What are those ? A curious me asks Didi, pointing to the soot-blackened earthenware that she, after minutes, that seemed like hours to me, of persistent scrubbing, has just immersed in a bucket of soapy water.
Why don’t you take a guess ? Didi responds. As she continues to fuss over the ebony earthenware, now playing bo-peep with the bubbles.
My vacant gaze prompts her to drop a hint. You remember, right, that Sankranthi is just round the corner ?
Aha, so something to do with pithe-puli then, I think aloud.
Yes, you are correct, Didi gives in, these are moulds to make chitoi pitha.
And every year, around Sankranthi, the chitoi pitha moulds make a magical re-appearance from the hidden vaults of the windowless sunlight-starved and perennially musty and damp bhnaarar ghor (pantry), illuminated by a lone naked incandescent bulb, before being dusted, scrubbed, soaked, dried and then used in vehement anger for the Sankranti festivities, only to disappear once the euphoria of the harvest festival subsides.
A use and throw culture has still not invaded our lives and the fact that this rather inexpensive non-descript humble artifact is used on just a couple of occasions around Sankranti every year makes not an iota of difference to the magnanimous love and care it receives.
Sankranti is still a week away, but Grandmas kitchen is already a cauldron of frenzied activity.
An uncanny silence greets me as I return from school to the seductive aroma of nolen gur wafting from the kitchen.
And there is Grandma, seated on her ancient pock-marked pnire, in front of the oonoon, the chitoi pitha moulds resting snugly on the tired fire.
She gives the batter a hearty stir and ladles spoonfuls into the cavities of the mould.
And then waits patiently for the rice cakes to cook to perfection.
Didi is seated next to Grandma, watching every step with rapt attention, a starry-eyed student mesmerised by the sublime mastery of the grandmaster over her trade.
And now armed with a spoon and with a deft movement of her wrist, Grandma disengages the pitha from the mould.
I see my princess is back from school. Grandma now notices my presence in the kitchen.
Can I have one ? I plead.
I am making these for you, Grandma smiles, but you need to let them rest for a while to soak up all the delicious kheer.
I am in no mood to wait though, I just drop my satchel on the kitchen floor and look longingly at the chitoi pitha now ready to be taken off the flame.
Chitoi Pitha. Pillowy rice dumplings. The earthy sweetness of grated coconut. A generous drizzle of nolen gur. Soaked in languorously reduced milk, perfumed with more nolen gur.
This is food heaven !!!!
Chitoi Pitha | Doodh Chitoi
- Chitoi Pitha Moulds
- 1.5 cup gobindobhog rice
- 1/2 cup coconut freshly grated
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 cups lukewarm water
- 2.5 lit whole milk
- nolen gur or liquid date palm jaggery to taste
For Chitoi Pitha
- Soak the rice, at least 6-7 hours, even better if done overnight.
- Drain from water, blend to a smooth batter with the 1.75 cups of lukewarm water. The batter should be of medium consistency, not too thin, not too thick.
- Add the freshly grated coconut and just a pinch of salt . Mix well. It the batter is too thick, feel free to add just a splash of warm water. Keep aside, an hour or so.
- Grease the chitoi pithe moulds with a little oil, put over a medium flame. (Please check recipe notes)
- Once the moulds are hit, a minute or so, pour a small ladleful of batter into each cavity, cook for 2-3 minutes or till done. There’s no need to turn the pithe over.
- Gently remove the chitoi pithe with back of your spoon or a knife. Keep aside.
- Repeat for the rest of the batter.
For Doodh Chitoi
- Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed saucepan, simmer over a low flame till the milk reduces to almost one third in volume.
- Once the milk has reduced, add the nolen gur. Give it a hearty stir, gently drop the Chitoi Pithe into the warm kheer.
- Allow the pithe to soak all the delicious kheer, best left overnight.
Immerse the moulds in water, about 4-5 hours . Pat dry. Grease with a little oil, heat over a high flame, about 5 -7 minutes.
Now switch off the flame, allow the moulds to cool down. They are now ready to use . 2. If do not have chitoi Pitha moulds , feel free can use your appam or paniyaram pans as well. (The taste though is not quite the same :-))