Happy (late) Gudi Padwa!
Gudi Padwa is the first day of Chaitra, which according to the Hindu lunisolar calendar is the first month of the year. It also has a scientific logic as the sun is in the first point of Aries (The first sign of the zodiac), which in turn marks the beginning of spring. Actually, most cultures throughout history have celebrated the New Year sometime around the vernal equinox (20th March), when astronomically the beginning of lengthened days starts. Most Indian states have a different name for the New Years festival, and in Maharashtra it is known as Gudi Padwa.
Some households will celebrate by erecting a gudi in the garden: attaching a brightly coloured saree, neem leaves, flower garlands, and an inverted copper/silver pot to a long stick and hoisting it like a flag. Then in the evening, it is traditional to make a delicious selection of sweet treats, like the ones I will be sharing with you. They are very typically Maharashtrian recipes. For a slightly less traditional but nonetheless delicious festive recipe, try rose & coconut ladoos.
So at the beginning of this new year I would like to make a shoutout to my dearest Nikhilesh. He has been here for me since the very first day I started this blog and has supported my cooking journey ever since. Of course I was always interested in Indian cuisine, especially as a vegetarian and a connoisseur of tasty food – but Nik has introduced me to more delicious foods than I could have imagined. He has been a wealth of motivation, praise, knowledge, inspiration and happiness to me. Thanks to him, the idea was given for both of the recipes brought to you today.
Puranpoli is made up from two words. In Marathi, puran refers to the sweet filling made with chana dal (split chickpeas), jaggery and cardamon; poli refers to the outer dough, like chapati, or roti. Here I have substituted jaggery with sugar and also added some nutmeg along with with cardamon – these spices work wonderfully with the sweet taste.
At first the instructions can seem quite daunting due to the time spent preparing the dish. Actually, even in my first time making I didn’t find the cooking too hard and I really enjoying the step by step process of making them. The smell that fills the house while cooking the sweet filling is so good, it’s almost like besan ladoo 🙂 , and fills you with anticipation to taste the fruits of your labour.
When cooked correctly puranpoli should tear apart easily to reveal 3 layers. It’s soft, buttery, not quite like anything else I’ve ever tasted. Even my Mum adores puranpoli! She loved them so much the first time that I made them that she kept asking, “Can I eat this one too?”! There is no denying that the time and effort spent on preparing the puranpoli filling is well worth it in the end.
Maharashtrian Puranpoli | Sweet Lentil Stuffed Flatbreads
A traditional food from Maharashtra, India, which is perfect to be eaten on special festivals.
For the puran (sweet stuffing):
- 200g chana dal (Bengal Split Gram)
- 70g caster sugar (cheeni)
- ½ tsp cardamon powder (elaichi powder)
- ¼ tsp nutmeg powder (jaiphal powder)
For the poli (outer dough):
- ~200g whole wheat flour (atta)
- Pinch of salt
- Tbsp turmeric (haldi), optional
To prepare the puran:
- Wash the chana dal throughly and then soak for 30 minutes. Split chana is a hard gram which means that the soaking will make it softer, allowing the cooking process to go faster. Optionally, if short of time, skip this step.
- Add dal with twice the amount of water than dal to a saucepan and cook, covered, on high heat for about 30 minutes. Please check on the dal – stir when necessary or add more water if it is sticking. You want it to be cooked, just a little overdone is fine.
- Drain the dal and place into a bowl. Mash it – I used a potato masher but you can use the back of a spoon, or whatever else you have on hand.
- Now place dal back into the same saucepan and tip in the sugar. The sugar will begin to melt, but continue to stir constantly until the mixture becomes very thick and sticky.
- Add powdered cardamon and nutmeg, and stir a bit more.
- Tip the puran mixture into the bowl and leave it to cool.
To prepare the poli / chapati dough:
- In a bowl add flour, turmeric (for the yellow colour) and water. Mix with your hands until the dough is incorporated, adding a little more flour or water if necessary.
- Knead with your hands for about 5 minutes – the dough should become soft.
- Cover and set aside for 30 minutes. You can check to see if it has rested well if the dough bounces back a bit after pressing it with your finger.
To cook the puranpoli:
- Divide the puran into 7 portions and squeeze it with your hands to make tightly packed balls.
- Now divide the dough into 7 portions. Roll it with your hands to make small balls, they should be about half the size of the puran ones. Take one at a time, covering the rest with a cloth, flatten it, and dust each side with flour.
- Roll the flattened ball into a small circle.
- Take a small handful of the stuffing, press it together, and place it into the centre of the dough. Gather the edges of the dough together into the centre, where you can pinch together to seal completely.
- Now flatten again, dust your workspace with flour, and roll evenly into a small, round, puranpoli.
- Heat a flat pan or tawa on high heat and add the puranpoli. Drizzle some oil or ghee over the top, and wait until very small bubbles start to rise, then flip. Drizzle this side with ghee or oil also. Wait until it is lightly browned, and then place in a pile ready to serve.
- Repeat the process with the remaining puran and poli.
Shirkhand as a naturally gluten-free and very simplistic dessert which epitomises the idea of simplicity in flavours and textures. It’s basically a mildly flavoured sweetened and chilled yoghurt; but it tastes incredible.
The traditional method of making shrikhand requires a long overnight preparation of using muslin to squeeze and seperate the yoghurt curd from the whey. By using greek yoghurt, we can bypass this step and make the process very quick and delightfully easy. This is because greek yoghurt (or labneh) has already been strained of it’s whey, resulting in a very thick textured and sour tasting yoghurt.
This basic recipe is exquisite when eaten on its own, but also provides the perfect backdrop for any flavours that you like. One of the most popular combinations is kesar aam shrikhand (saffron & mango) as the taste is so complimentary and the colour so enticing – but whatever flavours you add, be sure to cook some crisp puri to savour with the sweetness of this dish.
Instant Shrikhand garnished with Mango and Thyme
A favourite for celebrating, shrikhand is a sweet flavoured yoghurt dish
- 300g greek yoghurt / labneh / chak(k)a
- Pinch of saffron strands (kesar)
- Tiny pinch of cardamon (elaichi)
- 2 Tsp of milk
- 45g fine sugar
- Soft mango cubes and a few sprigs of thyme; or alternatively, traditional nuts (almonds, pistachios, cashews)
- Warm a small amount of milk and once hot, add the saffron strands to dissolve and impart their colour. Now leave aside.
- Powder sugar by using a blender. Skip this step if your sugar is already fine.
- Place the greek yoghurt into a bowl and add the powdered sugar. Stir well and adjust sugar content to your liking. Now add the saffron milk and powdered cardamon. Whisk until there are no lumps.
- Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge for at least 40 minutes, or even overnight. Before serving, sprinkle with nuts or cook puri (a puffed fried bread) to serve with.