Foxtail and Mutton Pitha

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Manda, Enduri, Poda, and Ketli. These are just a few of the many pithas—sweet or savory stuffed pancakes—eaten in Odisha. Made with rice flour as the outer coating, they can be steamed, fried, or pan-roasted, and use seasonal fillings, making them an incredibly versatile food. When steamed or pan-roasted, they are enclosed in locally available leaves like turmeric or saal. Traditionally, this savoury pitha recipe uses rice, and green saal leaves as a wrap.

Sayani was unable to find saal leaves in Kolkata however, and used banana leaves instead, and substituted the rice flour with foxtail millet flour. It is stuffed with minced mutton, and makes for a hearty lunch when paired with a side of raita or salad.
Foxtail millet flour 2 cups
Banana leaves 8
Hot water 1 cup
Mutton (minced coarsely) 1 ½ cups or 250 grams
Large onion (sliced) 1 ½
Garlic (peeled) 2 tablespoons
Ginger (cubed) 1 tablespoon
Coriander seeds 2 tablespoons
Cumin seeds 1 tablespoon
Whole peppercorn 1 teaspoon
Cinnamon stick (inch long pieces) 2
Green cardamom pods 2
Cloves 4
Dry red chillies 4 to 5
Bay leaves (halved) 2
Garam masala 1 teaspoon
Mustard oil 4 tablespoons
Turmeric powder ½ teaspoon
Sugar ½ teaspoon
Salt To taste

An iron frying pan/tawa, one mixing bowl, one wok or kadhai, a spoon, one steel plate or lid, a heavy weight or pestle, a spatula

1

Wipe the banana leaves with a damp tea towel and lightly grill both sides over an open flame. This makes the leaves pliable enough to work with.

 

2

Remove the thick end of the leaves and compost them. Now, depending on the size of your iron pan or tawa, cut the leaves into smaller pieces.

3

Make a coarse paste of the ginger, garlic, and all the dry spices (coriander seeds, cumin seeds, whole peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, green cardamom pods, cloves, and red chillies) using a mortar and pestle or a mixie. Set it aside. Do not add the bay leaves to this paste.

 

4

Add two tablespoons of mustard oil to the wok or kadhai. Once the oil is hot and turns pale yellow, add the sugar. This helps to caramelize the onions.

5

Add the hand torn bay leaves to the hot oil, and after a few seconds, slide the sliced onion into the wok.

6

Fry the sliced onions until they are partially caramelized, and look golden brown.

 

7

Add the coarsely ground paste to the onions, along with the turmeric powder. Mix everything thoroughly with a spatula and saute for two minutes.

8

Turn the flame on high, and add the ground meat to this mixture. Cook for five minutes.

 

9

Turn down the heat, and cover the wok with a lid. Cook the meat until it is done, about 15 minutes. Stir every three to four minutes so it does not stick to the bottom of the wok.

10

Once the meat is cooked, check its flavour, and add salt. Remember that the millet flour will go in after this, so the salt needs to be adjusted accordingly.

11

Take the wok off the stove and turn off the flame. Add the foxtail millet flour and water to the meat and mix well. The mixture should come together to form a soft, sticky dough.

 

12

Use a pastry brush or your fingers and use some of the remaining mustard oil to coat the banana leaves. This ensures that the pitha dough does not stick to the leaves.

13

Divide the pitha dough into two parts. Put one half on the oiled surface of the banana leaf and press gently with your fingers to shape and spread it across the center of the leaf in a circle. Cover the pitha with another oiled leaf, ensuring that the oiled surface is the one in contact with the pitha.

 

14

Turn on the stove and heat the frying pan on a medium flame. Once hot, pour some oil on it and let it coat the pan well. Place one banana leaf on the pan, and then position the leaf-wrapped pitha on top of this leaf. Cover the pitha with another leaf, so that it does not get burnt.

15

Cover the pan with a lid. Place a heavy weight or pestle on top of the lid—first horizontally, then vertically—for five minutes each. This will allow the pitha to cook for ten minutes on a low to medium flame.

 

16

Carefully remove the pestle. and gently remove the leaf wrapped pitha onto a plate. Turn it over, and place this uncooked side back onto the pan and cover with the lid again. Repeat the previous step by placing the pestle onto the lid.

17

Repeat steps 13 through 16 for the remaining pitha dough.

18

Place the pithas on a large plate and peel away the banana leaves.

 

19

Serve the pithas warm with a side of salad, raita, or raw onion.

 

Tips

Be careful while turning the pitha over—the leaves will be hot, and you also don’t want the pitha to move too much.

Variations

Substitute the mutton with a meat of your choice, and adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Sayani Sengupta is the lab lead for the MRP cooking lab, and a home chef based out of Kolkata. Sayani runs her own food brand, Gooseberri, for which she often writes recipes. Her recipes have also featured in Bengali magazines, such as Sananda, as well as other publications like Times of India, Telegraph, and Indulge Express.

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