Recipe: Peetha from West Bengal

duck in west bengal

I’m at West Bengal for a fortnight. Contrary to popular belief, life is not laid back in the village. It’s bright and sunny at 5:45 a.m., and if you are like us, a ray of light sneaking through a crack in the window is enough to jerk us out of bed; no matter how much I’d like to pull the blanket over my head and sleep in.  What if the clock was set half an hour earlier for the eastern parts of the country?

fields

Monsoon has been intermittent this year. The fields are not lush-green. These pictures are from October last year of a dish I enjoy eating immensely: peetha. One of the highlights of our trip. It’s called peetha, and from what Nandita of Saffron Trail mentioned, it’s supposedly a secret recipe that locals aren’t willing to part with. I had been meaning to post it and can you believe it’s been a year already. Tradition has it that it’s only made if there has been no death in the village; it’s not to be made in any home during mourning. Peetha is made from rice flour, sometimes from sooji and stuffed with paneer or khoya and deep fried. Each piece is circular in shape like rotis about the size of your palm. This is a very authentic version as all the ingredients are sourced from nearby, for instance, rice flour from the grains from our fields.

rice flour freshly ground

Step by step pictures:

1. Rice flour made from the grains harvested from our paddy fields. As natural as it gets.

2. Mixed with water and suagr in a big handi over clay oven and stirred vigorously. Yes, the everyday cooking in all homes in our village is done in the earthen oven. Gas is for emergencies only. That’s Dipali you see in the picture below.

dipali cooking

3. Let the dough cool. Shape them into round sized balls and roll them out.

 

rolled dough

4. Meanwhile, make khoya/khoa from cow’s milk and keep it separate.

5. Take two balls of the dough, flatten them.

rolled dough

6. Place a spoonful of khoya on one flattened rice flour dough, and spread it over.

khoya

7. Seal this with another flattened piece of rice flour dough.

8. Take a steel katori and place it over the flattened dough pair to remove the extra dough from the edges. This will also give a perfect circle.

9. Heat oil in a kadai. Once the oil is hot enough, fry the pooris.

peetha

Life is always greener on the other side. Young men from the village migrate primarily to Calcutta and Bangalore to work in the construction industry, while their families stay back here in the village. But, for us city dwellers, the peace here is that no money can buy. I’m off for a stroll in the fields with the ducks, to watch the kids bathe in the ponds, stop by numerous times along the way because my son thinks he has found a precious stone, and look for a beehive in the wild. It’s the everyday life here. I do work here not because I have to but I choose to as I’m more productive here. Checking mails or random calls don’t figure in the scheme of things. What does is the steady stream of visitors who just walk in, say hello in their sweet way, have a cup of chai, chat on random stuff, and leave. But, if you ask the village folks, may be they have an altogether different tale to tell.

This is an old post about life in the village.

See you in two weeks.