Puran Poli

(jump to recipe)

When my husband suggested that I attempt Puran Poli for Gudi Padwa (Indian New Year) this year, I really thought he was kidding. It is one of those recipes tucked into the “Advanced Cookery” category that only moms or grandmas attempt. I was obviously not prepared to take this on, and this became even clearer when my mother, kind and encouraging as always, started suggesting alternative recipes that I can make with the Puran Poli prep!

I remained cautiously optimistic and I’m happy to report that it turned out really well for a first time! My 3 yo niece recognized it to be Puran Poli and said that she loved it, so I’m going to place this experiment in the “success” category.

Puran, pronounced poo-run, is a mixture or paste made by combining cooked and mashed Chana (split chickpeas) lentils and powdered or finely chopped jaggery. Sometimes it is also made with sugar instead of jaggery. In either case, ground cardamom and nutmeg are added while the mixture is warm and oftentimes saffron. Poli, pronounced po-lee, is Marathi for “roti” or flatbread, and its basic version is called just “Poli” – plain whole wheat flour dough with a pinch of salt, rolled out thin and then cooked on a griddle. Typically in Maharashtra, we eat Poli as part of each meal with curries, sauteed vegetables and lentil stews. Puran Poli is just its fancy, gussied up, festive cousin!

It is a tad laborious but just like most desserts if you follow the recipe exactly, it works out just fine. Make the Puran paste the day before so it can cool and thicken completely, and on the day of, make the dough, assemble and cook the Polis!

The last time I was in India, I picked up the Ruchira cookbooks: they are filled with traditional, delicious and classical Maharashtrian recipes and written in Marathi. The recipes contain proportions and quantities, basic steps and tips, but the steps aren’t always detailed and there are no pictures, so they can be a bit difficult to follow. But its just one of those books that is passed down generations – my mother cooked from that book as a young bride and I’ve seen one in most Maharashtrian households. So I got the book to be part of that tradition more than anything else! Mine is starting to get covered in kitchen stains too now, so it is on its way to heirloom status, like my mother’s copy back home!

I’ve followed the quantities and steps outlined in Ruchira and tweaked it in a few places.

We start by pressure-cooking the lentils in excess water (normally I use 2 1/2 cups of water for pressure cooking 1 cup of raw lentils, but in this case, I used 4 cups for each cup of lentils). I cooked 2 cups of cleaned, rinsed and picked through raw lentils with 8 cups of water in the Instant Pot for 12 minutes (High Pressure) and then allowed complete natural release. You can also cook this in a regular stove top pressure cooker on medium-high heat for 5 whistles.

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Once cooked, drain and save the cooking liquid!
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Cooking liquid.

Don’t toss that cooking liquid – it is nutrient rich and can be used for lentil stews, soups and broths. Typically we make this spicy broth called “Kataachi Aamti” with this and it is usually made along with Puran Poli since the Puran cooking process yields a good 4 cups of thick liquid! To make the Aamti, heat the cooking liquid with tamarind paste, crushed jaggery, salt, red chili powder, “kala masala” (earthy Maharashtrian spice mix), toasted then ground mixture of cumin seeds and dried coconut slices and a tempering of ghee and mustard seeds, asafoetida, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves! It sounds like a lot of ingredients but the broth is absolutely divine! Since I had so much of the cooking liquid left, I made it and we had it with hot rice and ghee.

Back to the Puran, place the drained cooked lentils in a medium bowl and mash slightly. Add the finely chopped jaggery (I used powdered which I keep on hand since its easier to incorporate into cooking in a hurry), ground nutmeg and cardamom and mix well.

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The next step is to cool this completely and then run this through a food mill or a potato ricer to create a smooth paste. You can also pulse it a few times in the food processor but there is always the risk of pureeing it and making it overly sticky!

I used my trusty food mill and got a really great texture!

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Puran going through the grind, literally.
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It looks kinda gross but that’s exactly what we want it to look like! Also, some good ol’ elbow grease in use here (my husband’s).
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I won’t blame you if you just stop here and eat this by the spoonful.

This mixture, or Puran, itself can be served as a [dairy free] dessert with cashews and raisins. It can be thinned out with warm saffron-infused milk and served as porridge (Kheer), and I almost don’t want to give you any more ideas and do hope I haven’t lost you here. Let’s march on!

Let this cool completely, or cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate. You can also transfer this to an airtight container and store it in the fridge for few days. I found that the chilled-then-brought-to-room-temperature Puran was very easy to handle.

On the day of serving the Puran Poli, start by making the dough.

Place the whole wheat flour in medium bowl and add water, couple tablespoons at a time, kneading as you go. Add a couple pinches of salt. Continue this process till the dough comes together into a ball, very thick and tight, and not very easy to knead. You’ll mostly be knocking it around in the bowl. There should be no dry flour in the bowl. Dough will not be pliable, but don’t worry.

Cover with a plate or kitchen towel and let it rest for an hour.

After the dough has rested it will become much more pliable. Add a teaspoon of water alternating with a teaspoon of oil, and knead and soften the dough (I ended up adding 4-5 teaspoons of each, you may need more or less depending on your kneading skills! Mine are below average at best). Dough should be soft, very pliable and not sticky. It should stretch easily without thinning too much or tearing. Place it in a bowl greased with a couple tablespoons of oil.

Set yourself up with a rolling board/plate and pin, and heavy bottom griddle on medium heat. Set the rice flour, confectioners sugar (with a sifter or sieve) and ghee in bowls near you, along with the dough and Puran.

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L-R: Griddle, ghee, rolling plate, dough in a greased bowl, rice flour, puran, confectioners sugar

Enough talk – let us begin, shall we?

PuranPoli
Step by step guide to Puran Poli success. Also, this image is totally missing from Ruchira!

Take a 1 inch round ball of dough and flatten it slightly.  Take a 2 inch round ball of Puran and place it in the flattened dough. Extend the dough gently on all sides to cover up the Puran complete. If you feel like the dough isn’t easily doing that, you may have to thin it out further using water and oil.

Sprinkle some rice flour on the rolling board and place the dough disk on it. Gently roll it out (very very gently so as to not push the Puran out of the dough) while moving the dough on the board. Use more rice flour if needed to keep the dough moving. Roll it out as evenly as possible into a 6-8 inch circle.

Pick it up with both hands and place it on the griddle gently and evenly. Cook on medium low heat for 5-6 minutes on each side, till little beige and light brown spots appear and the Poli becomes puffy all around.

Having those wrinkles on the Poli is a GOOD thing. More rumpled the better.

Optionally at this stage, you may dot the Poli with few drops of ghee:

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And sprinkle confectioners sugar on top, and cook for another minute or so.

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This forms a ever-so-thin crust/skin on the Poli that is a great texture contrast. The sugar will disappear in a few minutes!

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Hot off the griddle Puran Poli!

Transfer to serving platter and serve piping hot with more ghee and/or warm milk.

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Not all Puran Polis were made equal, clearly.

Since we were celebrating the Indian New Year (Gudi Padwa) we did a bit of a “ceremony” and I made a few other recipes too: Kataachi aamti (spicy broth mentioned above), cucumber “koshimbir” (chopped cucumber, crushed peanuts, salt, chopped green chilies and a teeny bit of crystal sugar), Batata Bhaji (spicy boiled potato saute that completes every Maharasthrian meal), spicy Sesame seed chutney, regular Poli and white rice with ghee.

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Kataachi aamti (spicy broth mentioned above), cucumber “koshimbir” (chopped cucumber, crushed peanuts, salt, chopped green chilies and a teeny bit of crystal sugar), Batata Bhaji (spicy boiled potato saute that completes every Maharasthrian meal), spicy Sesame seed chutney, regular Poli and white rice with ghee, feat. Puran Poli

Happy Gudi Padwa and Indian New Year – let’s make this a good one!

• Recipe •

Puran Poli

Adapted from Ruchira with additional instructions from my mother and mother-in-law!

Makes 10 Puran Polis 6-8 inches in diameter

2 cups harbara/chana dal, thoroughly rinsed and picked through
8 cups water (to pressure cook chana) – this will yield about 3 1/2 – 4 cups of cooking liquid (kat) which may be used to make “kataachi aamti” (see above) or consumed piping hot as a broth with a basic tempering
1 1/2 cups jaggery, finely chopped or powdered
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1-2 cups water (to make the dough)
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil (to soften the dough)
1/2 cup rice flour
3 tablespoons ghee (1 teaspoon per Poli) (optional)
1/4 cup confectioners sugar (1-2 teaspoons per Poli) (optional)

To garnish and serve
3-4 tablespoons ghee (or more to taste)

Make the Puran

Pressure cook the rinsed chana dal with excess water really well. I cooked it at high pressure in the Instant Pot for 12 minutes and allowed a complete natural release (On a stovetop pressure cooker, you would do at least 5 whistles).

Strain the cooked chana lentils and save the cooking liquid for other recipes (soups, broths, stews). Transfer the lentils to a medium bowl and mash lightly.

While the lentils are warm, add the jaggery and ground spices and mix well with a wooden spoon to combine. The nutmeg may seem intense but it is necessary because the flour coating will mellow it out considerably.

Once it has cooled, mash it thoroughly, or run through a food processor. You can also use a ricer or the food mill, which is the traditional method and gives the best texture. Mixture should be completely smooth but not puréed, and thick. It may be a bit sticky when it’s warm.

Let the mixture cool completely. You can refrigerate it to cool it quickly. Mixture can also be stored overnight. It will keep for several days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Make the Poli dough

Place the whole wheat flour in medium bowl and add water, couple tablespoons at a time, kneading as you go. Add a couple pinches of salt. Continue this process till the dough comes together into a ball, very thick and tight, and not easy to knead. There should be no dry flour in the bowl. Dough will not be pliable, but don’t worry.

Cover with a plate or kitchen towel and let it rest for an hour.

After the dough has tested it will become much more pliable. Add a teaspoon of water alternating with a teaspoon of oil, and knead and soften the dough. Dough should be soft, very pliable and not sticky. It should stretch easily without thinning too much or tearing. Place it in a bowl greased with a couple tablespoons of oil.

Cook Puran Poli

If Puran was stored in the refrigerator bring it back to room temperature.

Set yourself up with a rolling board and pin, and heavy bottom griddle on medium heat. Set the rice flour, confectioners sugar (with a sifter or sieve) and ghee in bowls near you.

Take a 1 inch round ball of dough and flatten it slightly. Take a 2 inch round ball of Puran and place it in the flattened dough. Extend the dough gently on all sides to cover up the Puran complete.

If you feel like the dough isn’t easily doing that, you may have to thin it out further using water and oil.

Sprinkle some rice flour on the rolling board and place the dough disk on it. Gently roll it out (very very gently so as to not push the Puran out of the dough) while moving the dough on the board. Use more rice flour if needed to keep the dough moving. Roll it out as evenly as possible into a 6-8 inch circle.

Pick it up with both hands and place it on the griddle gently and evenly. Cook on medium low heat for 5-6 minutes on each side, till little beige and light brown spots appear and the Poli becomes puffy all around.

Optionally at this stage, you may dot the Poli with few drops of ghee and sprinkle confectioners sugar on top, and cook for another minute or so. Transfer to serving platter and serve piping hot with more ghee and/or warm milk.

Note
While the Poli is cooking, you can assemble the next one and transfer it to a wax or parchment paper sheet with a dusting of rice flour. Don’t leave it on the rolling board or it may stick.

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