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: