Like most Bengalis, I grew up eating pithe puli during Poush Sankranti. Till such time I was in Port Blair, my mother and my aunts made limited delicacies on sankranti and afterwards. It was only when I got back to Kolkata in 1992, that I saw my grandmother, going all guns blazing with several pithe puli recipes. She would start her prep the day before and on Sankranti, she would start cooking from 4 a m. By 6:30 in the morning, we would all wake up to the frangrance of ghee in the house and the sound of sizzle on the cast iron griddle. Winters would get more exciting during Poush sankranti. It was a warm fuzzy feeling and the taste buds had a gala time throughout the day. Patishapta, ranga alur dudh puli, chitoi pithe, sobji pithe, koraishutir pithe and so much more to indulge us.

I had almost taken it for granted that someone would be there to make it all for us. One fine day, I saw dudh puli being sold at the sweet shops. I bought a little bit and tasted it and I couldn’t have been more sad. It was nothing like how it tasted at home. That’s when it struck me that if we did not learn the recipes, no matter how complicated, from our mothers and grandmothers, then the next generation would be struck with what the sweet shops would offer. And probably, that wouldn’t even matter to them. After Tugga was born, I knew I had to learn as many recipes as possible. I wanted to give him the same experience that I had. And with each passing year, I add one more recipe to our poush sankranti menu.

Ranga Alur Dudh Puli - 6

What is ranga alur dudh puli?

Ranga alu is sweet potato. It is widely available during winters and it is used to make a variety of desserts. Puli is generally elliptical in shape, with pointy ends. Easily explained, it has the shape of a parwal/ potol or pointed gourd. Normally a puli would have a stuffing of coconut and could be made with a variety of ingredients. There is muger bhaja puli made with roasted moong dal. There is dudh puli made with rice flour coating. Then there is sugar dipped puli with rice flour coating. We love ranga alur roshopuli which is made with sweet potatoes and dipped in a khejur gur syrup (date palm sugar syrup). And then there is ranga alur dudh puli. Here, the puli is made in the same way as a rosho puli and instead of frying them, they are straightaway dunked in thickened milk with khejurer gur.

Patishpta with coconut stuffing is perhaps the most commonly made sankranti recipe

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Ingredients for making ranga alur dudh puli

The ingredients required are

  • Sweet potatoes
  • rice flour – preferably Gobindobhog rice flour
  • very little all pupose flour
  • coconut
  • patali gur- khejurer gur, which is a local date palm jaggery (hardened form)
  • whole milk
  • granulated sugar
  • Suji or semolina
  • milk powder (optional)

This savoury form of chitoi pithe, known as nonta pithe can be cooked in an appe pan. 

One trick for making the coconut stuffing

The coconut stuffing can be pre made and stored in the refrigerator for a week. You will need to grate one coconut and in a frying pan or a kadai, mix the coconut with grated khejur gur and let it caramelise. I add a tsp of semolina and a tbsp of milk powder to this. It’s a trick I learnt from my mother and it helps to make the stuffing sticky and easy to make balls when it cools down. The original way, of course, does not use milk powder or semolina. Just gur and coconut is slowly mixed together over low flame.

Steps to make the puli and a few key points

The first step is to boil the sweet potatoes to just the right consistency. If you over boil, then it does not bind well. Just when the potatoes have become soft, take them out and put them in cold water to stop the cooking process. Then peel the skins and make a mash. You need to add a little bit of rice flour and very little all purpose flour to bind the sweet potato. In case, required, add a tbsp of superfine sugar to this. While the potatoes are boiling, also put the milk in a deep bottomed sauce pan for thickening. It takes time and patience to thicken milk- almost an hour or more.

Alongside, the dumplings can be shaped. Make small balls of the sweet potato dough and take one ball at a time. Gently flatten on the palm of your hand and spoon in half a tsp of the coconut filling in it. Cover the filling with both ends of the dough and press with your finger to seal the edges. Then shape it in a cylinder with pointed edges. When the milk has reduced, add a tbsp of sugar and thicken it further. Mix 1/2 cup of warm milk with grated gur and keep aside. Gur can be added only in the end or else it will curdle the milk. When the milk has thickened, add the dumplings one by one and let the milk boil. When it starts to bubble on the sides, add the gur slurry, give it a gentle stir and turn off the heat.

Ranga Alur Dudh Puli - 2

Serving and storing suggestion

You can serve ranga alur dudh puli only when it has cooled down and it tastes better when chilled. Also, it takes a few hours for the flavours to infuse. This can be stored in the refrigerator for 4 – 5 days at the most.

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Ranga Alur Dudh Puli - 6

Ranga Alur Dudh Puli

Madhushree Basu Roy
A traditional Makar Sankranti recipe, where sweet potato dumplings are stuffed with coconut and jaggery filling and then dunked in thickened milk. The milk is sweetened with season's khejur (date palm) gur or jaggery.
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 2 hrs
Cuisine Bengali
Servings 22 pieces

Ingredients
  

For the Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated coconut
  • 1/2 cup grated gur preferably khejur gur (or else use sugar)
  • 1 tsp semolina
  • 1 tbsp milk powder

For the Sweet potato dumpling

  • 1/2 kg sweet potatoes
  • 1 tbsp fine sugar optional
  • 1/4 cup rice flour preferably gobindobhog rice or any other fragrant short grained rice flour
  • 1 tbsp all puupose flour

For thickened milk

  • 1 1/2 lts Whole milk
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup grated khejur gur

Instructions
 

Making the coconut and jaggery filling

  • The coconut stuffing can be pre-made and stored in the refrigerator for a week. In a frying pan or a kadai, mix the coconut with grated khejur gur and let it caramelise over low flame. When the gur has melted, continue stirring without burning the bottom. Keep the flame low and give the coconut a bit of colour.
  • Add a tsp of semolina and a tbsp of milk powder to this. This helps the filling to come together. Mix everything into a gooey filling and turn off the heat. As it cool down, it hardens a bit.

Making Ranga alur dudh puli

  • The first step is to boil the sweet potatoes to just the right consistency. If you over boil, then it does not bind well. Just when the potatoes have become soft, take them out and put them in cold water to stop the cooking process.
  • Then peel the skins and make a mash when completely cool. Add rice flour and all purpose flour to bind the sweet potato. In case, required, add a tbsp of superfine sugar to this.
  • The dough is a sticky dough and the rice flour helps to bind it well. If it is too sticky, then add a tsp more of rice flour. But adding too much rice flour will make it a hard dough and it will not taste good.
  • While the potatoes are boiling, also put the milk in a deep bottomed sauce pan for thickening. It takes time and patience to thicken milk- almost an hour or more. Keep stirring from time to time over low to meium flame and thicken the milk.
  • Alongside, the dumplings can be shaped. Make small balls of the sweet potato dough and take one ball at a time. Gently flatten on the palm of your hand and spoon in half a tsp of the coconut filling in it. Cover the filling with both ends of the dough and press with your finger to seal the edges. Then shape it in a cylinder with pointed edges. Arrange them on a dry plate and keep aside.
  • When the milk has reduced to 2/3 rd, add a tbsp of sugar and thicken it further.
  • Take 1/2 cup of the warm milk and add grated gur to it. Mix it and make a slurry and keep aside.
  • When the milk has thickened, add the dumplings one by one and let the milk boil. When it starts to bubble on the sides, add the gur slurry, give it a gentle stir and turn off the heat.
  • You can serve ranga alur dudh puli only when it has cooled down and it tastes better when chilled. Also, it takes a few hours for the flavours to infuse. This can be stored in the refrigerator for 4 - 5 days at the most.
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