Recipe: Puran Poli
At our home, no Holi observance is complete without the preparation of my moms favorite, Puran Poli. This holiday favorite across most of India but particularly along the west coast is incredibly decadent, rich and luscious.
The word Poli means a kind of bread, whereas the word ‘Puran’ refers to any kind of a sweet mushy stuffing. Stuffing ingredients can vary: some communities use skinned and cooked split chickpeas, others prefer pigeon peas. Regardless of how they are made, dousing the warm Puran Polis with a fresh slather of ghee makes for an extra special treat.
A note about the filling / Puran:
Puran, as I mention refers to a soft and mushy stuffing. This recipe uses toor daal (or the one you make daal with), as I remember a childhood filled with umpteen times when my mom would ask me to set twice the amount of daal in the pressure cooker - because she was making Puran Poli. Using toor daal is a great way to cut down ingredient prep - as daal is made every day in a traditional Indian kitchen. Ba, or my mom's mom, or Nani made hers with either Bengal gram, or make a stuffing with mawa and such other decadent fillings (that recipe is another time). Another dish, called Gul-Poli, uses a mix of crushed sesame seeds, peanuts and jaggery. Clever chefs have varied the fillings to sweetened coconut and jaggery too! These are all variations on the same idea for different dishes.
This recipe was taken from my cookbook on classic Indian breads & sides, aptly titled, Roti: 40 Classic Indian Breads & Sides (2019), with a foreword by Ken Albala & Raghavan Iyer.
A few other festive-friendly recipes include:
Makes: Eight pieces Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 40 minutes
3 cups atta (stone-ground durum whole wheat flour), sifted, plus extra for dredging 1½ cup or more water for binding Salt, to taste ½ tsp oil 2-5 tbsp ghee
2 tbsp ghee ½ cup split pigeon peas, cooked in 1 cup water until softened
½ cup sugar, or to taste 3-4 green cardamom pods, seeded and finely powdered 2-3 strands of saffron ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
Warm two tablespoons of ghee in a nonstick saucepan. As it melts, add the cooked pigeon peas, and stir until the water evaporates and the mixture thickens. Continually scrape the sides of the saucepan to ensure even distribution of heat or else the daal will burn. Add half the sugar and stir it in well. Adjust to desired sweetness. Reduce the heat and continue to thicken until the mashed pigeon peas resemble mashed potatoes. Add the crushed cardamom powder, saffron and nutmeg, stir well and portion into eight pieces. This filling can be made up to 3 days in advance, and stored in the fridge until ready to use. Bring it to room temperature to ease the rolling process.
Using a food processor fitted with an S blade or in a large bowl, combine the flour with salt and enough water to make a firm dough. The dough should be firm but not hard, moist but not wet, and similar in consistency of modeling clay. Carefully knead the oil into the dough and cover with a clear wrap or lid until ready to roll.
Method: Rolling & Cooking
Start by rolling out a single ball of dough into a flat disk, as one would begin a paratha, no more than 5” diameter. Place the mashed sweetened pigeon peas mash, puran, in the center, pinch the dough and fold over the ball to cover the ball completely, like a dumpling. Ensure the seams are sealed. Lightly flatten this in the palm of your hand. Dredge the ball in dry flour and begin to roll again, this time very lightly to ensure the filling does not spill out. Roll to make an 8” poli using dry flour to dust as needed. When sufficiently rolled, dust off excess flour.
Heat a shallow nonstick pan on medium-high heat. When ready to place a Puran poli in the pan, turn it down to medium heat. The side that hits the pan first is the first side. Watch the dough bubble slightly and move it around in the pan without flipping it over. Turn the Puran poli over approximately 1 minute later. The first side should be lightly spotted but not have dark spots. If this happens too quickly, reduce the heat. Repeat on the second side, and while the second side cooks, lightly baste the first side of the with ghee. Using a spatula, flip the paratha and repeat the basting. Both sides should have ghee—cooked once without ghee and once with ghee. Remove from heat and cover with a paper towel or a colander to help the steam evaporate. Once they have come to room temperature, the Puran Poli can be transferred to an appropriate storage container.