Maa's Sobzi dewa Nonta Puli (Savoury Pithe)

7:47 AM


The first house we ever lived in Santiniketan had an unusual floor plan. We had to enter the second floor that we rented from a man in his seventies through a staircase in the garden. The entrance was halfway through the stairs and the whole second floor was divided into various levels. The kitchen, for example, was higher than the main living area. We had to take 6 steps to enter a narrow red oxide kitchen with big windows on both ends. The bathroom and the small round verandah were lower with 4-5 steps down the hall. We had only two bedrooms and a small hall but we never complained because it had a sprawling garden with almost all sorts of fruit trees and a huge terrace. We spent most of our waking times there and in summer even we slept under the stars. 

During winter we loved the terrace more. Baba arranged for a folding canopy made out of tarpaulin for that very purpose. In the evening we just had to tuck the four ends to the polls on the side to save ourselves from the chilly winds. our house help would also prepare the portable coal stove for maa to prepare rotis for dinner.  Once it was lit all our studies, cooking, crafting and dinner would take place around it. No one would want to leave that area, comforting, toasty and warm. 

It's here that I learnt how to make Pithes. I was hardly 8, and eager to help around the house. So when on the day before Sankranti Maa started kneading dough for Puli Pithe I wanted to join in. While we loved our sweet pithes, Baba was never a fan. He loved everything savoury and every year maa would make this sobjir pur dewa nonta puli for him. They tasted great, especially it brought in the much-needed respite from all the sweetish pithes that we generally got to it everywhere.

I believe nonta puli is quite common across households. Everyone has their own version of the stuffings, Maa used potato, cabbage, cauliflower and fresh peas for the stuffing. and once the pulis were steamed she would add a tempering of Jeera, dry chillies and til just before serving.

Here is my recipe for Maa's nonta puli. I know I missed the time around Sankranti to post it but if you are like me then you would love making them till the winter lasts.

Also for the quality of rice flour please check the notes at the end.

Happy Pithe eating. Enjoy the weather till its there.

Nonta Puli
(Makes 15-17 pieces 3" puli)

Method:
Stuffing:
Thinly sliced cabbage: 1cup tightly packed
Chopped cauliflower: 3/4 cup (cut in very small pieces)
New potato, very thinly sliced: 1/4 cup
Fresh peas: 1/4 cup
Ginger paste: 1 tspCoriander powder: 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds: 1/2 tsp
Green chillies: 3-4 or as per your taste
Salt
Sugar: 1/3 tsp
Turmeric
Mustard/white oil: 2 tsp

The shell:
Rice flour: 11/2 cups 
Water: 3/4 cup to 1 cups (Please see notes)
Salt: 1/2 tsp

For tempering:
White or mustard oil: 2 tsps
Cumin seeds: 1/2 tsp
Dry red chillies: 3-4
White sesame seeds: 2 tsp

Method:
Start by making the dough. Take a heavy bottom pan with a cup of water. Once the water comes to a boil take out 1/2 cup. Add the salt to it and bring the flame to its minimum. Pour in the rice flour and cover with a lid. Do not stir. after a minute open the lid and using a thick spatula start bringing in together. If you see the water is absorbed add little water at a time. Once you do not see any more dry flour. Switch off the flame and take out the dough. Cover tightly and let it cool down a little bit. Then knead it using the palm of your hand. If needed add more water or flour. The dough would be a little sticky but don't worry it will be perfect once it comes to room temperature. Keep it covered at all stages.

Now make the stuffing.
Heat the oil in a pan and add cumin and chillies. Once it starts to splutter add the ginger paste, coriander powder, salt and turmeric mixed with 2 tbsp water and cook for a minute. Next add the veggies, all together and mix. On medium let it cook for some time. Fresh veggies will release a lot of water, let the water simmer and the veggies to cook in it. It will take approximately 10-12 minutes for the veggies to dry, then lightly mash the peas to get an even texture. add salt, sugar or chillies as per your taste and take off heat. Let it cool down completely.


Making the Puli:
Before starting the puli making, knead the dough again and take out small lemon sized ball in it. Please keep the dough, the balls and the pulis covered under tight lid all the time or they will harden around the surface. 
Keep a bowlful of water handy to moisten your dough balls and hands.
Take a small dough ball and flatten it on your palm. We use the thumb to make a dent in the centre and then press to get an evenly thin shell. If the shell is too thick you would taste only the dough, the idea here is to keep it thin so that while eating you get a good balance of shell to stuffing.
Place a spoonful of stuffing in the centre and carefully bring the edges together. Press the edges so that while steaming the stuffing stays inside. It takes a little practice so even if you find it hard in the beginning after 3-4 pulis you will get a hang of it.

Once you have sealed the edges carefully smoothen the surface to give it a cylindrical shape with tapered sides. Please refer to the pictures for better understanding. Keep them aside and make the rest.

Once all are done heat up a big potful of water for steaming them. Grease your steamer and place the pulis in it. Steam for 10 minutes on medium or till the surface of the pulis starts to glisten.
Take off from heat.

In another pan heat the oil and once hot add the cumin and red chillies. Once they start to splutter add the pulis and gently roll them in the tempering. Finish off with a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds.

Serve with good quality Kasundi or fresh green coriander chutney.

A Homemaker's Notes:
  • Here are a few pointers about rice flour. For this recipe you can use any type of rice flour, store-bought packaged ones, homemade or pounded in the dhenki which are available at speciality shops these days. But please remember store bought powder will soak more water and homemade/dhenki rice powder will absorb very little water.
  • You can even experiment with the stuffing recipe. Like in Bangladesh you can even add chicken or fish in stuffing.

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