I will spare you the details of why I do not like Holi this year. It’s a personal problem. I have lamented enough about the ills as well as the reasons for the celebration in the last three years. Besides, I do not have any fresh grudges. We did not have water supply that evening and almost whole of next day so I was spared some of the excesses Holi brings in every year – wastage of water.
I do enjoy some aspects – one aspect actually! The gastronomic indulgence Holi allows.
Sinful? Yes, hugely sinful! But then again, I rarely indulge. As long as I grew up Holi was synonymous with gujiya, an Indian puff pastry that swaddles a sweet concoction of dense khoya (milk solids made by evaporating milk over slow heat for a long period) mixed with dry fruits and nuts. To say, I don’t miss it would be an outright lie. I do. But I recently hit upon a very nice idea on making a vegan version that is tastier (that I promise is not an exaggeration) and easier.
The blurred visions of vegan gujiya, puff pastry and croissants are stronger and clearer, ever since I saw boxes of vegan butter spread at Foodhall. I piled six boxes in my shopping trolley. Imagine my shock when I was told that the bill came to Rs.6,000/-! I found that a half kg box of vegan butter spread came at an outrageous price of Rs.637/-. Worth it? Totally, if you are rolling in green, maybe. I requested the cashier to bill two boxes and strike out four. Whatever little guilt I felt were quashed by happy visions of flour and butter. Right now, I am using the butter very sparingly, but the visions are still there. If you know me only through the blog you can expect it show up here, and if you know me well? You might not recognize me. I will try to camouflage the love handles with loose-fitting, flowing tops.
Coming back to Holi, since it was the first day of indulgence and guilt was still high, I stuck to making something that will use butter sparingly. Not gujiya. I made matthri. Some of you might know it as matthi or suali as it is called in Rajasthan. Matthris are very crisp, flaky, deep-fried Indian cookies made with refined flour. All things evil – fats, gluten and oil.
Recipe: Matthri / Matthi / Suali ~ Deep-fried Indian crisp and flaky Indian cookies
Yield: 15-20 nos., depending on the size. (rough estimate)
Refined flour / Maida – 2 cups
Salt (to taste) – ½ tsp. approx.
Carom seeds / Ajwain – 1 tbsp.
Kokum butter melted (see tips)– 4.5 tbsp
Warm water – 1 cup / 170g approx.
A bit of vinegar – ¼ tsp.
Oil to fry [Sunflower or any neutral oil]
Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl. Add salt and carom seeds and stir well to distribute the seeds in the flour uniformly.
Make a mound, and a well in the center. Pour hot oil/warm melted butter.
Rub the flour and butter, first using a spoon till you can handle the heat, and then with the tips of your fingers till the mixture becomes crumbly. You can add upto ½ cup of melted oil, but I have used a little less here. And it makes a mighty difference. But if you increase the fats remember to reduce water.
Add vinegar to water. Stir and add sprinkle this over the dough, gathering into crumbs as you go. You do not need to add vinegar if you increase the quantity of oil in the previous step.
The amount of water may vary by a tablespoon or so. Gather the crumbs with your fist into a tight dough. Do not knead as this will make the dough tough and resistant.
Let it rest for 15-20 minutes while the oil gets heated in a thick-bottomed deep-frying wok. It should come to medium heat.
Pinch ping-pong sized balls of dough and press between the hollows of your palms into a rough circular cookie. Use a touch of oil to grease your palms before doing this.
When a few are done, fry in reduced heat only. The cookies should not sizzle and come up as they will be bubbles all over. The cookies are generally a little thick around the center and should be fried in low heat till half done. Stir around a bit so that the browning is even.
When half done remove one batch and add a fresh one. After three batches are made this way, re-fry the first batch to golden colour. Similarly finish with the entire dough.
Let them cool at room temperature completely before transferring to an air-tight container.
These last well for as long as a fortnight.
Taste, look and texture:
Matthris should be flaky inside. You should hear them softly crack when you break them. They will not be as soft as cookies and will have a crack but a very light one. They should be uniformly golden, and not pale. Pale ones may remain uncooked inside. They taste a lot like the outer covering of samosa but are a little harder than that in texture.
Notes, observations and tips:
For this preparation I used ‘kokum butter’. The flower of the kokum plant is used widely in Konkani and Maharashtrian cuisines. The butter extracted is generally used for medicinal values, but I have been told it is edible in small quantities. You can use vegan butter spread, or hot oil instead.
Matthri is the kind of snack you might bite on every once in a while, one at a time. It is filling.
If you want to make it all prim and proper, roll out on a board and cut into circles with a cookie cutter. I made it the rustic way, just taking a small ball and pressing it between my palms which is quicker and does not make a difference to the taste. Making this way also keeps it more flaky.
Never make a big batch if only for the family. That way you might indulge less.
A few years back I blogged a whole-wheat, baked version, spiced with kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) which also makes a very tasty evening snack with tea. If you like this recipe but think it has too many refined products, try the whole-wheat version.
I measured the ingredients in volume as well as weighed them. Please note that Indian cup measures are said to hold less in weight.
The amount of water used to make the dough might differ depending on strength of the arms, and the strength of the flour. Please adjust. I have often found that my mother needs a little more water than I need. I suppose I will be there, but not just yet!
You can vary the flavours by adding spices of your choice. I like the addition of sesame seeds and kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves) too. Carom seeds (ajwain) prevent bloating.
(Pretty bowl gifted by Saee – thank you!)
Hey healthy eaters! Don’t go away please. I tell you, I am not to blame for the indulgence. It’s the Season.
If you try my recipes, please let me know on my facebook page with photographs. I will be happy to post them, along with your observations.