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The holies of Holi

Giving a contemporary spin to traditional dishes for the festival of colours
Durri Bhalla with stuffed potol Mughlai style

Durri Bhalla   |   Published 28.03.21, 12:57 AM

Through my culinary journey spanning over three decades, I have experimented with a variety of cuisines from across the globe, constantly innovating with complex traditional cuisines to make them simpler and healthier. I love festivals in India because of the endless variety of mouth-watering delicacies that one gets to eat. Holi is a festival that really makes me experiment with colour and fusion. And as you will see in my recipes, they are extremely easy and fun-to-make dishes that will leave your family and friends asking for more.

Stuffed potol Mughlai style


I am going to show you a twist on the potoler dorma. The filling will be of paneer (you can use low-fat paneer for a healthier version) and the gravy will be Mughlai style. It’s ideal for a Holi lunch and best eaten with puris or rotis.


• Potol: 6-7 big size. Cut one end and scrape out the inside carefully so as not to break the skin.

For marination

• Lemon juice: 1tbsp

• Red chilli powder: 1tsp

• Turmeric powder: ½tsp

For the stuffing

• Paneer: 4-5tbsp crushed

• Potatoes: 2tbsp boiled and mashed

• Grated cheese: 1½tbsp

• Coriander leaves: 1½tbsp finely chopped

• Green chillies: 1tsp finely chopped

• Aamchoor powder: 1tsp

• Garam masala powder: ½tsp

• Ginger paste: 1tsp

• Black pepper powder: 1tsp

• Salt: To taste

For the gravy

• Oil: 2tbsp

• Jeera seeds: 1tsp

• Curd: 1 cup

• Red chilli powder: 1tsp

• Turmeric powder: ½tsp

• Asafoetida (hing): A pinch

• Tomatoes: 2 finely chopped

• Coriander powder: 1tsp

• Cashews: 8-10

• Salt: To taste

• Garam masala powder: ½tsp

• Water: 1 cup


• To marinate the potol, mix the lemon juice, red chilli powder and turmeric powder and smear it on the potol inside out. Keep aside for 15 minutes

• Fry the potol in half cup heated oil for 5 minutes till it wilts a little bit. Remove and keep aside to cool.

• For the stuffing, mix all the ingredients very well. Then stuff the potols with this mixture.

• Heat 2tbsp of oil in a kadai and add the jeera seeds.

• Now take the curd and add red chilli powder, turmeric powder and asafoetida (hing) and mix well. Put this curd mixture into the oil after the jeera seeds have spluttered. Stir and cook for few seconds.

• Add the tomatoes and coriander powder and cook for about 7-8 minutes.

• Make a smooth paste of the cashews with a little bit of water and put in the kadai and stir well. At this time put the flame on medium or low. Cook for about 4 minutes and then add a cup of water and cook for 10 minutes with the kadai covered.

• Add salt and garam masala powder.

• Add the potols one by one into the gravy and cook till the gravy thickens and the potols are also cooked through. Be very careful while turning the potols during cooking.

• Serve in a bowl and garnish with coriander leaves.


Holi is never complete without a glass of chilled thandai. A rich blend of milk, dry fruits, saffron and various spices, it is a party in the mouth.


• Full-cream milk: 1 litre (weight-watchers can use low-fat milk.)

• Sugar: ½ cup (for a healthier version and for diabetics add a sugar-free sweetener according to taste.)

• Almonds: 8 (soak them in warm water for 30 minutes and then remove the skin.)

• Cashews: 10-12

• Pistachios: 10

• Melon seeds: 1tbsp

• Fennel seeds: 1tbsp

• Peppercorns: 10-12

• Cardamoms: 10-12 (remove the skin)

• Saffron: Few strands

• Rose water: 1tbsp


• Soak the dry fruits, seeds, peppercorns and cardamoms in warm water for 30 minutes and then blend to a fine paste.

• Boil milk and then add sugar and keep stirring so that the milk does not stick to the pan.

• Add the paste and mix well. Keep stirring the milk.

• Turn off the flame and then put a few strands of saffron. You can also put a little yellow food colour. That’s optional.

• Finally, add rose water and chill the milk for 5 to 6 hours.


This super light desert is extremely easy to make and, unlike other deserts, is actually good for health. Holi or not, if you have a sweet craving, this is the guilt-free desert for you.


• Milk: 1 litre

• Rice: ½ cup soaked for an hour and then drained till it is a little dry

• Sugar: ½ cup or according to taste

• Saffron: A few strands soaked in a quarter cup of milk

• Dry fruits: A few, mixed and finely crushed

• Custard powder: 1tbsp mixed in a little milk

• Cardamom powder: 1tsp


• Grind the rice with half cup milk in a blender.

• Heat milk on high flame. When it comes to a boil slowly add the ground rice on medium flame. Keep stirring so that no lumps are formed.

• Add the sugar. Keep stirring and let cook till the sugar dissolves.

• Add a teaspoon of cardamom powder and keep stirring.

• Now add the custard powder paste in milk. Keep stirring.

• Add the saffron milk. Cook till the milk becomes slightly thick. It should not be too thick. Switch off the flame.

• At this point you can add the crushed dry fruits. I prefer it plain. Up to you.

• Now pour into earthen pots and garnish with dry fruits. Earthen pots are good for phirni because it sets faster and also helps in absorbing extra moisture. Another good thing is that you do not need dessert bowls and there’s no washing up later either.

Green fish pilao

Playing Holi is a day-long affair that often leaves one exhausted and hungry. A steamy plate of this super-healthy bowl of goodness may be just the thing your body needs. Fresh seafood (fish or prawns) with fresh herbs — this dish will surely bring a smile to your face.


For the chutney

• Coconut: 1, grated

• Coriander leaves: 3 big bunches

• Green chillies: 4-5 (according to taste)

• Garlic cloves: 6-8

• Cumin powder: 2tsp

• Lemon juice: Of one big lemon

• Salt: To taste

For the pulao

• Fish/seafood of your choice: 1kg (I personally see what is most fresh at the market. You have to ensure it is a white firm fish like rohu or bekti)

• Basmati rice: 1½ cups soaked

Bay leaves: 2

• Cardamoms: 5

• Cloves: 5

• Cinnamon: 1 stick

• Water: 3 cups

• Oil: 2-3tbsp

• Salt: To taste

• Garam masala powder: 1tsp


For the chutney

• Blend all the ingredients to a smooth paste. You can add little water to make the paste if necessary.

For the pulao

• Marinate the fish with the chutney paste.

• In a degchi (pot) add 2-3 tbsp oil and add the whole garam masala and bay leaves. Saute for a few seconds.

• Add the soaked rice and saute for a few seconds.

• Put the marinated fish with chutney on top of the rice. Add salt to taste. Remember you have already added salt in the chutney.

• Sprinkle a teaspoon of garam masala powder on top. This is optional.

• Now cover and cook on high flame till one boil and then put flame on low and cook till the rice is done. The fish gets cooked with the rice.

• Gently lift the rice and the fish together and serve. Do not stir the rice in the pot to avoid breaking the pieces of fish.

• You can garnish with some nuts and coriander (optional).

Mutton or Chicken samosa

All the guilty pleasures are forgiven during the festival of Holi. Fried food is an essential part of Holi menus and my favourite is the humble samosa. While we associate samosas with potato, I am particularly fond of the non-vegetarian versions with mutton or chicken mince (keema). I have further elevated this recipe to make it just that tad bit more special. And for the weight watchers, I have added a little tip to make a healthier guilt-free version.


For the pastry

• White flour: 225g

• Water: ¼-3/4 cup

• Butter: 2tbsp (or olive oil)

• Salt: ½tsp

For the mince filling

• Mince meat: 350g

• Onion: 1 finely chopped

• Ginger, garlic and green chilli paste: 2tbsp (use green chilli according to taste)

• Turmeric powder: ½tsp

• Red chilli powder: ½tsp

• Cumin powder: 1tsp

• Coriander powder: 1tsp

• Salt: 1tsp

• Lemon juice: Of one lemon

• Garam masala powder: ½tsp

• Ghee: 2tbsp (can use olive oil instead)

• Coriander leaves (chopped): 1tbsp

• Oil for deep frying.


For the pastry

• Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the butter and rub into the flour till the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Sprinkle the salt, add water and knead to a smooth dough.

• Cover and keep aside till you cook the mince.

For the mince filling

• In a pan heat the ghee and then add the onions. Saute till golden brown (not dark).

• Add the ginger-garlic-chilli paste and saute till the raw smell of garlic has gone.

• Add the mince and saute till it is well-seared.

• Add turmeric and chilli powder. Saute for a minute. Then add cumin and coriander powder. Then add 1½ cup water and salt and cook on high flame till the first boil and then on low flame till the mince is cooked and the water has evaporated and the mince is dry.

• Stir in the garam masala, lemon juice and chopped coriander leaves. Cook for two more minutes so that all the flavours mingle. Remove from the flame and keep aside to cool.

Assembling the samosa

• Divide the dough into equal portions. The size of the samosa depends entirely on you.

• Flatten each ball and roll into circle about four inches in diameter. Cut each circle in half. Dampen the edges of each semi-circle with water and then shape them into cones.

• Put a little filling into each cone, dampen the top and bottom edges of the cone and pinch together to seal. Set aside.

• Fill a deep frying pan with oil up to 1/3 full and heat. When the oil starts smoking lower the samosas into the oil and put the flame on medium and fry till they are golden brown.

• Drain on absorbent paper. Serve with coriander, mint chutney or ketchup and lemon wedges.

• Instead of deep-frying the samosas, weight watchers can either air fry these little babies for 10-12 minutes with a little brush of olive oil, or bake in the oven at 220°Celsius for 20 minutes or till they turn a nice golden brown.

Masaledarchhole and fluffy and crispy bhaturas

Holi and chatpata chhole with balloon-like crispy bhaturas definitely go together like nothing else. While the bhaturas often scare away the health-conscious, this is one guilty pleasure that has no substitute. On a healthier note, the chhole is extremely nutritious.


• Safed chhole: 1 cup soaked in water overnight

• Tea bags: 2

• Bay leaves: 2

• Cardamoms: 4

• Cloves: 4

• Cinnamon: 1 stick

• Baking soda: ¼tsp

• Salt: ¼tsp

• Water: 3 cups

For the chana masala

• Jeera seeds: 1tsp

• Coriander seeds: 1tsp

• Fennel seeds: ½tsp

• Shahi jeera seeds: ½tsp

• Crushed kasuri methi: 1tsp

• Cloves: 3

• Cardamoms: 2

• Dried red chillies: 3

• Aamchoor powder: ½tsp

• Turmeric powder: ½tsp

• Pomegranate powder: 1tsp

• Asafoetida (hing): A pinch

For the chana

• Oil: 3tsp

• Bay leaf: 1

• Onion: 1, finely chopped

• Ginger garlic paste: 1tbsp

• Green chillies: 2

• Tomatoes: 2 very finely chopped

For the tempering

• Ghee: 1½ tbsp

• Green chillies: 2 slit

• Ginger: 1 inch, julienned

• Red chilli powder: 1tsp

• Coriander leaves: For garnishing

For the bhaturas

• Refined flour: 2 cups

• Baking soda: ½tsp

Salt: 1tsp

• Oil: 2tbsp

• Curd: Enough to make a nice smooth dough

• Oil: For deep-frying


• In a pressure cooker put the drained chhole.

• Add the tea bags, bay leaves, cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and 3 cups water. Close the cooker and cook for 5 whistles or till the chhole is cooked.

• In a frying pan put the jeera seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, shahi jeera seeds, crushed kasuri methi, cloves, cardamoms and dried red chillies. Saute for few seconds till a good aroma comes. Do not burn it.

• Grind the sauted ingredients in a blender to a fine powder. Take out in a bowl.

• Add the aamchoor powder, turmeric powder, pomegranate powder and asafoetida. This is your chana masala.

• To make the chana, in a deep pan heat oil. Then put the bay leaf and onion and saute till the onion becomes slightly brown.

• Add ginger-garlic paste and the slitted green chillies. Saute till the onions become golden brown.

• Add the chana masala and tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes become absolutely mushy and one with the masalas.

• Add the chanas with its water after removing the tea bags.

• Mix well and cover and cook for 15 minutes on medium flame till you get the right consistency. Mash a few chanas.

• For the tempering, in a small pan put ghee. When it’s hot add 2 slit green chillies, julienned ginger and red chilli powder. Saute and pour over the chanas. Mix the chanas well and then garnish with coriander leaves.

• For the bhaturas, knead the dough till it becomes pliable and not too soft or hard. Cover and keep aside or 2 hours.

• Punch the dough and divide into small balls. The size depends on you. I myself do not like big bhaturas. Make the balls round and smooth between your greased palms. To make it easy, grease each ball with little oil before rolling it out so it does not stick.

• Heat oil in a kadai for deep-frying the bhaturas. Roll each ball into thin oblong shape and carefully put it into the hot oil. Gently press the side of the bhatura and you will see it puffing up. Fry till nice and golden brown. It will only take a minute or so to fry them.

• Remove and put on absorbent paper.

Durri Bhalla is a cookery expert and author of Indian Bohra Cuisine and Inner Truth To Good Health And Weight Loss. You can reach her at @durribhallakitchen on Instagram and @Durribhallakitchen on Facebook

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