Makar Sankranti brings back a number of childhood memories. At this time of the year we were always at our maternal grand parent's place where it used to be kind of 'pithe'....... sweet and salted steamed or fried snacks festival during Makar Sankranti. Our grandfather had some landed property in the outskirts of the small hamlet they lived in, about 100km away from Kolkata. So, fresh farm produce used to come from there, of which date palm jaggery and juice were a part. Our wintry morning started with drinking 'khejurer rosh'.... date palm juice. Then almost everyday in and around makar sankranti, Grand mom used to prepare various kind of pithe. The sweet ones had khoya, lentil and coconut fillings whereas the salted ones we had with liquid date palm jaggery. My grandma lived few years in Assam where she learnt a number of steamed pithe . Wish I could try them all some day.
We get very good sweet potatoes throughout the year in the place we stay. Bengalis do prepare a number of sweets with sweet potato which we call ranga aloo. This is a very simple recipe of sweet potato dumplings with a dal / lentil and shredded coconut stuffing. It is a fried sweet meat or pithe soaked in sugar syrup that is done mainly in winter. I do it when I feel like. Let us prepare Ranga Aloor Puli Pithe together.
INGREDIENTS : [for the filling]
Moong Dal [split yellow dal] : 1small cup
Shredded Coconut : 1/3small cup
Sugar : 1/2small cup
Ghee : 2tbsp
INGREDIENTS : [for the sugar syrup]
Sugar : 1small cup
Water : 11/2big cup
Green Cardamom : 2-3
INGREDIENTS : [for the coverage]
Ranga Aloo [Sweet Potato]: 3-4 [medium size]
Sugar : 1tbsp
Refined Flour : 11/2tbsp
Cardamom Powder : 1tsp
Oil : 1medium cup to fry the dumplings.
Dry roast the moong dal and soak in hot water for 2 hours.
Take out the skin of the sweet potatoes, wash and cut them half. Boil them till tender in enough water, cool and drain the water. Take in a bowl and mash well adding the refined flour, sugar and cardamom powder.
Drain the water from the dal, wash and grind to a paste in the grinder adding very little water. Heat 2tbsp ghee in a wok. Add the dal and keep stirring till it comes out of the sides and the raw smell goes away. Add the sugar and shredded coconut, fold in well and stir cook for 3-4 minutes. Our stuffing is ready.
Now shape the sweet potato mix into tennis size balls, smoothen by rolling between palms for a while. Make a hole and fill with the dal and coconut stuffing. Close and flatten a bit. This takes less oil to fry.
Heat oil in a wok. Fry the stuffed dumplings in batches. Simultaneously we will prepare the sugar syrup with sugar, water and green cardamom.
Take out the fried dumplings and place onto tissue paper. The sugar syrup need not be too sticky, little will do. Switch off gas once done.
Now soak the stuffed fried dumplings in the sugar syrup. Serve hot or chilled after sometime as you prefer.