Poush Parbon , Makar Sankranti, Bihu, Pongal, Bhogi or Lohri by whichever name you may like to call this harvest festival, which is a pan-Indian one and which is a prominent festival in the eastern Indian states of West Bengal and Assam, is all about Pithey Chirey or Pitha with all the freshly harvested goodies from the stock, be it rice, pulses, jaggery, coconut etc. Pitha or Pithey is a collective name for a wide array of sweetmeats which are purely prepared at home with freshly harvested cereals & pulses. Even though indulging in this pitha fiesta is a pleasure in itself especially for the food connoisseurs and enthusiasts, but getting them ready to be served at your table is a herculean task in which too much skill, grit, patience and hardwork is required. Our mothers, grandmothers and aunts have mastered this art and has inculcated in us this habit of encouraging this indulgence, no matter what. Every home has their own specialities or modifications of the usual pitha(s). Bengali pithey(s) are slightly different from Assamese pitha(s), the former ones being mellower than the latter ones & slightly heavier in sweet. Some of the common pitha(s) in Bengali households are cholar pitha, mooger pitha, chirar pitha, patishapta, sheddho pittha, dudhpuli, nonta pitha etc. to name a few and there are umpteen varieties. Among the usual varieties, I die for this chholar pitha. I just love to munch on the hot, crispy and juicy cholar pitha that melts inside with every bite. The taste of the fresh crispy pitha(s) when they are still warm is just irresistible however they are equally relishing when you have it later. Even though last year it was really hard for each one of us, but no one wants to leave the stones unturned to commemorate their festivals and especially if it is in the matters of food associated with them.
Like other legumes, such as lentils, chickpeas are rich in fiber and protein. They also contain several key vitamins and minerals. Chickpeas or Chhole, which mostly has complex carbohydrates, prevents surges in blood sugar levels and hence are good for diabetics. They are also high in fibre which helps in feeling our stomach much fuller than refined carbohydrates. Also, 1 cup of cooked chickpeas contain about 14 gms of protein, which is quite a good amount. Thus, they are a healthful choice for including them in your snacks or meal.
Bengalis love their cholar daal (chickpea lentils), which is an important component of a celebrated Bengali meal platter. In Bengal, Cholar daal either split or whole is made good use of in different forms like the usual daal with narkel(coconut), ghugni, dhokar daalna (chickpea lentil cake curry), cholar pitha (chickpea lentil sweet cake) or cholar daler barfi etc.
For me, Poush Parbon or Magh Bihu is just incomplete without this cholar pitha, courtesy my mother, grandmother and aunts, who has made this a customary in our home. I also cannot stop myself from making this confectionery on this occasion and just love the taste and aroma of it along with my assortment of different pitha(s). If you wanna see the recipe check down here 👇
- Split Black gram / Chana Daal – 150 gm
- Grated coconut – 3 to 4 tbs
- Refined flour/Maida or Rice flour – 2 tbs
- Baking powder – 2 pinch.
- For sugar syrup – 1 cup sugar in 2 cups water.
- Cardamom ( powdered) – 1/2 tsp.
- Refined oil – for deep frying.
- Soak daal in water for at least 3 to 4 hours or overnight.
- For preparing your sugar syrup, melt the sugar with the required amount of water in a pan and bring it to boil by stirring in between, over a medium flame.
- Boil the syrup till it feels slightly sticky to your fingers.
- Add powdered cardamom and keep aside the prepared syrup.
- Boil the soaked daal in pressure cooker for 1 to 2 whistles or till the daal becomes soft i.e. you can easily mash the daal grains by pressing with your fingers. (Note : The daal grains should be soft but it should not disintegrate).
- Strain the daal properly in a strainer and leave for sometime to drain off the water completely.
- Grind the boiled daal using a grinder to make a smooth mash or you may also mash it using your hand. ( Note : The mash should be very smooth so that no granules are left).
- Add grated coconut, maida & baking powder to the mashed daal mixture and mix them nicely with your hand to make a dough.
- Take small portions of the dough and roll into desired shape using your palm and fingers to make your pithas. You can give them any shape of your choice like disc shaped or roundel, ovals or patty shape. I prefer this particular shape as this shape easily absorbs the sugar syrup uniformly.
- Sprinkle little flour on a plate or tray and spread the pithas over it.
- Heat oil in a wok or kadhai. (Note: Use a small kadhai so that your pithas can float nicely in the oil, thus minimizing the usage of oil).
- Drop your pithas one by one and fry over a low flame by turning both the sides till light brown in colour. ( Note : Your first pitha will determine whether your pitha mix is perfect or not. If your pitha disintegrates after dropping in the oil, take it out immediately or else you have to strain your oil as the particles may again lead your pitha to disintegrate ).
- Take out the fried pitha by straining off the oil and drop it immediately in the sugar syrup.
- Let it soak in the syrup for 2-3 minutes.
- Take out and serve the crispy, hot and juicy pitha(s) immediately or store them for later. If you are serving it later, just sprinkle little sugar syrup over it before serving to get that extra relish.
- If your pitha disintegrates after dropping in the oil that means you have to make some changes in the pitha mix i.e. add little more maida to the mix so that it helps in the binding of pitha(s).
- Make sure your oil is hot enough otherwise your pitha may disintegrate.
- If you are not using baking powder, your pitha may sometimes soak less syrup. In that case, you have to add baking powder to the mix. Also, less juicy pitha(s) may be due to excess maida or rice flour in the mix. For that, you have to add little more mashed daal to it.