Puran poli or pooran poli, the festive flatbread, is known by various names in India: poli, puranachi poli, holige, obbattu, and god poli. Here in Maharashtra, eating puran poli is auspicious today, as today is the Maharashtrian New Year, or Gudi Padwa. This stuffed flatbread has a filling made with sweetened, cooked chana dal or split Bengal gram (looks like yellow split peas or tuvar dal, although the tastes are quite different). Maharashtrians love using chana dal or the Bengal gram for the stuffing, while the Gujarati Indians love the tuvar dal or yellow split pea stuffing for making the same polis. The dough is made up of wheat flour, but if one prefers, refined flour can also be added. This sweet flatbread is generally eaten with aamras (ripe mango puree with sugar and milk) or shrikhand (a sweet made with hung curd or yogurt).
Today is the day for a new beginning for Indians. This traditional New Year is celebrated by the names of Ugadi, Gudi Padva, Sukladi, Navreh, Chaitra Cheti Chand and Sajibu Cheiraoba in different parts of India. But one thing is common among the Indians scattered in different states: every auspicious occasion is celebrated with something sweet. And here in Mumbai, puran poli is on the menu in almost every Marathihousehold. Although I am not a Marathi, still I love making and feeding my family this amazing traditional breakfast on Gudi padwa. Make this once, and you’ll be convinced about why this is a delicacy in India!
Pooran Poli/Puran Poli (Indian Whole-Wheat Flatbreads with a Sweet Filling)
[Traditionally, for the sweetener in the stuffing, grated jaggery is always preferred in place of sugar, although the latter also yields delicious puran polis.]
For the dough:
- Whole-wheat flour: 2 cups
- Salt: 3 pinches
- Warm milk (or warm water): as required, to bind the dough
- Pure ghee (Indian clarified butter): ½ cup
For the stuffing:
- Split Bengal gram (or chana dal): 1.5 cups
- Sugar or grated jaggery (gur): 1 cup (this amount can vary, depending on how sweet you want your polis to be)
- Green cardamom seed powder (don’t take the skins): ¼ tsp
- Toasted fennel (saunf) seeds: 1.5 tbsp
Make a fine powder of the toasted fennel seeds. Set aside.
Wash the lentils (Bengal gram) thoroughly and soak for 10 min. Pressure-cook with 3 cups of water, till these are soft. Strain the mixture and discard the water (actually, you can utilize this protein-rich water to make soups and curries). Blend (or whisk) the lentils to a very fine paste, along with the grated jaggery (or sugar), finely powdered fennel seeds and green cardamom powder. Heat a pan on a medium flame, add this paste to the wok and simmer. Keep on stirring on a low flame until the water in the mixture almost evaporates and the mixture turns thicker (this takes around 5 min). Remove the lentil stuffing into a bowl and cover. When this pooran polistuffing is cool enough to handle, make the flatbreads.
Knead the dough by mixing around 2 tbsp of warm ghee and enough warm milk (or water) to bind the dough. Knead this dough for 10 min, so that it becomes very soft, moist, smooth and yet, non-sticky. Divide the dough into equal-sized balls (size almost of the size of an egg). Put these balls into a bowl and cover with a lid, to prevent drying up.
Make small balls out of the lentil stuffing as well, but the size of each lentil ball should be half of that of the wheat-flour-dough ball. Cover to prevent drying up.
Flatten each of the dough balls with your hand, so that it covers almost half of your palm. Put one lentil ball at the centre and enclose it inside the dough ball, as shown.
Dust the rolling surface with flour. Roll the dough ball very carefully and slowly with the help of a rolling pin. While rolling, flip and again roll it bigger. Do this flipping and rolling, dusting some more flour if you need, until you get the size of a roti (1/2-inch-thick and 5-inch-diameter flatbread).
Heat a griddle and cook the rolled puran poli on a medium flame, until light brown on both sides.
Add a tablespoon of ghee over the flatbread and flip it. Cook for a few seconds on both sides and remove on a serving plate. Similarly, make all the puran polis.