Holi and Gujiya in my head are the same because they both are sweet, tasty and reminiscent of great times, says Manjulaa Shirodkar
I really don’t remember that very first time when I fell in love with Holi or Gujiyas. Yes, they are synonyms in my head. One is incomplete without the other. It could have happened simultaneously or one love would have followed the other but all I remember now is enjoying Holi to its utmost raucously, noisily year after year. It was the only day of the year when parents didn’t yell, didn’t stop me from running around with colour in my hair, on my face, in old, worn out clothes. The only time when looking neat and clean and groomed – as girls ought to be from “good homes” was thrown out the window. They looked just as unrecognizable, after all!
I remember loads of coloured water filled in tubs and buckets – all of which got emptied as soon as they were filled; throwing water balloons on friends, dodging balloons thrown at us, refilling buckets in a crazy rush from the overhead tanks to drown the musical tolis which were passing by on the road below; running across terraces and dirtying neighbours’ homes in a bid to get to their bathrooms to get more water, till we ran out of water or fell down in sheer exhaustion from the fun of it all. It used to be a free for all – with friends, cousins, relatives, parents and the general neighbourhood. Best of all, no one seemed to mind.
It was Holi after all. A no holds barred festival and as eagerly awaited as Diwali. It usually began with mommy dearest having set out old clothes on the bed and we getting into them as soon as we opened our eyes in the morning. And of course, we were allowed to miss our bath (anyway I would be getting wet endlessly till mom stopped changing my clothes after she ran out of fresh dry sets and allowed me to dry as is!) until we came home tired and exhausted in the afternoon.
Come to think of it, this was the madness of the morning. The Gujiya madness invariably began a night before and led up to Holi. It really all began when Mom used to come home from the office. Once dinner was done, some aunty or the other from the neighbourhood would land up with her Gujiya saaman to learn how to make it like ‘Sarla behnji does’ and together their kids and we would all sit on mats on the floor and start preparing Gujiyas and other sweetmeats like Shakarpare, Namakpare and Mathris. Well into the night, the fun would go on.
There was lots of laughter and endless yellings by mothers because as soon as the Gujiyas were done and out of the kadai, we would start gobbling them up. No amount of warnings from respective mothers mattered. A Gujiya was a Gujiya and meant to be eaten there and then. No amount of threats worked that if this lot finished we would have to go without them on Holi. But we knew better. We knew that enough Gujiyas would be made to survive not just the festival and its endless guests but some would be left over for after as well. And no matter how many we ate, they all just disappeared somewhere and we were still famished and starved.
Even today, countless incidents from different Holis fill up my head each year the festival rolls around. Dancing with friends, visiting neighbours with gulaal in our hands and packets of different colours in our pockets, balloons in plastic bags, welcoming guests at home and so much more. And while in my head I am the same ruckous, boisterous child my demeanour on the outside reflects quietude.
I would still love to be with the child in me, hold my own hand and play Holi just as loudly – but I satisfy myself with making gujiyas and what’s a Holi if we don’t get to share the best of our memories. So while I can’t walk across to you, rub some gulaal on your cheeks and sprinkle it all over your head and slyly smash a water-filled balloon on your back when we hug, what I can do is share how the recipe of how mum made gujiyas. She worked with approximate measures with all the ingredients and yet they turned out perfect – every single time.
So here I am sharing with all of you the secret to delicious Gujiyas – just the way mom made them. To start with this easily makes about 12-15 gujiyas. You could add onto to the proportions depending how many you want.
For the dough
Take 2 cups of maida(all purpose flour);
2 tbsp ghee / clarified butter
¼ tsp salt (to enhance flavour)
And water as required
For the filling
1 full cup mawa / khoya
1/3 cup semolina / sooji
½ cup roughly chopped almonds
½ cup dry grated coconut
¼ cup chironji /charoli
20-25 kishmish / raisins
1 tsp powdered green cardamom
1 cup bura (powdered sugar)
Refined oil for frying
To prepare the dough:
Take the maida in a big thali / parat and put moen (ghee) and salt into it. Mix the two thoroughly. You will know the moen has got properly mixed with the flour when you take the mix in your hand and try to make a soft ball/laddoo out of it. If it holds shape, its been mixed well. Next, pour little water at a time into the mix and start kneading it. It should be kneaded tight so put water gradually. Knead a tight dough. This should get done in a 3-4 mins. Once done, put the dough to rest for half hour under a wet cloth.
To prepare the filling:
Roast the khoya in a kadai/wok keeping low to medium flame. As it turns warm and starts to melt turn the flame to low and continue to mix till the khoya starts to leave the sides of the pan. Keep stirring continuously till it begins to turn colour and then take it out of the kadai and put it aside. Do not brown it. Now take the sooji and dry roast it on low flame till it releases aroma. Again, don’t over roast it.
Now, mix all the ingredients, except sugar, into the sooji and mix well. Next put in the khoya and mix once again. Keep aside and allow the mixture to cool. Once cool, mix the powdered sugar and mix well again. The reason why sugar is added later is because it melts in the hot mix. The filling should be dry and not moist. It helps the gujiyas last longer.
Divide the dough into two parts. Make a cylindrical log out of each part and then cut into equal portions. Roll each portion in your palms to make small balls. Cover all of them with a wet muslin cloth.
Take one ball, put it on the rolling board/chakla and with a rolling pin roll it to a poori size or about 4-5 inches diameter. Avoid dusting it with dry flour as it will burn when you put the gujiya for frying later. Instead, take a couple of drops of oil and massage it onto the rolling pin. Then roll out the balls as specified.
Keep this rolled out gujiya sheet in the palm of one hand and apply some water on the bottom half and only edges of the circumference. Try and roll out the sheet till its almost translucent. (The thinner the sheet, the more flaky and light your gujiya will be. If the sheet is too thick, it will rise further in the pan and the outer crust will be thick.) Put a spoonful of filling in the centre of the bottom half and carefully fold the top half to make a semi-circle. Press down the two edges and join.
Carefully, join the edges and trim the extra edges with a gujiya cutter. In case you don’t have one, fold the ends of the gujiya together and simply press down the ends gently using the tines of a fork. Be careful not to spike or drive a hole into the gujiya. Seal it completely from end to end and keep aside. Prepare all like this and keep under the wet cloth.
Heat the oil in a deep kadai or pan. Remember gujiyas are deep fried so the oil has to be temperature tested. To test whether the oil is ready or not, put a small dough ball into the oil. If it comes up gradually the oil is ready. If it comes up real fast, turn down the flame. If it sits at the bottom the oil is still cold. Gently slide one gujiya at a time into the kadai. Don’t over crowd the pan. You can fry 2-4 at a time depending on the pan size. Turn over the gujiya from one side to the other to fry both sides evenly. Deep fry till light golden brown.
Drain on paper tissues until cool. Then they can be stored in an air tight container – if they last that long. Ours certainly didn’t. Enjoy your Holi and Gujiyas.
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Manjulaa Shirodkar (nee Negi) is an established film critic and author, having worked in leading national publications. She is also a Film Selection Committee member for various film festivals.