Holi: The festival of Colours (Part 2)
By Simran Kapur
Any festival approaching an Indian household would witness a riled-up mother frantically getting the house spick and span. The festival of colour more likely so, requires an extra bit of effort post the colourful fiasco.
The entirety of the day goes by with drenching each other in colours that fail to come off even after several baths. This tiresome task, gives some a great deal of pleasure and for the rest it is an excuse to tuck into the beautiful desserts prepared for the occasion.
Ideally anything sweet would be attractive to a foodie like me, but some traditions are yet to be broken. Every year, my grandmother passes on her skills by overseeing the children of the house trying their hand at these delicious preparations.
It took me years to perfect these, but I like to believe it is indeed the effort that counts. Sharing stories, sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor trying to sort right from wrong, I’ve enjoyed Holi a great deal, with each passing year.
A personal family tradition is a rice pudding preparation called ‘Phirni’. Weird as it may sound, it is a rather rich and creamy bowl of sweetness. It takes a few attempts not to burn the milk, but once you get the hang of it, it surely does deliver in taste. It is also extremely versatile as far as puddings go, you can pour it in small bowls and refrigerate it or have it straight off the pan, like I do.
Another very popular dessert prepared for the occasion is a fried bundle of joy, it is popularly known as ‘Gujiya’. This dessert translates in name exactly what it is. Made out of a simple flour and oil dough, this fried goodness is stuffed with rich dried fruits and then soaked in thick sugar syrup. It can easily be stored in air tight containers for up to two weeks. That translates into extended celebrations for as long as the sweets last.
So far, you must be wondering about that weighing scale rising up. I suggest you get such negative thoughts out of your mind as soon as possible. The hours spent planning pranks and playing with vibrant colours exhausts everyone and must be rewarded with a little guilty pleasure.
The sweets might have overwhelmed you by now, worry not we have some savoury alternatives up our sleeves as well. An extremely popular snack during Holi is known as ‘Dahi Vada’. The base is made out of lentils, soaked and ground into a paste then fried into small ball size portions. Once fried it needs to be soaked in water which inflates them in size and makes them light and fluffy. It can then be transferred on to your bowl. Add to it a spoonful of yoghurt, a pinch of spices and for that little kick a spoon or two of tamarind sauce. Garnished with coriander, this snack gets over within minutes, so make sure you make plenty in advance.
A Holi essential that tops the list for every household is the cool and refreshing ‘Thandai’. Playing with colours out in the sun can be demanding and often extremely dehydrating. A cool milk-based drink, the Thandai is cool and warmly spicy at the same time. Mixed with black pepper, saffron and ground nuts this is one big glass of goodness. Wash your snacks down with a tall glass of Thandai and you will be sorted for the rest of the day.
The list of food items change with every household, but the crazy and maddening spirit of Holi remains the same for all. For those who haven’t had a chance to experience this madness and for those who have plenty of stories to share I hope I have done justice with my take on this mischievous festival from the subcontinent known as India.