Fuljhuri Pitha (ফুলঝুরি পিঠা)

The pitha basket at my Mehendi. Photo Credit: 3rd Eye Captures

Ah, talk about a long hiatus! I have been quite busy since my wedding—with all the moving and settling into my new life, which is out of the city and into the country! Even amidst the Southern hospitality, I have hardly had the time to update my social media as much as before. But that should not be an excuse and I will try to post regularly from now on…

During my wedding festivities, in particular, at my Mehendi Event, I remember my father bringing in a special customized basket full of a variety of Bangladeshi pithas (cakes, sugary pastries and/or crispy treats made of rice flour). I was so intrigued by it because I have always always always wanted to learn how to make them! I have watched my grandmother intricately make some teler pithas (তেলের পিঠা) and bhapa pithas (ভাপা পিঠা) some time ago and couldn’t help but wonder how many tries did it take for her to get the pithas just in the correct consistency, shape, texture, color, and taste! Kudos to her and surely, I have got a whole lot of learning to do from the women in my family.

Today, I wanted to give my cookie presses a little test by trying the “more simpler” of the pithas, fuljhuri pitha. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t as easy as it looks. The success of the pithas have a lot to do with the temperature of the frying oil, how hot the cookie press is, how quickly can the press reach the batter without getting stuck, and the consistency of the batter.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups of rice flour
  • 1/4 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 tspn of salt
  • 1/2 cup of water (add if additional needed)
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 3 cups of oil (for frying)
  • 2 eggs
  1. In a frying pan (I used a 12″ pan), add the oil on medium heat. The temperature should reach about 280-325F for preferable frying temperature.
  2. Take a rosette cookie press and heat it on the pan with oil. The press has to be hot enough to hold the batter.
  3. In a bowl, mix the flours, salt, sugar, water, milk, and eggs.
  4. The consistency of the batter should be slightly thinner than a pancake or waffle batter. The thicker the batter, the harder it is for the cookie press to hold the mix or even for the batter to take the press’ shape.
  5. At this point, the oil in the pan should be hot enough.
  6. Remove the cookie press from the pan, lightly shake off the excess oil into the frying pan and quickly press into the batter until all the sides of the bottom of the press are covered. You don’t want to submerge the press fully into the batter because it will be difficult for the mixture to fall into the pan. The batter will begin to cook upwards and the batter will end up cooking within the press itself instead of falling off into the oil. Hence, submerge the press halfway into the batter.
  7. Take the press with the batter, and quickly submerge it into the frying oil. Lightly shake the press around so that the cookie falls off into the oil. If it does not do so on its own, take a wooden toothpick (I used a chopstick) and gently push the inside and/or outside of the press’ design. Fry the pitha or cookie until golden brown. About 3-4 minutes should be fine. The heat should be on medium the whole time!
  8. As the pitha or cookie is frying, leave the cookie press to rest in the hot oil again before repeating steps 6-7.
  9. Prior to putting the batter in the frying pan, if you notice that the heat from the press is cooking the batter itself once submerged and thickening it, you can add additional milk or water 1 tspn at a time.

I had to play around with the consistency to finally get a hold of the texture and color that I was looking for. At the same time, my husband came by to see what I was up to and he wanted to give the cookie press a try as well. How lucky of him, because it took him one attempt to get a hold of the whole process! Yes, Mr. Urban, I am giving you some credit as well!

Check out the final results…


Stuffed Eggplants with Ground Lamb

dsc_0731I was looking through Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s elegant and stylistic cookbook, Jerusalem when I found this particular lamb dish that I knew that I had to try. Soon after, I hosted a Middle Eastern themed dinner with some of my friends at my house and decided to cook this dish with a bit of a Bengali twist! I had to improvise a bit because I did not have some of the ingredients at stock and with the Bengali twist, I had to spice the meat up! But the dish itself was a hit! A big thanks to my lovely girls for making the time and saving their appetite!

Ingredients: 

  • 3 medium eggplants cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 lb ground lamb
  • 1 medium capsicum diced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1.5 tspn ground cumin
  • 1.5 tspn ground coriander
  • 1 tspn garam masala
  • 1/4 tspn ground red chili powder
  • 1/4 tspn paprika
  • 1 tspn black pepper
  • 1 tspn sumac
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp salt (add additional if needed)
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup of freshly chopped mint leaves (to garnish)
  • 3/4 cup of olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Wash the outside of the eggplants. Slice them lengthwise in half. Take 3 tbsp of the olive oil, mix with a pinch of salt and black pepper, and coat the eggplants and the outer skin with this mixture.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the ground lamb, add the pastes, the spices, the lemon juice, and leave it for about 30-minutes.
  4. Place the eggplants, skin down on a baking tray and place in the oven to roast for about 30-45 minutes. The texture must be brown and the eggplant must be soft enough but a bit firm enough to retain its shape.
  5. In the meantime, dice one medium onion and capsicum to mix with the ground lamb.
  6. Heat a medium frypan with 4 tbsp of olive oil and cook the ground lamb for at least 15-minutes or until cooked. I like to remove the lamb precisely in 15-minutes to keep the meat juice as it will cook further in the oven anyway. Stir the meat occasionally.
  7. Remove the eggplants from the oven and allow it to cool down. They are very hot to work with at this point!
  8. When cooled, take a large spoon and make an incision in the center of the eggplant as it will be easier to push down or rather make room for the ground lamb stuffing.
  9. After the meat has cooked, take a generous amount of the lamb and stuff the eggplants equally and place it back in the oven for the next 10-15 minutes to cook.
  10. As the stuffed eggplants are in the oven, heat the same pan with the rest of the olive oil.
  11. Take the medium onion and thinly slice them. Coat them with flour and add them to the heated oil. Fry until golden-brown. On a separate plate, place a few layers of bounty for the oil to absorb. Remove the onion onto the plate. Wah-lah! There you have it, crispy fried onions.
  12. Remove the stuffed eggplants from the oven.
  13. Chop the mint leaves.
  14. Garnish the stuffed eggplants with mint and crispy onions. Serve warm with a side of rice and chilled yogurt sauce.

Reflections of My Trip to Bangladesh

Family Home in Kulaura, Sylhet

I paid a visit to Bangladesh some time around February as an opportunity to make amends with the past. Since Dadu, grandmother had passed away, I haven’t felt the desire to go back because things were no longer the same. The nostalgic memories of childhood where my brother and I would be mischievous by playing hide-and-seek in the family home with our cousins, playing cricket and badminton with the maids and neighborhood children, eating numerous bags of Potato Cracker Chips, secretly watching the cooks prepare a delicious full-course menu, watching pithas being made over bonfires, and chasing the farm animals all seemed like a distant memory. What’s interesting is that these bits and pieces of memories are shared by all of my paternal cousins. When visiting Dadu’s home, it felt as if she was watching over me. I missed her so much and Bangladesh never felt like Bangladesh in the robust capital of Dhaka anyway. Once I got to Sylhet and passed through the serene nature: the mountain of tea gardens, the mango trees, jujube trees, and streets filled with fresh pineapple, I knew I was back to a place where I could call home. This was a place where I could re-visit moments of my childhood again as well as make new memories in the new year…

Rickshaw ride to the heart of Amtoil to visit the places where my father grew up.

Rickshaw ride into the heart of Amtoil to visit the places where my father grew up.

Local school children in Amtoil

Local school children in dad’s village in Amtoil

Boro Dada (great-uncle), my Dadu's older brother in Kotomata

Boro Dada (great-uncle), my Dadu’s older brother in Kodomata

Rena, my nanny during my first visit to Bangladesh at the age of 1

Rena, my nanny during my first visit to Bangladesh at the age of 1

Babu Kaka, the night guard after a long day of Saraswati puja festivities

Babu Kaka, the night guard after a long day of Saraswati Puja festivities

Colorful sari and shawl stands in Jaflong, Sylhet

Colorful sari and shawl stands in Jaflong, Sylhet

Stone collectors in Jaflong, Sylhet

Stone collectors in Jaflong, Sylhet

Stone collectors in Jaflong, Sylhet

Stone collectors in Jaflong, Sylhet

The making of dad's museum, the nation's first arts and sports museum

The making of dad’s museum, the nation’s first arts and sports museum

Carpenter making handmade intricate designs for furniture

Carpenter making handmade intricate designs for furniture

After a bath in the pond in Moulvibazar, Sylhet

After a bath in the pond in Moulvibazar, Sylhet

Tea collector in Ghazipur, Sylhet

Tea collector in Ghazipur, Sylhet

Hasina's Ma, Dadu's caretaker

Hasina’s Ma, Dadu’s caretaker