Matthri, matthi, or suali ~ Deep-fried salted cookies from North-India ~ Dairy/Casein/Egg free recipe

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.  And because I do not have any fresh grudges.  We did not have water supply that evening and almost whole of next day.

I do enjoy some aspects – one aspect actually! The gastronomic indulgence Holi allows.

Matthri, matthi, suali - Savoury biscuits from North India

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 was such a pig I piled six boxes in my shopping trolley.  Imagine my shock when I was told that the bill came to Rs.6,000/-!  I checked the prices and found that a half kg box of vegan butter spread came at an outrageous price of Rs.637/-!  Worth it?  Totally, if you do 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).  Mattris are very crisp, flaky, deep-fried Indian cookies made with refined flour.  All things evil – fats, gluten and oil.

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Recipe: Matthri / Matthi / Suali ~ Deep-fried Indian crisp and flaky Indian cookies
Yield: 15-20 nos., depending on the size. (rough estimate)

Ingredients:

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]

Method:

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.  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.

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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.

The good thing is matthri is not the kind of thing that one can eat in large quantities.  It 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.

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 the 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 to persevere, 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.

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(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.

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Comments

Have your say

  1. Lovely cookies! What an interesting treat. I bet they are addictive.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. Mathris forever reminds me of college days when a boxful of them would be packed by my loving mom. Helped me get through many hungry days and late nights! Pics are lovely, as usual!

  3. OMG………u went ahead and bought 2 boxes so exuberantly priced, it must be a gr8 treat for u to have vegan butter, and mattri’s are my fav…..try to prepare it on Diwali times and will give these a try as well……

    • Bought only to make three items. The rest are easily veganized without butter but those that need hardening don’t get the same texture. I doubt whether I will get another soon!

  4. I have very fond memories of mathhri–they were made by a Punjabi aunt and laced with roughly crushed black peppercorns. I love them dunked in cold dahi-based dips. The cupcake liners look great, and I always knew you’d make excellent use of that copper paatela (it is part of a bhatukli set). Lovely post and pictures as well!

  5. Somehow Mathris were never a part of my growing up experience… My mom and grandmom used to make really thin versions of mathris called “Nimkis”. Similar recipe, but rolled out really thin and then cut into diamond shapes and fried in oil. They would rise or bubble up a bit and were not the flaky kinds, but were savoury, crisp and delicious!

  6. you know I do not like Holi too! Never did since childhood :) But I like all the ymmy food Mom used to prepare on that day.
    Matthri is one of my fav teatime snack. Love the photos!

    • I don’t meet like-minded people very often over Holi! Good to know you feel the same way too, and that our stand on goodies are the same!:D

  7. Wonderful pics Harini. Love them all.
    I was smiling to myself, imagining ur expression after seeing the bill :-)

  8. Scrumptious!
    That brass/bronze tiffin box picture makes me drool..
    Beauty!

  9. love that pretty basket shot! i have been thru love and not as much love relationship with holi… but the food part is definitely always loved. Here int he US, it is anyway a luxury to be able to celebrate the festivals and they are usually done in a subtle way.. and believe me.. in Seattle, they are a lot more conscious about all sorts of impact.. so it feels good to celebrate it.

  10. Harini your recipes are always awesome and very perfectly done!!!and your clicks are amazingly superb!!! trying to learn from you dear…

  11. gorgeous clicks, they look so crumbly, totally made my mouth water. btw, im still in a bit of shock over vegan butter & how over priced it is! maybe once indian brands start manufacturing it should become more pocket friendly?

  12. Wow, wonderful clicks. Looks gorgeous :)

  13. your photos are awesome

  14. they look pretty indulging. Never have first hand experience of Holi and have never eaten any of those special goodies :( But with all programmes on television showing holi celebrations and the food, I was wondering about the gujjiyas…good that you have warned me just on time…else i might also have to shopping for loose-fitting camouflage tops!

  15. Such flaky and golden cookies!

  16. very intrigued by vegan butter Harini! I wish I could find some here I really want to try it. And mathri is one of my favorite things!

    • I think vegan butter should be easy to find there than here. It tastes equally good but melts very quickly and does not freeze as much as butter.

  17. Sia | Monsoon Spice

    Harini, I’m making these Mattris tomorrow. Is there any reason for frying them twice?

    • Hi Sia! Frying them twice keeps them crisp. They won’t soften as they cool.

      • Sia | Monsoon Spice

        Harini, just finished making Matthris n it’s come out really delicious, crisp from outside n soft, flaky inside! I made it vegan by using oil n added jeera n kasuri methi. Also didn’t use vinegar as I didn’t have any in my pantry. Just curious as how long they can be stored? Not because they r going to last for more than 2-3 days, looking at the way both my big n lil boy are devouring it, but to tell them it is supposed to last for so many days ;) thank u for your super simple and delicious recipe. I’ll be making another batch soon to share with some dear friends :)
        Hugs
        Sia

        • Great! I love your additions. Kasuri methi is a lovely addition. I am also happy that the l’il one loves it. These will last easily for a week and a half in an air tight container. Hugs to you too, Sia!

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