Sunday, March 27, 2011

Holi Re Holi, Puranachi Poli

Holi is popularly known as the spring festival of colors celebrated mainly by Hindus. This festival marks the end of winter and the beginning of new life, rejuvenation. I feel the varied colors played on Holi celebrate the transformation of nature as spring arrives with new blooms and colors. Holi is celebrated on the last full moon day of the Hindu calendar month Falgun. Traditionally, Maharashtrians did not play colors on the day of Holi aka Dhuli Vandan. The large influx of non-Maharashtrians has made playing with colors a long 5 day celebration. Growing up, we only played color on Rangapanchami (ranga=color, panchami=fifth day), the fifth day from full moon. Holi day was celebrated by burning a bon-fire called Holika. 
This festival brings back memories of childhood when we celebrated Holi along with our neighbors. The teenagers (mostly guys) in the neighborhood would team up to go around and collect donations to buy firewood. There was haggling, occasional fights and yelling from parents if they wasted the money. On the day of Holi, everyone gathered in a central location, did a small pooja and lit the Holika. Kids ran around the fire yelling ‘Bombala re bombala, khacchun bombala’ roughly translating to ‘Scream on top of your voices’ (girls were strictly forbidden from doing this considering it indecent). I had never understood why the kids screamed like that, and the real reason is still a mystery to me. I think it had something to do with ‘burning all evil’ but I may need to research a little.
The ladies made various offerings to the Holika among which Puranpoli(a sweet roti made with jaggery-chickpea lentil filling) was the most important one. Important to them because it was customary to make it and to us because we looked forward to the treat! Kids tried to save some puranpoli from burning completely in the Holika and shared it with everyone as ‘Prasad’ (offering made to deity and later consumed). This was the best part because a. it gave us immense pleasure if we successfully ‘saved’ the puranpoli and b. it tasted even more amazing after charring a little.
Although we cannot celebrate Holi by burning the Holika here in the US, I tried to relive some of those childhood memories by calling friends over to have some home-made Puranpoli!  Puranpoli by default goes with some batata bhaji (potato sabji) and katachi amati (soup/daal made from the chickpea lentil broth). There are quite a few recipes available online to make Puranpoli, but the most difficult part of making puranpoli is actually the rolling of poli/roti. I took a shortcut to Katachi Amati by simplifying the original recipe. It had (almost) all the ingredients and the same wonderful taste but much less efforts. I won't go the whole nine yards and write the Puranpoli recipe but will share some pictures of the making. Katachi amati recipe in a separate post. 

A good puranpoli is not too thick, has lots of puran inside and doesn't stick to the pan. It should literally melt in your mouth. Many find it difficult to roll the poli as the filling starts coming out, or they end up with something very thick. My grandmother always says, "Mulagi baghavi othat aani poli baghavi kathat" meaning "Judge a girl's beauty by her lips and a roti's beauty by its edge (the edges should be thin)". To make puranpoli thin on the edges, do not start off the poli by putting puran in between two balls of dough. Instead, make a small bowl like shape of dough and fill it with puran and close it on top. This way, you start off with a dough ball that's thick on both sides and thin on the edges. Also, it holds a lot of puran.  

I was making Bhadang on side and just loved the colorful spice box; hence sharing it.
Puran - chickpea lentils, jaggery, cardamom powder, nutmeg and a pinch of salt
Mash the puran in a Puran Yantra aka food mill

Make a katori/bowl like shape of the dough. Keep it thick on the bottom. The puran filling should be almost 3/4th size of the dough ball you take. This is the most important part, else the poli will not be sweet enough and will taste too much like dough.

Stuff the filling in and close the ball.

Ready to roll - literally :D

Take plenty of flour so the roti doesn't stick to the surface



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