Recipes | Healthy Sweet Empanadas or Gujiyas and A refreshing Drink, Thandai – Celebration of colours and nostalgia
“Mom, what is Holi and why is it celebrated?” asked my daughter the other day.
“Festivals are an integral part of Indians. Though the rituals and customs to celebrate these festivals vary from one region to another, the spirit of festivity remains the same. Holi is one such religious festival when fun, frolic and feasting go hand in hand.” I continued in same breath.
“Holi – the festival of colours, marks the beginning of spring season and is celebrated for two days. The first day eve begins with a bonfire or Holika dhahan which depicts the victory of good over evil. The next day is the time for playing with colours, greeting friends and sharing sweets with them.” Nostalgia started engulfing me as I narrated them my experiences.
“Oh..ok..we are done with history of Holi mom…now tell us how did you colour-play and did masti (fun) in Holi?” my son asked me eagerly.
“Well, preparation for Holi would start days ahead at my moms home. We would make toli or what you call as gang, to stock gulal or colour powder, Pichkaris (water-guns) and some old cloths to be worn that day.” My eyes sparkled with joy as I explained them about the fun we had during Holi and how I wished I could go back to the days of my childhood again.
“Water-gun..wow, this sounds exciting!” my son interrupted me.
“We had a tree in our colony which produced vibrant orange flowers called Flame of the forest or Tesu/Palash tree. We would collect Tesu flowers and soak into a bucketful of water overnight. The water turns into bright yellow in colour the next day and was used to fill the water-guns.” I tried to explain them in brief.
“Our gang of friends would start assembling quite early on the festival day to start visiting houses, smearing every face with colours on the way and feasting on the sweets they made.” I cut short the story and left them for making Gujias.
My children have never got a chance to be a part of this fun and frolic of Holi as the festival is not celebrated in the city I live in, but I constantly update them with the stories and history behind such festivals.
And cooking traditional food during these celebrations could be a great way to stay connected to our roots. I wanted to make a sweet Empanada called Gujiyas/Ghughra/Karanji/Karachika in India for them to compensate for the fun and frolic that we miss here.
“Gujiyas remind me of pre-holi celebrations days when we used to help my mom in making these delicacies.” I told them and asked my daughter to take out the baking tray.
My daughter, who was listening patiently, asked me if she can help me in making Gujias. “Why not, the more the merrier” I replied and asked her to make small balls of dough.
Involving children in kitchen is when cooking stops being a chore and becomes a fun activity
1. Healthy Sweet Empanada aka Gujia with Oat Bran
My daughter stood with me in the kitchen, filled all the Gujiyas, folded the edges and neatly arranged them on the baking tray.
These may not be the best looking Gujiyas on net but these certainly are the tastiest of gujias for a mom
I avoid deep frying the Gujiyas and always make the pastry dough with wholegrain. I came across Oat bran in my grocery store and wanted to add it to the dough. And I did love the crispy crust and nutty aroma of my healthy…yes, you read it right ‘Healthy Gujiyas’.
(makes about 12-15 small Gujiyas)
- 1/2 cup Oat Bran
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 tbsp. ghee or butter
- A pinch of salt
- Water to knead
- 20-22 Almonds
- 20 raisins
- 6-7 dried Apricots
- 3-4 Dates
- 2 tbsp. melon seeds
- 1 tbsp. poppy seeds
- 1 tbsp. Honey
- 1 tsp. cardamom powder
Method; Chop almonds, apricots and dates very finely in a bowl. Add raisins, melon seeds, poppy seeds, cardamom powder and honey in it. Combine all ingredients well.
Take a large shallow bowl and add Oat bran, wheat flour, salt and ghee in it. Rub all the ingredients lightly with fingers and combine well.
Add a little water and knead into a semi-hard dough. If the dough is too hard, you will find it difficult to roll it into discs. And if the dough is too soft, the Gujiyas will not get crisp after baking.
Divide the dough into walnut sized balls. Roll each ball into small discs dusting a little dry wheat flour if necessary.
Place a teaspoonful of the filling on one side and bring the other side to overlap it making a half moon shape. Press the corners with a fork or just fold it edges twisting the dough.
Repeat the same process and make all gujiyas.
Preheat the oven at 180°C. Grease a baking tray with oil and place all the gujias on it. Bake the Gujias till they turn golden brown in colour. Mine took about 25 minutes of baking time.
If you want authentic Gujias, you can deep fry them in hot oil.
2. Thandai –A refreshing spiced summer drink
This carefree festival Holi also marks the onset of hot summer days. This is also when a refreshing, nutty, heavily spiced and rich summer drink called Thandai makes it appearance in many homes all over India.
My children dislike the aftertaste of pepper and other spices in the drink. This recipe is children- friendly version of mine, I have changed the way this drink is traditionally prepared. Normally Thandai is light green in colour with chunks of nuts and crushed spices floating over the drink.
(makes about 5-6 cups)
- 2 cups of milk
- 3 cups of water
- 5 tsp. palm sugar
- 15-20 rose petals
- 1/2 tsp saffron strands
- Crushed ice
Nuts and seeds;
- 1 tbsp. fennel seeds
- 8-10 peppercorns
- 4-5 cardamom pods
Nuts and seeds; Soak almonds, pistachio, poppy seeds (khus-khus) and melon seeds (magaz) for 7-8 hours in plain water. Drain the water, remove skin from almonds and grind all the nuts into very fine paste.
Spices; Grind fennel seeds (saunf), peppercorn (kali mirch) and whole cardamom pods (elaichi) into coarse powder in a grinder. I prefer pounding these spices in pestle and mortar and keep the spices more chunky.
Bring 3 cups of water to boil in a deep saucepan. Add powdered spices, boil for another 2 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and cover it with a lid.
Let the spices infuse in water for some more time. Strain this liquid in another bowl.
Bring milk to boil in another saucepan. Take a teaspoon of warm milk in a small bowl and add saffron strands in it. Rub the strands with the back of a spoon to infuse colour and flavors in milk. Add the saffron infused milk in the pan and keep boiling for 3-4 minutes on low heat.
Add rose petals and the spice infused water into boiling milk and boil for another 10 minutes on low heat.
Take the pan off heat, cover with a lid and let the Thandai cool before serving.
Take long glasses, add crushed ice and fill with the Thandai. Garnish with a few strands of saffron, rose petals and powdered pistachio nuts.
This way of making the Thandai make sure that there is no after taste of coarse spices in the drink and also makes it a children-friendly recipe.
- Substitute all purpose flour if you want the authentic Gujias which are paper thin and transparent.
- You can replace the Oat bran with powdered oats to make the Gujiya recipe dough.
- Panjiri makes a delicious filling for these Gujiyas.
- Reduce spices if you are making the drink for children.
- Reduce the saffron in the recipe to make a light green or cream coloured Thandai.
“Wish you all a very Happy Holi, may your life fills with colours of happiness!”