Sans much fanfare, authentic Bihari cuisine is earthy and wholesome. Ingredients like jaggery (gur), besan (gramflour) and sattu (roasted black chickpea flour) are used liberally and occupy a place of pride in Bihari kitchens. Here are a few recipes for some traditional desserts and a simple yet refreshing summer drink for sattu shake.
Gur ka ladoo
Total cooking time: 2 hours; 18 to 20 ladoos
½ kg gramflour
1 kg gur or jaggery
250 gm ghee
½ cup cashewnuts
½ cup raisins
Mix gramflour in four cups of water; blend well for thick consistency. Keep aside for 30 minutes. Heat ghee in a big and deep kadhai. Use a ghanghra (big stirring spoon with multiple holes) and hold it over the top of the kadhai and pour gramflour on it slowly to make small balls that will go directly in the ghee. Deep-fry small balls until brown. Repeat this process until you have enough gramflour balls. Add these balls to the gur syrup (recipe below) and stir on medium-to-high flame for 5 to 10 minutes. Add cashewnuts and raisin. Stir for two minutes. Once a bit cool (but not completely cool), take out this gramflour and jaggery mix on a big plate or container. Also, keep a bowl of water handy. Now roll out this syrupy mix into round ladoos and keep wetting your hand in the water bowl while making ladoos, else the thick syrup will stick to your hand and make the process messy. These ladoos can stay put in a closed container for couple of months.
Gur syrup recipe
Put a kadhai on medium flame. Add two cups of water to gur to prepare the syrup. Pour the gur and water mix into the kadhai. Stir well continuously to get a good syrupy consistency. Increase the flame and bring this syrup to a boil three times. Now it is ready to be mixed with fried gramflour balls.
Total cooking time: 1 hour, 10 minutes; 20 pedas
2 kg full-cream milk
250 gm white sugar
5 crushed cardamom
Boil milk in a deep pan or kadhai for one hour to make it thick and creamy. Once the milk has thickened, add sugar. Stir well and crush milk and sugar alongside to make it into a smooth mix. Add cardamom. Keep stirring this mix continuously or it will stick to the bottom of the pan. Once it is light brown, take out this milk and sugar semi-solid mix. Let cool for 10 minutes. Mould the mix with your hands into flat and round pedas. Store the pedas in an airtight container; it stays fresh for couple of months.
Total cooking time: 1 hour, 15 minutes; 10 to 12 thekuas
400 gm wholewheat flour
2 tablespoon chopped coconut
300 gm jaggery (gur)
5-6 ground green cardamom
200 ml ghee/vegetable oil (ghee is a better option)
3-4 chopped dates
Mix jaggery and cardamom with two cups of water to make a watery solution. Mix 4 tablespoon ghee/oil to the jaggery and water solution. To this blend, add wholewheat flour, chopped coconut, raisins and date to make a thick dough (slightly thicker than what is made for chapatis). Take a lump of dough - the size that is usually used to make chapatis – and press it flat on your palm. Once flat, press this dough against a thekua saancha (thekua maker - you get this in Bihar-based stores) to get the saancha imprint that is interesting with intricate mehendi-like designs. Heat ghee in a deep kadhai and deep-fry the thekuas until they are rusty brown in colour. Strain the ghee from thekuas and let cool. Store in an airtight container – thekuas can last up to 3 to 4 months.
Namkeen Sattu Shake
Preparation time: 15 minutes; 5-6 glasses
1.5 litres of cool water
6-7 tablespoon sattu (roasted black chickpea flour)
1/4 teaspoon black salt
Chopped half green chilli (optional)
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp fresh lime juice
Take chilled water in a big container or jug and add sattu, black salt, cumin powder, green chilli and lime juice. Stir all the ingredients thoroughly for couple of minutes with a big stirring spoon. Serve fresh or you can chill it in the fridge and use later but consume this beverage within a day. It is a great coolant that is believed to reduce the impact of loo in peak summer months.