Nobanno utsab 1424; a celebration of nature's boon | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 14, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:18 AM, November 14, 2017

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Nobanno — a celebration of nature's boon

Colourful fairs, musical soirees and ceremonial festivals abound in the country to greet the harvest season. Rural Bangladesh dressed in gold; the gleam of freshly golden rice bring life to the fullest and a smile on every face.

Agrahayan, the eighth month in the Bengali calendar, marks the beginning of traditional harvest festival of Nobanno, which means 'new food,' or not so literally, 'new crop'. 

In an agro-based country, where rice is a staple, it is quite natural that the harvesting of fresh crop is a matter of joy. Another major part of the celebration is that it marks the beginning of making pitha — the quintessential Bengali dish for all celebrations. 

It is widely believed that the best pitha are ones made from the fresh harvest. From the savoury chitoi, to the bhapa with jaggery, almost every region of the country has its own variations of it. 

The list of essential ingredients required for making pitha is not a long one; rice flour, coconut, jaggery, milk, and often oil are all that one needs. However, there are traditional rice cakes that require elaborate preparations. 

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Nutritional aspects

The wide variations of rice, each providing a unique texture, also contain varied nutritional values. Rice is about 90 percent carbohydrate, 8 percent protein and 2 percent fat. White rice is a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, iron, folic acid, thiamine and niacin.

One hundred grams of jaggery contains 158 calories; it is rich in minerals, salt, vitamins and even contains some fibre.

One medium-sized coconut weighing about 397grams has 1405 calories, 400 grams edible meat and 30 to 150ml water. The total fat in one coconut is about 133 grams. It is high in saturated fat and fibre. It is an excellent source of minerals such as copper, calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium and zinc. 

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BHAPA PITHA

Ingredients

2 cup parboiled rice

½ cup liquid milk

A pinch of salt

For the filling —

½ cup grated fresh coconut

1 cup date jaggery

Method

Soak the rice for 5-6 hours at least. Drain the water out well. Now grind it in a grinder or food processor. Mix a little bit of water. Add salt and sprinkle milk in a way that the rice powder seems wet. If the flour binds together when you hold some, the flour is ready. Now sieve the flour through the strainer. 

Take two pieces of clean cotton cloth and two small bowls. In a bowl, spread some flour, then add the coconut and jaggery. Cover it with another layer of flour and even it. Cover it with piece of cloth and 

put in the steamer. Tap the bowl slightly, so that you can remove the bowl easily. Remove the bowl and cover the pitha with the remaining ends of the cloth. Steam for 4 to 5 minutes. Prepare the same way using the other bowl and cloth. You remove one pitha and place another. Serve hot.

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Pakon Pitha

Ingredients

2 cups rice flour

2 cups flour

4 cups water

½ tsp salt, 4 eggs

¼ cup ghee

For sugar syrup —

10 cups water

4 cups sugar

2 green cardamoms

2 pieces cinnamon sticks

Oil for deep fry

Method

Whisk eggs in a bowl and keep aside. Melt ghee in another small bowl and keep aside. Mix flour and rice flour in a bowl. Keep aside. In a pan add sugar, water, cardamoms and cinnamon. Boil for 3-4 minutes and the sugar syrup is ready. Remove from heat, transfer to a big bowl and allow it to cool down. 

To prepare the dough, boil four cups of water and salt on medium high heat. Add the flour mixture and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. Once cool, knead. Keep kneading and mix the beaten eggs and ghee a little by little. Knead well to make the dough soft and pliable. Divide the dough into 25-30 equal portions and make round balls. Then turn into your desired shape. You can use a cookie cutter, or any kind of dices, needle, toothpick or knife for design. 

Heat enough oil in a pan on low heat. Fry the pithas until golden brown. Then soak it into sugar syrup overnight. Transfer to a serving plate, pour some sugar syrup over them, then serve soft and juicy pakon pitha.

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Golap pitha 

Ingredients

1 cup flour

½ cup milk

1 cup sugar

¼ tsp salt

1 tbsp ghee

1 cardamom

½ inch cinnamon stick

Oil to deep fry

Cookie cutter

Method

Make syrup with sugar, cardamom, cinnamon and 2 cups of water. Keep aside because we need a lukewarm syrup. Now boil milk with salt and when it comes to the boiling point, add flour. Turn the heat off and let it sit for 3-4 minutes under a closed lid. Make a smooth dough with boiling flour and ghee. Divide the dough into 4 balls. Roll each ball into thin bread and cut with a cookie cutter. We need 3 to make 1 rose. You need to bend or spread the petals to make it look like a flower. Heat oil in a pan and fry the pitha till it becomes a golden brown. Fry it in oil and then soak in syrup for 3 minutes. Take it out from syrup and serve the beautiful golap pitha.

RICE AND COCONUT LADDU 

Ingredients

2 cup scraped fresh coconut 

1½ cup dry roasted rice powder

2 tbsp ghee

¼ cup mixed nuts

½ cup condensed milk

2 cup jaggery

Method

Heat ghee in a non-stick pan. Add the scraped coconut and jaggery and cook for a few minutes. Add one cup roasted rice powder and condensed milk to it. Mix well and cook for 10 minutes or until it turns sticky and you can make balls from the mixture. Now add mixed nuts and switch off the heat, mix continuously for 2-3 minutes. Transfer the prepared mixture in a bowl and set aside to cool. Divide the prepared mixture into equal portions and shape them into laddus. Coat the laddus in the remaining roasted rice powder. Store or serve.



KHEER PULI

Ingredients

2 cups flour

4 tbsp ghee

A pinch of salt

2 cups thickened milk kheer

Oil to deep fry

Method

Place the flour in a mixing bowl. Add salt and ghee. Mix well. Now add a little water to make the dough. Knead the dough for 5 minutes to make it smooth. Cover and keep aside for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat and stir the kheer until it becomes flaky. Take a small part of the dough and roll it out like a medium sized tortilla. 

Cut out a circle with cookie cutter. Place a small amount of kheer filling on each circle. Brush the edges with water and seal tightly to form a crescent shape. Keep aside. Heat oil in a pan and deep fry until the pithas are light, crispy and golden brown. Repeat to make more pithas of varying size.

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ZAFRANI KHEER PATISHAPTA

Ingredients

For the batter-

1 cup rice flour

¼ all purpose flour

½ cup liquid molasses

1 cup liquid milk

For the stuffing -

2 litre milk

2 tbsp rice flour

Saffron, soaked in milk

Sugar to taste

Chopped dried nuts, pistachio, almond, walnut and raisins

Method

Make a thin batter with the batter ingredients. The batter should not be too runny or too thin. The batter should be free flowing. Cover and keep it aside for at least an hour and half. To make the stuffing, heat the milk with sugar and keep stirring until it is reduced to half. Soak saffron in another small bowl in milk and add it to the milk. Add sugar and the milk mixed with the rice flour. Keep stirring till the milk thickens. Fold in the mixed nuts and raisins. Remove from heat and allow it to cool. Now heat the non-stick pan and grease it with a little bit of oil. Take a small amount of batter at a time and spread on its hot surface in round shapes. Take 2 spoonfuls of stuffing, place on the side of the pitha and roll into a cylindrical shape. Arrange on a plate and serve.

NOTUN CHAL-ER KHEER

Ingredients

½ cup aromatic rice, 2 litre milk

¾ cup date jaggery, ¼ cup mix nut

Method

Soak rice in water for half an hour. Let the water drain. Crush the rice with your hand. Heat the milk on a pan to boil. When the milk is reduced to half, add rice to it and cook in low heat. As the milk thickens keep on stirring the mixture or it will stick to the bottom of the pan. When the mixture becomes thick, add jaggery and nuts and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and prepare to serve.

Photo: LS Archive

 

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