India being a predominantly agrarian country the harvesting season is joyfully celebrated during the months of Poush-Magh and Falgun (January to February), the festival being known by different names in different regions. In Bengal the harvesting festival is known as Poush Parbon (Winter Festival), poush being the name of the month.
This festival also celebrates Makar Sankranti or Poush Sankranti — marking the sun's passage from Capricorn to Aquarius
This festival is also known as Pithey Parbon in Bengal, pithey being a sweet made with basic agrarian ingredients of the region like rice, date palm etc. .There are several varieties of Pithey known as Gokul Pithey, Ashkey Pithey, Shajer Pithey etc. Along with this, sweets like Pati Shapta, rice-flour crepes filled with khoya and coconut stuffing, Soru Chakli and many more are also made. A very nice article on this festival and the variety of sweets made can be found here
Though Poush Parban is more of a rural festival, urban households in Bengal celebrate it too, the emphasis here being on the food galore rather the pithey galore.
My baba’s side i.e my paternal grandparents house were a bit of a radical and didn’t celebrate poush parbon with much fervor but at my Dida’s house or my Maternal grandparents house all three days of sankrati were celebrated. I vaguely remember my Dida going around the house tying fresh hay to all the door handles in the house. She would also make varieties of pithey, the first batch being Ashkey pithey. She would store the first batch of pithey in an earthenware container as an symbolic offering to gods and later immerse it in the river.
With time however this has changed, even my Ma does not go around tying hay to door knobs and does not make all the 8-10 varieties of pithey on this day. She does make Puli Payesh, pati sapta and gokul pithey though. My Ma-in-law make sthis amazing Gokul Pithey and next time I am going to learn from her. This time I made Pati Shapta, rice flour crepes filled with stuffing of coconut & khoya, which I learnt from Ma. Traditionally I should have used Khejur Gur or Date Palm Jaggery but because of my khejur gur ration I used sugar instead
Ok so heres the recipe. This is going to be a piece of cake for all my friends from Southern part of India. In fact you guys can give me inputs on how to make this better as this was my maiden effort.
What You Need
For the pur or stuffing
Grated Coconut ~ 3 cup
Khoa ~ 12 oz
Sugar ~ 1 cup. If you can use Date Palm Jaggery that would be best
For Batter for Crepe
Maida or All Purpose Flour ~ 3 cup
Sooji or Semolina ~ ½ cup
Rice Flour ~ ¼ cup.
Milk ~ 4 cups + a little more. As you make the batter, if you feel the batter is not thin enough to spread out add more. Note: the batter needs to be really thin and you may need more milk for this. Ideally the batter should spread easily on the griddle when poured
How I Did It
For the Pur or Stuffing
Take 3 cups of grated coconut. Fresh is better but I used frozen. Microwave the frozen one, to make it soft and fluffy
In the Kadai or Frying Pan mix the grated coconut with 1 cup sugar and mix with hand, pressing a little, so that The coconut will become slightly moist because of the sugar. This step is before the pan is put on the stove.
Next Microwave the khoya to make it a little soft
Put the Kadhai/Frying pan with coconut mix in it on the stove and stir.
Add the khoya and keep on stirring till the mixture turns a light brown and is sticky. At this point the mix should not dis-integrate but should look like a light brown slightly sticky granular substance. It took me almost 30 mins to do this
For the Crepe
Take 3 cup pf Maida/ All Purpose Flour
To it add 1/2 cup of Sooji
To it add ¼ cup of Fine Rice Flour. If you have store bought rice flour you may need to grind it once more in your dry grinder to make it fine. See my Note above about batter.
Add 4 cups of Milk, do not add all the milk all at once, add it as you mix so you get an idea as to the consistency of the batter. You may need to add a little more of milk or water depending on the batter thickness
The batter should be a little more liquid than pancake batter
Heat a Frying Pan and smear a little oil/ghee on it
Take a ladle full of batter and pour it on the Frying Pan and tilting the pan and moving the mixture with back of the ladle, evenly distribute the batter in a circle . You have to do this quick before the mix sets
Once you feel one side is cooked flip over
Put the stuffing lengthwise at the centre of the crepe
Fold the crepe and when it browns a little take it out
Drizzle the crepes with condensed milk and serve hot. Ideally my Ma use to thicken the milk, sweeten it and pour it over the crepes. I cut the method short with condensed milk
What I learnt
While using rice flour you have to be careful to make the batter a little more thinner and the crepe more thin, only then it remains soft even when cold. My batter in this case should have been more thin, a consistency that would spread easily on the griddle by tilting the griddle around
Note: Though I used Maida , I plan to use alternate flour like Whole Wheat for making this crepe next.
Edited on Jan14th,2012: Today I made Pati Shapta again. Did not have rice flour so here are the measures to make the batter. In a wide mouthed bowl add 1 Cup Maida + 1/6th cup Sooji + 2 tsp Sugar. Add about 1&1/2 Cup of Milk and mix well to make a smooth batter. You might need to add 1/2 cup more water or milk but do that gradually and not all at once. Rest of the process is same.
Get this recipe in my Book coming out soon. Check this blog for further updates.