Healthy Holi Recipes
Firstly a few words about Holi, the festival of colors –
Holi, the Hindu festival of colors is celebrated all over India as per varying traditional beliefs pertinent to different regions. The festival signifies the arrival of spring, the victory of good over evil; a festive day to forget and forgive, to repair ruptured relationships.
Being celebrated on the last full moon day of the ‘Phalgun Month’ (the 12th or the last month) in the lunar calendar followed in India, which corresponds to February/March of the Gregorian Calendar (Western Calendar/Christian Calendar); marks the beginning of the new year for some.
All in all this lunar month ‘Phalgun’ indicates all new beginnings.
In northern parts of India, ‘Holika Dahan’ which is the lighting of a bonfire, referred to as ‘Kamadahan’ in southern India; is conducted a day prior to Holi. This is based on symbolic legends as Wikipedia explains:
‘The word “Holi” originates from “Holika”, the evil sister of demon king Hiranyakashipu. King Hiranyakashipu had earned a boon that made him virtually indestructible. The special powers blinded him, he grew arrogant, thought he was God, and demanded that everyone worship only him.
Hiranyakashipu’s own son, Prahlada, however, disagreed. He was and remained devoted to Vishnu. This infuriated Hiranyakashipu. He subjected Prahlada to cruel punishments, none of which affected the boy or his resolve to do what he thought was right. Finally, Holika – Prahlada’s evil aunt – tricked him into sitting on a pyre with her. Holika was wearing a cloak (shawl) that made her immune to injury from fire, while Prahlada was not. As the fire roared, the cloak flew from Holika and encased Prahlada. Holika burned, Prahlada survived. Vishnu appeared and killed Hiranyakashipu. The bonfire is a reminder of the symbolic victory of good over evil, of Prahlada over Hiranyakashipu, of fire that burned Holika. The day after Holika bonfire is celebrated as Holi’
In the southern state of Karnataka, the legend around which the bonfire is lit is explained as such –
‘The story behind kaamana Habba goes like this. Kaama means desires, the main impediment for our progress on the path of spirituality. Once Lord Shiva was in samadhi and all the Devas felt threatened. They somehow wanted to stop him from becoming all powerful. So, they send Manmatha and Rathi to disturb His samadhi by their sensual song and dance. Lord shiva gets angry at this impudence and opens his third eye. Manmatha who symbolizes Kaama is burnt to ashes immediately. It probably means with awareness all of us can destroy desires. However, the story goes that Rathi implores lord shiva to restore her husband to her which He does but with one condition, that he will be physically available and visible only to Rathi. Manmatha pervades everyone even today and for ages to come, but he is not visible, ‘
It probably means with awareness all of us can destroy desires. However, the story goes that Rathi implores lord shiva to restore her husband to her which He does but with one condition, that he will be physically available and visible only to Rathi. Manmatha pervades everyone even today and for ages to come, but he is not visible, ‘ ananga’ , formless. As Sadhaks, we must watch out on this day whether our kaamanas are an impediment; if found yes, burn them in the fire of knowledge.‘
Families and friends get together on the day of Holi, prepare and enjoy delicious dishes, have fun throwing colors at one another. While in the past, natural colors such as turmeric, sandalwood paste, extracts of flowers and leaves were used; with rarity of spring blossoming trees, synthetic dyes have taken their place which have lead to harmful effects on the skin, eyes, on inhalation etc.
With an awareness spreading around the world, many organizations such as CLEAN India campaign, campaigns by Society for Child Development are promoting self-made natural dyes; National Botanical Research Institute are marketing ‘natural dyes’.
Healthy Holi Recipes
Gur Pare/Gud para is a well known sweet biscuit/cracker-like snack where jaggery (unrefined cane sugar) is the sweetening agent used; also known as Shankarpali when sugar is used as the sweetening agent.
An easy to prepare snack, which can be stored in air-tight container and used for weeks.
Traditionally, whole wheat flour with plain flour (or maida) is used in the preparation.
I have here a gluten free version; a vegan version; baked and deep-fried versions of both.
A healthy crunchy snack to head to when craving takes over.
However, do not expect the baked versions to turn out as crispy as the deep fried version. It definitely tastes great.
Another point I need to mention is about the quantity of jaggery I have used. I used 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp of grated jaggery for the entire preparation – including Ragi Gur Pare and the Whole Wheat Gur Pare. I dissolved the jaggery in 1/2 cup of hot water; allowed it to cool, strained it. Used some for the ragi pare, some for the wheat pare. Hope this is clear. This results in mildly sweet gur pare which is what we prefer.
If you prefer sweetness in par with Indian sweets, in general, you will need to use 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp jaggery dissolved in little more than 1/4 cup of water for each version. You will then need to adjust the quantity of liquid used.
Recipe Reference: nishamadhulika.com
Ragi Gluten-Free Gur Pare
The GlutenFree recipe is Ragi Gur Pare with ragi flour or finger millet flour; Ragi has a distinctive flavor which is to be expected here.
Do not expect the baked version to be as crispy as they deep fried one. But it sure is enjoyable.
ragi flour – 2 cups
jaggery syrup – as needed (about 1/2 cup) (see notes)
ghee – little more than 1/4 cup
sesame seeds – 4 tbsp
oil – to deep fry; for greasing the baking sheet
Method for Baked Version:
One basic aspect to remember is that, the dough resembles shortbread or biscuit dough; which will render a good crumb texture and crunch to the gur pare.
- firstly, the jaggery needs to be melted in water and strained to remove impurities.
- so, heat a small pot with 1/2 cup water adding grated or powdered jaggery, stir until it dissolves completely.
- switch off the heat and allow it to cool slightly.
- in a bowl, mix ghee into the ragi flour using your clean fingers. this will result in a crumbly mixture.
- to this mixture add the sesame seeds and mix well.
- now adding small amounts of the jaggery water, make a smooth but non sticky dough. I ended up using little more than half the amount of jaggery water. do note that it does come together pretty quickly. so add small quantities at a time and bring ti together. do not knead.
- now cover this with cling film and refrigerate for about 1/2 an hour.
- after 1/2 an hour, pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C.
- with the cling film still on, roll this dough out flat to 1/2 cm thickness using a rolling pin. (I kept the baked version slightly thicker)
- now, using a pizza cutter, cut out the rough edges and cut through the dough across one direction then again diagonally to create diamond shaped or square cuttings.
- place these pieces individually on a lined, greased baking tray.
- bake for 10 minutes.
- take them out when they are firm but still not fully hard. they harden as they cool. hence do not over bake, this will render them too hard.
For better texture, use added semolina in the dough- but this will not be gluten-free.
For a gluten-free AND vegan version of Gur Pare, use coconut oil instead of ghee to make Ragi Gur Pare.
Method for Deep-Fried Version:
- prepare the dough in the same manner as for the baked version. I kept the deep-fried version slightly thinner (rolled more)
- heat oil moderately in a deep pan. oil does not need to be very hot for gur pare.
- test out whether the oil is ready by dropping in a small portion of the dough. if it begins to sizzle and comes up slowly, the oil is ready.
- now, drop the cut pieces of the dough one piece at a time into the oil carefully. fry at medium heat.
- move them around gently now and again and fry until the oil stops sizzling/bubbling . but take care not to over fry. this will make the pare taste slightly bitter
- using a perforated ladle/spatula take the fried pare out onto an absorbent paper towel.
Vegan Gur Pare
This version is whole wheat flour, semolina based, crunchy sweet snacks prepared using jaggery (unrefined cane sugar) and coconut oil.
whole wheat flour – 1/2 cup
semolina – 1/4 cup (I used extra coarse variety which I had, regular semolina can also be used)
coconut oil – 2 tbsp
jaggery syrup – as needed (see notes)
Method for Baked Vegan Gur Pare:
- melt jaggery and prepare jaggery syrup as above. i.e heat 1/4 cup of water, add grated jaggery (1/4 cup) allow it to dissolve completely. then turn off the heat, allow it to cool. Strain this syrup to remove impurities and use.
- in a bowl, mix whole wheat flour, semolina. to this add 2 tbsp coconut oil, mix it in using your fingers to form a crumbly mixture.
- then adding small quantities of jaggery syrup, make a smooth non-sticky dough. it does come together pretty quickly, so add syrup gradually. do not knead. Just bring the dough together as you would do with cookie or shortbread dough.
- cover this with cling film and refrigerate for 1/2 an hour.
- then with the cling film still on, roll this dough out to about 1/2 cm thickness, using a rolling pin, on a clean surface.
- pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C.
- run a pizza cutter or knife across the dough, again diagonally to make diamond-shaped pieces or squares as you see in the picture.
- place the pieces individually on a lined, greased baking tray.
- bake for 10 minutes or until the pieces turn slightly darker in shade and firmer, but not too hard.
- they harden as they cool. so do not over bake.
- allow them to cool.
Method for Deep-Fried Vegan Gur Pare:
- prepare the dough as for the baked version, place in the refrigerator for about half an hour.
- make diamond shaped or square pieces using a pizza cutter or a knife.
- heat up oil moderately in a deep pan.
- drop in the pieces one at a time in the oil and deep-fry until golden. move them around gently to ensure even cooking.
- transfer to an absorbent towel.
- enjoy when cool!
On to Savory now. I am sharing with you all here the versatile, mint and coriander chutney, followed by a quick zingy baby potato, spinach salad using the chutney.
Mint Coriander Chutney
The popular and ever so delicious ‘Chat’ is a second name to Indian street food. At the very heart of ‘chat’ recipes are the two chutneys – the green chutney or the Mint Coriander Chutney; the sweet chutney or the Dates and Tamarind Chutney.
Once you hit the mark with balancing the flavors in this recipe, you will love it. The spicy, tangy delight lifts up the chat dishes or any snack for that matter, with which this chutney is served as an accompaniment.
To me having a chat dish or two balances out the desserts savored during Holi. I will be sharing a simple, quick and healthy chat recipe – Baby Potato And Spinach Chat Salad, using this Mint Coriander Chutney.
But first for the chutney recipe.
fresh mint leaves – 3/4 cup picked(separated from the stalks) and washed
fresh coriander – 1 medium sized bunch; I have used the leaves as well as tender stalks, having discarded thicker stems and the roots
freshly squeezed lemon juice – from 1/2 a lemon (medium sized) (adjust as per taste)
fresh ginger root – 1 inch piece, chopped roughly
green chili – 1 long or 2-3 small ones (use as per taste) chopped roughly
cumin seeds – 1 tsp
sugar – 1/2 tsp (I used unrefined sugar) (optional; but adds a good balance)
salt to taste
- wash and drain mint and coriander.
- chop ginger, green chili roughly.
- using a powerful blender or mixer/grinder, blend mint, coriander, ginger, green chili, cumin seeds, lemon juice, sugar, salt to a fine smooth paste adding small amounts of water – about 1/4 to 1/2 cup
- transfer this to a bowl.
- serve with tea time snacks such as samosa/pakoda/fritters etc ; use the preparation for chat recipes; can also be used to spice up salads with addition of plain natural yogurt mixed with the veggies; or even as a spread for sandwiches, rolls.
Alu Palak Chat/Salad | Potato Spinach Chat/Salad
This Alu Palak Chat/Salad | Potato Spinach Chat/Salad comes together in minutes if you have the baby potatoes cooked and ready, yet is so satisfying.
I had this last night for dinner, again for lunch today; and again used a couple of other veggies with potatoes and had it with dinner tonight. I loved it so much.
Recipe Reference: TarlaDalal.com
baby potatoes – cooked with the peel, chopped into quarters – 1 cup
baby spinach – roughly torn – 1 cup
plain yogurt – about 4 tbsp (or as needed)
mint coriander chutney – about 4 tbsp (or as needed)
chat masala – 1-2 pinch
lemon juice – to drizzle over the salad, 1-2 tsp
I guess it is pretty obvious that it is quite simple.
- in a bowl, add the quartered cooked potatoes, spinach leaves.
- drizzle over the beaten plain yogurt
- drizzle over mint coriander chutney
- sprinkle chat masala
- drizzle a tsp or 2 of lemon juice
- serve as a main or side salad!
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