This week, on January 14 most people from the Indian subcontinent would celebrate Makar Shankranti which symbolizes the rice harvesting in parts of Asia. Rice, which is a staple in most parts of Asia, is harvested during the winter. The rice harvesting festival like Thanksgiving is an annual tradition where family and friends get together and share food with each other. In Phoenix, many temples like ISKCON Temple in Chandler, and Ekta Temple in Phoenix would hold special services to commemorate the occasion.
There are many recipes which are specially cooked in Asian homes at the time of rice harvest. Most of these recipes involve rice grain either cooked whole or in a powdered form. This is also the time when jaggery (especially date palm jaggery) is available. Jaggery is a raw form of sugar like molasses and is available as syrup or in solid cubes. You can get date palm jaggery in Phoenix in Bangladeshi stores like I-Mart in Chandler or Desi Plaza in Tempe. The sweet dumplings made of rice, jaggery and milk during this time are called pithe in Eastern India. I am including recipes for payesh (kheer or rice pudding) and two types of pithe that are commonly eaten during this time.
Gurer Payesh (rice pudding or kheer with jaggery): There are many recipes for kheer but this one uses jaggery instead of sugar.
- 1 qt Half and Half
- 1 cup short grained rice (Kalajeera or gobindabhog)
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ tsp cardamom powder
- 1 cup date palm jaggery
Boil the milk (or half and half) in a deep vessel till it is reduced by a quarter (about 15 mins). Add 1 bay leaf to the milk while it is boiling. Soak the rice in water an hour before you start cooking. Drain the water and cook the rice in the milk till it is well cooked (15 mins). The consistency should be of thick pudding. If it is too thick add 1 cup of warm milk to the pudding. Switch off the stove and let the pudding remain on the stovetop. Now add the cardamom powder and jaggery to the pudding. The heat of the stove would melt the jaggery. Mix the jaggery well with the pudding and serve when cool.
Patishapta: It is a crepe like dumpling made of rice powder, semolina powder, coconut and jaggery and the batter is fried like a crepe and then rolled with the coconut inside. For the recipe check the article for rice and semolina crepes at http://www.examiner.com/article/rice-and-semolina-crepes-for-winter-fest...
Puli Pithe: These rice dumplings are made of rice powder and then cooked in milk. I use cream of rice which is a mixture of long grained and parboiled rice instead of just rice powder. The dumplings are filled with a coconut filling. The recipe is the same as coconut balls which you will find at http://www.examiner.com/article/googly-eyeballs-halloween-treat-from-coc...
- 1 cup cream of rice powder
- 1 ½ cups of warm water
- ½ qt half and half
- 1 cup date palm jaggery
- 1 cup of sweet coconut filling
Mix the rice powder with the warm water till it resembles dough. Take a roll of rice dough and roll it in your palm. Make a depression in the centre and fill with coconut filling. Close the dumpling and make it into a spindle shape. Make more coconut stuffed dumplings with the rest of the dough. Heat the half and half in a deep vessel along with the jaggery. When the milk is boiling, add the dumplings into the milk. Cook for 5-7 mins. till the dumplings are cooked. Serve warm.