Note: This recipe has a pronunciation section at the end for all underlined words in the text. If you find it useful (or not), let me know at email@example.com
A couple of weeks ago, people all over India celebrated their new year. New year in March/April might sound weird but the Hindu calendar is a lunar calendar which means that it doesn’t coincide with the English calendar which is solar. The lunar calendar often means an exact date cannot be set each year so it varies each year. Whatever date it might fall on, the new year in India brings with it new clothes, new resolutions, more school holidays and lots of yummy food.
The Kannada New Year is called “Ugadi” and is celebrated all over my state of Karnataka (yes, each state also has a different day of celebration – don’t ask me why). Traditionally, this means lots of festive food including special desserts. Mum always calls to remind me what festival is on and I usually respond with “What do I cook for it?”. This time she said “Holige” and so I went ahead and made some.
Holige or Obbattu is a bread-based dessert. An authentic holige consists of dough made with a special flour called “chiroti rava” or super-fine semolina. This dough is stuffed with a mixture of fresh coconut, cardamom, jaggery (palm or unrefined sugar) and ground poppy seeds (“gasa gase” in Kannada and “khus-khus” in Hindi). The stuffed bread is rolled and cooked on a pan with a little bit of ghee or butter. Below is my attempt to make it with the ingredients I could find in my local supermarket.
Ingredients (makes 4):
For the dough:
1 heaped cup of wholemeal flour or standard flour ( if you can find superfine semolina, go for it)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
a pinch of salt
water to make a stiff dough
For the filling:
2 heaped teaspoons of ground, roasted white poppy seeds
3/4 cup of shaved jaggery or palm sugar or soft brown sugar (See pictures)
3/4 cup of dessicated coconut (if you can find freshly grated coconut, even better)
seeds of 3 cardamom pods, crushed with a mortar and pestle
Butter/ghee/oil to cook the bread.
1. Roast the poppy seeds until they turn slightly brown and grind them using a spice blender. Set aside.
2. Put the jaggery and cardamom in a small pot with a few teaspoons of water.
3. When the jaggery melts and starts to bubble, add the coconut and stir well until the mixture thickens.
4. Take the mixture off the heat and stir in the ground poppy seeds. Let the mixture cool for 5 minutes.
5. Make mini-lime sized balls of the mixture and set aside to cool further.
6. Add the flour, salt and oil into a mixing bowl. Trickle water into a well in the centre and bring the flour into it slowly. Add more water and mix the ingredients until they gather into a stiff dough. My mother always told me that when the dough is ready there should be no flour stuck to the bowl or your fingers (pictures 11-13).
7. Make lemon-sized balls of the dough and place under a wet towel as you will be rolling them out one by one and don’t want the remaining balls to go dry while you do so.
8. Take one ball of dough, flatten it slightly and roll it out on a bit of non-stick baking paper. Roll until the dough is 8-10cms in diameter.
9. Place a ball of the coconut-jaggery stuffing in the middle of the dough. The stuffing, having cooled down, will feel hard but is still pliable.
10. Fold the edges of the dough over the stuffing like a cap (See pictures 14-17) until you cannot see any stuffing.
11. Flatten the stuffed dough lightly with your palm and roll again onto the baking paper. This time, make the bread really really thin (picture 18). Thinner the bread, tastier the holige.
12. The bread should have stuck to the baking paper on one side. Lift the baking paper and place it on the pan with the unstuck side facing down (picture 20).
13. Slowly peel the baking paper off (picture 21) and you can re-use this for all the balls of dough you have made.
14. Run butter/ghee/oil around the edges of the bread and cook on both side until the top has gone golden brown.
15. Because the bread has been rolled really thin, there will be areas where the filling oozes out and starts to caramelise further in the pan. Don’t fret as this is to be expected and makes the holige more tasty.
16. Cook the remaining balls of dough and mixture similarly. The most challenging bit for me was making sure that the filling spread evenly as I was rolling the bread the second time round. I got it right on my fourth attempt so if it doesn’t work the first few times, don’t give up.
17. Serve hot with another dollop of butter/ghee on top for a delicious (and not very healthy) festive dessert.
Happy Belated Ugadi!
Chiroti = “chi” as in chin + “ro” as in row + “ti” as in tea
Gasa gasa = “ga” as in garden + “sa” as in supple + “ga” as in garden + “sa” as in say
Holige = Hoe- li*- gay. Here “li” has special “l” sound where you curl your tongue to touch the roof of your mouth as you say ‘llll’ and then release as you say “iiiii”)
Khus khus = As in cous cous
Obbattu = Ob as in oblong + batt as in butt + ooh
Rava = Ruh + “va” as in way
Ugadi = Ooh + “ga” as in garden + “dhi” as in thee