A fair where thirteen women battled it out to be named as a top pastry maker in Bradford was held in Manningham, yesterday.
BEAP Community Partnership held its fourth Pitha Mela at Shapla Hall on Cornwall Terrace Manningham, where women from the local Bangladeshi community competed to impress the judges with their pitha creations.
Pitha utshob – as it is known in Bangladesh – is a glorious exhibition during the winter season where people get together to set up stalls and sell their homemade pithas.
Pithas are traditionally made with ingredients such as sugar, molasses, milk, palm syrup or date juice, and sometimes coconut.
The women were able to express their creativity, passion and talent for cooking by demonstrating their best version of a pitha, choosing to either make a sweet, savoury or spicy pasty for the judges to taste.
The four judges – who awarded top marks for taste and presentation – included editor and managing director of Asian Standard, Fatima Patel, Hawarun Hussain, a former councillor for Shipley, Naz Khan and Mr Sayedur Rahman, an elder from Bangladesh who often judges cooking competitions.
The decision was tough, but after much deliberation, the judges came to their verdict and awarded Shakira Begum the first prize of stainless-steel cooking pans for her soft pitha filled with cream.
They awarded Nasima Begum second place with a rice cooker and presented a member of BEAP’s elder women’s group, Nurjhan Begum, third prize and a brand-new electric fan for her fish-shaped pastry that was stuffed with fish which wowed the judges for its creativity.
Over 250 men and women turned up to the event, where they got to enjoy some food and snacks from some of the stalls, including meat biryani, samosas, roast potatoes, sweets and some marshmallows.
Administrator and project officer at BEAP Community Partnership, Rehana Yasmin, said: “We had over 250 people at the event yesterday, probably even more. It was a mixed event; we had a cultural and traditional Pituha utshob, which is a big pitha competition. We had fourteen stalls that all entered the competition.
“The mela was full of culture and fun. We had women turn up in saris and men in their traditional clothes. It was a family event, so we had people bringing their partners and children.
“The weather was beautiful, so we had more of a turnout. It was my first event with BEAP so I was a little bit stressed, but it turned out to be such a fantastic event, I didn’t think it would be so good.”
Laila Afsa, who has volunteered at BEAP Community Partnership for over ten years was one of the main organisers of the event, alongside Mrs Yasmin and project officer, Shanaz Ali. Mrs Afsa, said: “We had thirteen participants who made everything colourful, spicy, sweet and spicy pithas.
“We had quite a lot of people turn up, over two hundred people.
“The whole room was crowded, we could have done with a bigger venue!
“The winners won a slow cooker, a tower fan and a set of three stainless steel pans.
“This year was bigger than ever. The last time we held the mela was in 2020, we were supposed to hold it in 2021 but then the pandemic happened. I think everyone wanted to showcase their talent, I didn’t realise there were so many varieties of pitha, which was wonderful to see.”
Project officer, Shanaz Ali, added: “The event was open to everybody in the community, we held it specifically on a Sunday so that people would be off work and kids wouldn’t be in school. The last Pitha event was held right before lockdown in February 2020, a month before lockdown, so it was great to be able to host it again.”