Soru chakli pithe and some Sankranti Memories11:16 AM
I tried to hear very carefully. the sound is very faint yet It was not hard to notice it. The hours after dark in a village always are very quiet and a chilly night like this makes everything audible. It's the day of Sankranti at my Grandfather's house. I was barely 12 years old then when I suddenly wanted to see S dida making her famous Soru chakli and Patisapta. She used to work for my grand father's family earlier but not any more. Two shops in the market selling fruits and vegetables by her sons took them out of the misery and she now can relax and take care of her grand kids at home.
But occasions like this makes my family to call her. No one, absolutely no one in the village can make such perfectly round, sot pillowy pithes like her. So on request she came today. Her middle aged lean frame cladded in a pristine white saree showing her widow status. Despite her age, she was quick on her feet and had some kind of determined concentration, reflecting through her clenched lips and square jaw structure. Her frame lean and she smiled very less. As she moved around from soaking the rice and lentil, grinding them to smooth perfection and setting out to cook by offering a small piece to Agnidevata (fire God) I almost clinged to her, watching her every action like a hawk. My mother has told me similar stories how as a young girl she used to sit beside the open fired stove and tasted just put of the pan almost melting in your mouth pithes. I wanted to experience that and many more that those few hours can offer.
we were in the huge kitchen of my grandmother. Though with her limited eye sight she always preferred to cook on the long attached verandah but cold nights like this made it impossible to cook outside so this indoor open stove was fired up today to cook the delicious pithes for Sankranti. There was no electricity and a Kerosene lamp was hung from the wall for light. Its flickering flame through it's iron grid kept changing the shades and shapes on the oil smeared wall. The smoke from the stove, the play of light and shadow and the whirling sound of wind created a different ambiance from time to time sounds of laughter and talk could be heard from the living room, sometimes faint sometimes loud.
I pulled my woolen frock to cover my feet and moved closer to the unun (Stove). S dida put another piece of wood into the fire and shake it to create more heat. The stove is built on the floor. There is a deep groove in the middle where the burning woods are rested and the three enclosing sides almost met with each other at the top where pots and pans are rested while cooking. Due to the festival the whole house is decorated with fresh alpona made out of rice paste and the Kitchen being the heart of the house got its fare share too. The edges of the stove is decorated by maa with beautiful scroll and paisely designs where as the walls are later marked with a slotted spoon dipped in rice paste and a single dot of vermilion to bring in more prosperity during this harvest festival.
Its very cold today but the heat from the stove made the kitchen very comfortable. My Mami (auntie) came hurriedly into the kitchen with a big bell metal plate (Kansa'r thala) in her hand. 'Ar kota holo Sindhu Maima? (how many more have you prepared auntie?) she asked. On such days when the son in laws are visiting, its her the daughter in law of the house's duty to take care of them. While my Grandmother sat with her son in laws, insisting them to eat more, Mamima has to serve them hot food just out of the oven.
S Dida hurriedly took up the piece of newspaper from her side, rolled it and started blowing the fire through it. With another hand she gestured me to start fanning the stove to create more heat. As I obliged, the embers started to fly and I had to move back again. She swiftly put the pot back on fire and started mixing the batter to right consistency. as she pulled the thin batter with a big ladle, milky froth appeared on the surface. She smeared oil to the pan with the cut stem of an eggplant and waited for a few seconds for the pan to get hot. I looked at her face glistening with perspiration from the heat. with very swift movement she then poured a big ladleful of batter and swirls it to cover the entire surface of the pan. As the pan goes back on fire she covers it with a dome shaped lid.
I wait for my turn patiently, to hear that chunk, chunk...Chonk sound, I wait for her to remove the lid, releasing a cloud of white smoke smelling of cardamom, sankranti and my childhood, I wait for the sound to get etched in my mind so that after 24 long years I could still hear it with my eyes closed...
This winter as I prepared the batter I talked about those moments to my almost 6 years old. He heard it with interest and as I poured the batter on the non stick pan and quickly covered with the lid. I instructed him to hear for the sound. With his doe shaped eyes bigger in anticipation, he tried his best. But amidst thounsands of other sounds we could not notice it. Blame it on the non stick pan, or the modern gas oven or my inefficiancy but it was no where. I served breakfast with a heavy heart as something was lost. but my little one cackled with joy 'I love winters Mummum, you make such wonderful treats for winter morning breakfasts".
May be nothing is lost. May be he will have his own childhood memories to share. May be things get changed over time and we experience it in a different way.
No matter what this delicious pithe recipe would be there to comfort us. just go a little extra mile and ditch the shortcut flour-rice flour mixture recipe to get to this real Soruchakli. Trust me you will be surprised to see how easy it is once you give it a try.
An honest whole hearted trial is all these traditional recipes need to be there for our coming generations.
Atop chal (raw rice or not the par biled variety): 2 cups
Biuli dal/ urad dal/ black gram: 3/4 cup
Pinch of salt
Green cardamom: 2 (optional)
White Oil/ghee for cooking
Wash and Soak both of them separately for at least 3-4 hours or till they are soft enough to be ground easily.
Grind them to as smooth a paste as you can make. You can mix them together and make a paste or can mix later. I find it easier to grind them separately.
Mix them together and then start mixing more water to get a thin free flowing batter. Be careful here as a very thin batter will dry out fast on the pan and you will end up with thin rice shards. So add water little at a time.
Heat a griddle or a tawa. A non stick tawa works fine here. The trick is to make the pan very hot so that once you pour the batter it sets fast.
Grease the pan with very litte oil. you can use the cut stem of an eggplant or a piece of kitchen tissue for this. The point is there should not be extra oil on the pan.
Once your pan is hot enough to sizzle a drop of water, take it off from heat. Quickly pour a big ladle ful of batter on it. Swirl immediately to cover the entire surface. The crepes should be thin almost translucent. Put it back on heat and cover for a few seconds for the surface to dry out. This keeps the crepes moise from it's own steam.
Cook it for another minute for the crepes to firm up a little bit and then using a spatula fold it in quarters. You should not have any difficulty in loosening the sides or folding it. If your pan is clean and hot it should come off very easily.
Once you take the soru chakli off from the pan clean it with a damp cloth and repeat again.
Keep them in a shallow bowl. Cover with a piece of thick cloth to catch the steam and then cover with a plate.
Best served just out of the oven with liquid date palm jaggery or nolen gur. You can also serve this with some gravy dish.
A homemaker's notes:
Be sure to stir the batter every time you start preparing a crepe.
Wiping the pan clean after every crepe is very important.
Sending this to KFB's Sankranti special.
Sending this to KFB's Sankranti special.