What's travel without food and Holi without Gujiya??
Holi is my favorite among all the festivals, very close to my heart; it originated in Northern India, but people in other parts also play with the same zeal and enthusiasm. It's a festival of colors, love, happiness, friends, and family. People forget their hatred, and even enemies turn friends in this particular festival to enjoy this massive social event. Its commonly celebrated when winter ends and marks the coming of spring. People play outdoors with colors, water guns, balloons filled with water, oh what bliss!!!! I own many memories of those golden days. Down in the memory lane, as I look back, I remember getting up early in the morning every year to store water, that was to fill up balloons and more storage of water for playing. I must say, we played the dirtiest Holi with paint and intense colors that would take at least 10-15 days to come out of my hair. Also, for the face, we even had to use petrol to get rid of that rigid paint, in the evening we would show our burnt faces and hands to friends, bragging how rough Holi we had played. Unforgettable times now trapped in memories.
Holi is the biggest festival after Diwali in India. Holi celebrations start with Holika Dehen (bonfire) on the night before Holi, where people gather, pray, sing and dance. The next morning is a free-for-all carnival of colors, where participants play, chase, and color each other with dry powder and colored water, some carrying water guns and water balloons for the water fight. We dumped buckets and buckets for water.
The frolic and fight with colors occur in the open streets, open parks, outside temples, and buildings. Groups carry drums and musical instruments, roam around in places, sing, and dance. People visit family, friends, and foes to throw colors on each other, laugh and chit-chat, then share Holi delicacies, food, and drinks. Some drinks are intoxicating. For example, Bhang is an intoxicating ingredient made from cannabis leaves, is mixed into drinks and sweets, and is consumed by many. In the evening, after sobering up, people dress up, visit friends and family.
Every family has a different tradition of making sweets, treats, savories, and snacks for Holi, but there is one thing which you would find in each and every house in Northern India, and that's a delicious sweet treat, Gujiya. I remember my whole family sitting together after dinner each year to make gujiya. I even remember counting them till 300 or more. OMG, those days were terrific!!!! Whoever visits home is offered the sweet delight, and we also send them to our relatives and friends' houses as a token of love and festivities.
Different organizations in North America and Asia got inspired by this Hindu festival of South Asia and started their own color run events where they dress up and play with beautiful colors; they hold an event here in Toronto as well in summer. In Canada, it doesn't feel like Holi as it arrives. In India, Holi is celebrated when winter ends, and we welcome spring. But since Canada has long winters and the charm of playing Holi outdoors will always be a daydream. Temples in and around Toronto organize functions with lunch and color playing; some people arrange house parties to celebrate with loved ones.
For the last 12 years, I've been making Gujiya all alone; well, I can hardly make around 55 of them now. It's so delicious that your taste buds will not resist reaching for another; it's very rich in calories but still healthy and sumptuous. My family never liked purchasing them from the restaurant as it's too sweet, dipped in sugar syrup, and the taste isn't fantastic as well. We lived in Kenya and Tanzania for many years, where it was challenging to get Concentrated Milk Solid(khoya/ Mawa); hence I created my own recipe with dry fruits.
You can also try this recipe at home. To make Gujiya, you will need:-
White Flour (Maida)- 500 gms
Cashews- 200gms (Cashews give a very nice and creamy taste)
Almonds- 100 gms
Raisins- 50 gms
Clarified butter (ghee)-200 gms
Semolina- 100 gms
Milk and oil/ ghee- to mix with the flour.
Step 1. Grind dry fruits together to make a powder.
Step 2. Put some clarified butter (ghee) in the pot, add semolina, stir until light golden brown, mix dry fruit powder, add sugar(Clarified butter should always be more than semolina). Mix everything together properly, remove it from the flame and add some little lukewarm milk to make it a bit moist and then let it cool down.
Knead the tight dough, mix with melted clarified butter or cooking oil, and some hot milk ( no water used). Cover it with a cotton cloth to keep it moist.
And your delicious, relishing, mouth-watering Gujiyas are ready; you will love them, as well as your kids. Save them in the airtight jar, and they can stay at room temperature for even 10 days.
Happy Holi everyone!