Puran Poli – a sweet lentil stuffed flatbread

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Today we celebrate holi, the festival of color; the celebration of victory of good over evil.

Holi, is a popular Hindu festival celebrated over 2-5 days in India. On the evening of the first day, public bonfires are made, called Holika Dahan. On the next day (or 5th day in some states) people play with colors. My memories of Holi are of the bonfires and all of my loved ones gathering around them to pray. The fifth day is the most colorful day where we shower our friends, family and even those we don’t know with vibrant color both powder and liquid. Even after the holiday passes the streets of India look like a Monet covered in a sea of color.

Today we are celebrating with traditional Maharastrian food – Puran Poli /sweet lentil stuffed flatbread. Puran Poli is delicacy made by stuffing soft whole wheat dough with cooked yellow lentils, jaggery/brown sugar, cardamom, nutmeg and saffron. It is then rolled thin and cooked on a griddle with lots of ghee to make it into a golden brown, flavorful and aromatic flat bread. When torn apart it is ooey-gooey perfection.

Growing up, I did not enjoy this dish as much; which was a bit odd as the rest of my family devoured this dish for a couple of days. I would beg my Mom to make me a plain bread without the sweet stuffing, but she never entertained my request. I would have to eat at least one before I would get to enjoy the rest of the delicacies that she would have prepared.

Years later, after I moved to the US, with my mom visiting me and me visiting home; I started liking this dish so much that I had to learn how to cook it.  With my mom’s precise instructions, I then made it several times, each time to the perfection that I would have expected from my Mom. Thankfully, both my children and my husband LOVE it and so it makes all the effort worthwhile. I make it a point to make Puran poli at least twice a year, once for Diwali – festival of lights and then for Holi – the festival of colors.

Even though the process sounds a bit long and tedious, it is a no fail recipe for me.I make the stuffing a day ahead and let it cool in the fridge overnight. Usually I use a pressure cooker for cooking lentils but for this dish I let the lentils cook slowly in a big pot on the stove top.

This recipe requires split bengal gram/chana daal and jaggery, which is raw brown sugar. It also uses spices like cardamom, nutmeg, dry ginger and saffron.

Step by step recipe:

Wash the chana daal 2-3 times. Drain all the water and then add 5 times water along with the lentils in a heavy bottomed pot. Let the lentils cook on medium-low heat for at least an  hour, stirring few times. If you see white foam rise up from the lentils, gently discard the foam with a spatula. The lentils should be cooked very soft, test them by pressing between thumb and index finger and it should be very soft and mushy. Cooking time may vary, I usually let mine cook for couple of hours on medium low heat. If you can stay near the stove while it is cooking you may want to cook it at medium high, stirring more frequently, in which case the lentils will be fully cooked in 45 mins.

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Drain all the water using a strainer (save the water to use as a good thick base for curries). Put the lentils back in the pot. Add jaggery, sugar, nutmeg, cardamom powder, dry ginger and saffron to the lentils. Mix well, and cook stirring frequently for 20 mins on medium heat.

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Let the cooked lentils cool down for few mins and then blend it to a smooth consistency in a food processor.  Make sure the lentils are not completely cold, they need to be blended while they are warm. This is our sweet stuffing and it should have a soft consistency like the picture below.

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To make the outside cover of the bread, make soft pliable dough with the whole wheat flour, salt, saffron and oil. This dough should be softer than the normal roti/paratha dough to get soft and flaky puran poli’s.

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Let this dough rest for atleast half an hour at room temperature. Start making balls of the dough and the stuffing which should be of the same size. I usually make mine the size of a lemon.

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Put a heavy griddle on medium high heat. Roll the dough by using the dry wheat flour that is kept aside for rolling. Make a 3-4 inch diameter circle. Put the stuffing in the middle of the rolled dough and then gather all the sides of the dough on top of the stuffing to enclose it. Roll the bread softly using more dry flour. You can roll this thin or keep it a little thicker. I roll mine thin to about 8-10 inches in diameter. Gently put the rolled bread on the heated griddle. Cook evenly on both sides to a perfect golden brown color. Add a little ghee to both sides.

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Sprinkle a little more ghee on both sides and serve hot.

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These puran polis are so flavorful that they can be eaten by themselves or traditionally they are served with unsweetened milk that is flavored with cardamom and saffron.

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Here is a picture of the full traditional meal, that includes Puran poli, saffron and cardamom flavored milk, crunchy millet papads, crispy onion fritters, potato fritters, steamed rice and a spicy curry made with onions, coconut and the reserved water from the cooked lentils.. Yummy!

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Recipe:
Prep time: 0 mins  Cooking time:2 hours    Total time: 2 hours

Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour for dough
1/2 cup whole wheat flour for rolling
1/4 ts salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp ghee
1 cups of chana daal/split bengal gram
1/2 cup jaggery
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1/4 tsp saffron
1/4 tsp dry ginger powder

Directions:

  1. Wash the chana daal 2-3 times. Drain all the water and then add 5 cups of water along with the lentils in a heavy bottomed pot. Let the lentils cook on medium-low heat for an hour or 2, stirring few times. Remove any white foam that may rise up.
  2. Drain all the water using a strainer (save the water to use as a base for curries). Put the lentils back in the pot. Add jaggery, sugar, nutmeg powder, cardamom powder, dry ginger powder and saffron to the lentils. Mix well, and cook stirring frequently for 10-15 minutes on medium heat.
  3. Cool down the cooked lentils for 5 mins and then blend it to a smooth consistency in a food processor. Make sure the lentils are not completely cold, they need to be blended while they are warm. This is our sweet stuffing.
  4. Knead soft pliable dough with 1 cup of whole wheat flour, salt, saffron and oil. This dough should be softer than the normal roti/paratha dough to get soft and flaky puran poli’s. Let the dough rest for 30 mins.
  5. Start making balls of the dough and the stuffing which should be of the same size. I usually make mine the size of a lemon. With the Ingredients we have here I usually make 8-10 balls each of the dough and stuffing.
  6. Put a heavy griddle on medium high heat. Roll the dough by using the dry wheat flour that is kept aside for rolling. Make a 3-4 inch diameter circle. Put the stuffing in the middle of the rolled dough and then gather all the sides of the dough on top of the stuffing to enclose it. Roll the bread softly using more dry flour. You can roll this thin or keep it a little thicker. I roll mine thin to about 8-10 inches in diameter. Gently put the rolled bread on the heated griddle. Cook evenly on both sides to a perfect golden brown color. Add a little ghee to both sides. Serve with unsweetened milk flavored with cardamom and saffron.

Enjoy!

18 thoughts on “Puran Poli – a sweet lentil stuffed flatbread

    1. Does take time to master this one. But try following my recipe. The key is that is puran must be of right consistency, more on the softer side than dry. Good Luck!

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