Vivid cloud of colours
Pink, green, blue and purple
Smeared on the skin of all nigh
Mirroring all the hearts of joy
India's festival of holi is such a beautifully vibrant festival, no less vibrant than any other festival but unique in its own celebrations. This is the time when you get together with your friends and neighbours and play with colours- dry and wet both. There's so much of fun and frolic.
As a kid, I remember, we weren't permitted to play holi in the school for safety and hygiene reasons but you know how kids are. We used to sneak in colours in school, hide them in our lunch boxes and then after the lunch break was over, we'd hide them in small pits around the school to be dug out later after school just so we could play holi with our school mates. What a thrill it all was! I just hope my teacher's are not reading this! It might mar my image of the perfect student ;)
My parents were never in favour of us playing holi just because the colours can sometimes be harmful to the skin. Thankfully now though there are organic colours made with vegetables and turmeric and flowers. That makes playing holi tons more fun. Invariably, the day of holi was celebrated with my grandmom passing over these Malpuas or fried pancakes to us. Indian festivals all come with their own speciality of sweets and malpua is most often associated with Holi. There are a lot of other delicacies like ghevar, gujiya, puran poli depending on your own family traditions and personal taste. But for me, Holi is synonymous with Malpuas.
You might be wondering what Malpuas actually are. They are fried pancakes sweetened with jaggery/ cane sugar or sometimes just sugar, flavoured with fennel seeds, cardamom powder, rose water or kewra essence or sometimes even saffron and then dunked in a saffron or rose infused syrup where they become oh so deliciously juicy and so indulgent. They are usually swerved with 'Rabri' or thickened condensed milk which is made by boiling and reducing milk for hours and hours so much so that the milk becomes almost creamy in texture and changes colour from white to yellow. The Rabri too is flavoured with almonds, pistachios, raisins and cashews and saffron or rose flavours.
Do you see a theme here? Basically Holi is 'get fat day' after playing out for a few hours with friends. Can life get any better?!
So lets make Malpuas today then, shall we!
Time taken: 1 hour (includes batter resting time)
Serves: 8-10 malpuas
1 3/4 cups of all purpose flour
1/3 cup of jaggery (shaved for convenience)
5-6 cardamom pods coarsely powdered
2 tbsp fennel seeds
1/3 cup of unsweetened condensed milk
2 tbsp rose water
water as required to make pouring consistency of batter
Flavourless oil for frying
Pinch of love
For sugar syrup
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 cup water
10-12 strands of saffron
In a bowl, take the all purpose flour, jaggery, cardamom powder and fennel seeds. You see that I have a lump of jaggery here and I needed much more elbow grease to melt it all properly and blend it with the batter. Its would be better if you grate or shave the jaggery instead. Optionally, you could also take the jaggery in a separate bowl, add a couple tbsp of water and let it melt in the bowl and then add it to the flour. Makes life a lot easier.
To this bowl, add some condensed milk
Next goes in the rose water. Oh how I love this combination of flavours. Takes me straight down the memory lane and the flavour palate is so quintessentially Indian.
Now pour in about a cup of water gradually and slowly while whisking in the batter. We want a shampoo like consistency- you know its not too flowy nor too thick. Now cover the batter and let it rest for atleast 30 minutes before we are ready to fry them.
Meanwhile, we'll make the sugar syrup. In a pot over medium high heat, add the sugar, water and bring it to a boil. We want to bring this syrup to a 'one- thread' consistency. That is when you stretch the syrup between your forefinger and thumb, you'll see it forming a single thread which is perfect. Turn down the heat to the lowest when you reach that consistency and add the saffron strands to the syrup to infuse it with the aromatic goodness.
To fry the malpuas, heat oil in a frying pan or you can shallow fry it too if you want things less greasy. I prefer frying them properly because then they have these amazingly crispy edges that don't really go soft even after being dunked in the sugar syrup. Thats my favorite part of the malpua.
As the oil heats up, take a whisk and whisk the batter for around 5 whole minutes. This aerates the batter making the malpuas light and they puff up while frying. Ready to fry now!
Take a ladle and pour some batter in the oil very carefully. The batter will first submerge in oil
and within 5 seconds it will start floating up. If it doesn't float up, the oil wasn't at the right temperature. See how its puffing up! Flip the malpua over after frying it for 10 seconds or till its golden brown on one side.
Fish it out of the frying pan once both sides are evenly golden and immediately dunk it in the warm sugar syrup for atleast 15-20 seconds so it absorbs the sugar-y saffron-y goodness. I forgot to click this step. La di da!
Repeat the process for the rest till all your batter is gone. To serve the malpuas, I garnished them with rose petals, spooned over some leftover syrup and scattered some slivered almonds and pistachios over it. How pretty do they look and soooooo yumm!!
Wish you all a very Happy Holi!!! May your lives be as colourful and bright!