Sankranti /Bihu /Pongal /Uttarayan !!
Makar Sankranti marks an end of the winter festivities that had started with the spirit of Christmas and has continued through the month. Makar Sankranti has vivid forms and flavours and are celebrated as festival of new harvest all over India during this time. It is named differently in different parts of the country, as Uttarayan in Rajasthan, Pongal in Tamilnadu, Bhogali Bihu in Assam, Poush Parbon in Bengal and so on.
In spite of the regional differences, the underlying similarity that connects all of them is that they are all festivals which celebrate the bountiful harvest of the season and therefore feasting on same kind of stuff like rice, lentils, jaggery and other cereals or crops. Bengal and Assam, both rice eating provinces make extensive use of rice for the delicacies that are savoured during this festival like the Paatishaapta of Bengal and Til pitha of Assam, both of which are rice pancakes of different varieties.The platter of these two states are of similar kind for this festival.
Among the pithas of Assam, the one that easily comes to our mind is the rice til pitha and hessa pitha. However, there are scores of other pithas most of which are prepared during this time that make up the platter for Bhogali Bihu, the feasting harvest festival of Assamese people.
Not all pithas are that popular though. What comes next after the usual til pithas, is the tekeli pitha or Kettle pitha ( the English translation will be Kettle Rice Cake prepared over a kettle lid). These tekeli pithas are popular street foods in small street side tea stalls or tea carts in Assam, where it serves as a tea accompaniment and can satiate your hunger when you are busy & out and want to have something on the move.
However, most of the pithas including the tekeli pithas are all mildly sweet and everyone is not very fond of snacking on sweetmeats all the time, especially during the festival of Bhogali Bihu in Assam when you are served mostly with sweets and desserts all day long. So, I opted for the savoury tekeli pithas this time with some flavors that I enjoy.
Savoury tekeli pithas can be made in different ways as you like. I made a few kinds of tekeli pithas, sweet as well as savoury variants, with aromatic joha rice of Assam, the sweet ones embedded with nolen gur and the savoury ones infused either with curry leaves or with pickle.
Here, comes the list of two different versions tekeli pithas that I have made along with their recipes :
- Rice Flour ( Joha or any short grained rice ) : 3 cups
- Grated Coconut : 1 cup
- Any neutral oil (for smearing) : 1/4 cup
For Curry leaves flavoured Savoury pitha :
- Coconut chutney :
- Grated Coconut : 1 and 1/2 cup
- Tamarind pulp : 2 tbsp
- Green chillies : 1
- Ginger : 1 inch piece
- Green chilles (chopped) : 1/4cup
- Curry leaves : 3-4 twigs
- Dry Red chilli : 1
- Any neutral oil : 1/2 tsp
- Black mustard :
For the pickle flavoured Savoury pitha :
- Dry Red chilli pickle : 1-2 tsp
- Asafoetida : 1/4 tsp
For the sweet Nolen gur pitha :
- Date palm jaggery ( nolen gur), crushed : 1/2 cup
- Raisins : 1/4 cup
1. For preparing the rice flour, use previously soaked, dried and ground rice.
2. Divide your rice flour in three equal portions for three different flavours.
3. In one portion, add chopped green chillies, curry leaves and 1/4th tsp salt. In the second portion, add Asafoetida and a small amount of any pickle. In the third portion, add a pinch of salt.
5. Take the kettle and fill it up with water up to the level of snout. Block the snout with any plug to prevent the steam from coming out. Keep the kettle for boiling.
6. Now, take one of the portions of step 3 at a time.
7. Sprinkle little water over rice flour and mix using your hand. Do not knead it. Mix the water and the flour very gently and loosely till it turns crumbly like breadcrumbs as shown in the picture below. To test whether your mixture is right or not, clump together little amount of flour with your palm & put little pressure on to it with your thumb, it should crumble and break easily.
8. Take the lid of your kettle and brush little oil on the underside of it.
9. Fill the lid of your kettle with a layer of rice flour mixture. Now, put small amount of your coconut chutney over the flour layer in the middle. Again add little amount of rice flour over it and then cover it with fresh grated coconut. Finally top it over with another layer of rice flour to cover it completely. Remember not to press the flour while filling or layering.
10. Cover your filling gently on top with a piece of dampened muslin cloth or cheesecloth ( made wet before and the water squeezed properly ) so that the cloth wraps around the entire lid and the filling does not come out.
11. Now, put the lid over the kettle gently without pressing and let it cook for 7-10 minutes over the steam.
12. Take out the lid after the time is over, unwrap your cloth from the pitha and gently invert your lid to demould your pitha from it.
13. For the portion with pickle and asafoetida, add little amount of pickle in place of the coconut chutney while layering. Rest of the steps as mentioned above are same.
14. For the third portion i.e. for the sweet version, add small amount of date palm jaggery instead of the coconut chutney in the layering step. ( Step 9 ).Repeat other steps as mentioned above. Note that, to add the jaggery towards the centre and not to add large amount of it as it may cause the pitha to break.
15. Serve fresh, hot pithas with tea or have it in your meal.