Nan Khatai / Indian Eggless Cookies

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Last time it snowed this heavily (at the beginning of this year) I remember taking out my baking gear, kneading a dough and whipping up a bunch of cookies. What is it with winter that we crave for warmth in silly things like a cup of hot chocolate or a plate of cookies or croissant, warm and fresh out from the oven. And no … the store bought ones cannot give that balmy feel. What is winter if your home does not fill up with the aroma of freshly baked goods. While there is nothing like curling up on the couch, snuggling happily under the comforts of a soft plush throw flicking through the pages of a gripping thriller, it is equally rewarding to bake up something sweet or savory for the cold weather. And well who can say no to a little respite from the chill outside as you open the oven door to check on the progress.

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Now the  year has almost come to an end and the first heavy snowfall of this winter inspired a baking spree yet once again. This time I thought of making NanKhatai from Arundhati’s blog. I had already tried this recipe before and it was such a super success that I did not bother looking for an alternate recipe.

For those who are hearing this name for the first time and wondering what on earth it could be – well its another name for Indian egg less cookies, primarily made with clarified butter called ghee (or butter). But they have an Iranian/Persian origin as I concluded from some research on the web. To know more read this article.

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As a child we would get these cookies/biscuits from the bakery man who would come to our doorstep with bread and baked goods. They were always special and less accessible than the usual Marie or ParleG biscuits. As the article rightly says – The soft crumbly nankhatai brings back many a fond memory! To be able to make it at the drop of a hat gives a lot of joy to me and brings it all back home. Sharing this wonderful and super easy recipe.

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Ingredients:

  • All Purpose Flour/Maida – 1 cup
  • Gram Flour Besan – 1/2 cup
  • Baking Powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Baking Soda – 1/4 tsp
  • Cardamom Powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Butter/Ghee – 100 gms or 7 tbsp
  • Powdered Sugar – 1/2 cup
  • Milk – 1-2 tbsp. as required
  • Chopped nuts for garnishing, I used chopped cashews and pistachios

Note – The recipe suggests butter or ghee but strongly recommends using ghee. However  I made these using butter.

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Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with a parchment paper or grease it with some butter/ghee.
  • Seive All Purpose Flour, Gram flour, Baking powder, Baking soda into a mixing bowl.
  • Add cardamom powder to it.
  • In a separate bowl beat the softened butter or ghee and sugar together.
  • Next add the flour mixture and knead it into a dough. At this stage, if you need, add little milk at a time to help in the kneading process. I added 1-2 tbsp but you can adjust the amount as required.
  • Once the dough is done make small balls and flatten them a little with your palms.Top them with chopped nuts for garnishing and press them a little.
  • Place the cookies onto the lined baking sheet, a little apart from each other.
  • Bake them at 350F for 12-15 minutes or till done. Oven timings may vary. The recipe suggests 18-20 minutes, but mine were done in 12 minutes. Test the ‘doneness’ by inserting a toothpick till it comes out clean.
  • Once done remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Always remember that cookies continue to cook for a while even when out of oven, so prevent over-baking.
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Hara Bhara Kabab – Green Kabab

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2011 September – Dubai Airport  – I am traveling with my husband to India via Dubai… tired… excited and yearning to see my family, to celebrate the festive season and to be in my city. Another couple of hours for my connecting flight, have already seen enough of the airport (which is very very nice) and so am stretching out on one of the lounge chairs, my husband on my right and an unknown lady to my left. In no time the two of us are engrossed in a conversation with the lady. She is a Dutch, hailing from Holland and is going to visit a couple of friends in Kolkata for the Durga Pujas. We talk a lot about the countries and culture we belong to and I tell her about my city of joy. That amidst all the colors and the beauty of the place she may find it a little noisy and cluttered, and that I find those very traits make the city so much alive, specially at this time of the year. As we talk aimlessly the time for our connecting flight draws near and we bid good byes. The last glimpse I have of her is in Kolkata airport as each of us stand in the immigration line. Two people – from different parts of the world meet for a while and then carry on to their respective destinations.

She is forgotten… I do not recall her name any longer… just one of the many people we met on a long distance journey. The chances of us meeting again is null – zero. Holland is not a place I plan to visit very soon. And I do not expect her to be in Kolkata ever again.. well neither in US. So that is the end of our story.. the chance meeting with an interesting person … good conversation and time well spent.  One of the benefits of staying in different places and traveling is that you get to meet many kinds of people, you get to hear many kinds of stories, different experiences… different lives. And I am always enchanted by good stories. The stories make me think .. make me imagine… make me long.

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12 months later…

2012 (October) – Dubai airport – I am going to India for 4 weddings in the family, one of which is my own brother’s. All geared up for the major preparations… the only not-so-good part is that I am traveling alone. The husband will follow me a month later. I have my books and music to give me company but I was already missing him. I managed to chat with a couple of my co-passengers (all of them going to Kol). I am about to reach the specific Gate allotted for my next connection when something familiar crosses my eyes – or someone. I am not sure if my memory serves me right – but – I know I am right – It is her !

Not able to withstand any longer, I reach up to her… to check if I am correct, to check if she remembers me from a year ago. And voila – she is the very same lady from Holland and she remembers. For a couple of seconds I feel I am in a déjà vu. What was the probability of us meeting again, in the same airport, traveling on the same day and around the same time of the year ( just a 2-3 days left for Dushera as last year). I had thought  none and was gladly  mistaken. We hug each other as if long-lost friends. We click our pics, talk for some time, exchange mail ids. I am happy, so elated. I want to share this with BBC, the strangeness of the whole situation has affected me strongly. And as I hop onto my flight I am smiling.

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Life is, after all, so full of surprises; and the world around us is becoming smaller day by day. I now have a Dutch friend and a reason to plan for a trip to Holland someday. As Oprah says – “… chance encounters aren’t necessarily accidental; in fact, you can make your own luck by opening yourself to the world. ” I want to be receptive to new things in my life… new people, new places, new experiences. And one day I do hope to begin to understand the mysterious ways of this universe.

P.S. – As I posted this to the blog, I updated my Facebook browser and a birthday reminder pops up – its that of my Dutch friend. How strange that today is her birthday and unknowingly I dedicated today’s post to her. (Happy Birthday dear friend!)

Today’s post Hara Bhara Kabab is inspired from Tarla Dalal’s recipe. Hope you enjoy it.

Ingredients:

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  • Paneer (Indian Cottage cheese) – 1/2 cup
  • Spinach leaves – 1 cup tightly packed
  • Chana Dal – 2-3 tbsp
  • Ginger, finely chopped – 1 tbsp
  • Garlic, finely chopped – 1 tbsp
  • Green Chillies, chopped – 3-4
  • Green Peas, boiled – 1/4 cup
  • Water – 3/4 cup
  • Salt – to taste
  • Chaat Masala – to taste
  • Garam Masala – 1 tsp
  • Bread Crumbs – 2 tbsp
  • Oil/Oil Spray – as required

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Method:

  • Grate the paneer or process it in a food processor.
  • Clean, wash and blanch the spinach as mentioned. Blanching Spinach greens: On a high heat bring a large pot with water to boil. Add the spinach leaves to boiling water. Cover and let it cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove the leaves using a slotted spoon or drain using a colander. Wash the wilted leaves with ice cold water. Drain water and squeeze out any excess water from the leaves.
  • Pressure cook chana dal with ginger garlic and green chillies with 3/4 cup of water for 2-3 whistles or until the dal is cooked. Drain the dal and remove excess water.
  • Blend the cooked dal with boiled peas and blanched spinach leaves to a fine paste. If required use only 1-2 tsp of water.
  • Combine this paste with the grated paneer.
  • Add salt, garam masala and chat masala to the mixture.
  • Add bread crumbs and mix well.
  • Take a spoonful of the mixture and shape it into a round ball. Press the balls to get a round flattened shape like that of a cutlet. You can keep the round shape or form cylindrical shapes as well. However I find this shape easy to cook on stove top.
  • This is an optional step. If you want your kababs to be have a crunchy coating you can roll them onto some additional bread crumbs or else you can omit this step and fry the kababs as it is. I tried coating them with bread crumbs but did not appreciate the result. Additionally the bread crumbs were giving it a burnt look. You can try it both ways for the first time.

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Cooking the kababs:

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  1. Stove top: I used this method and it is definitely a healthier option. Heat a skillet on a medium flame and spray some oil. Place the kababs and cook them well turning around for even cooking. If required keep spraying oil or drizzling melted butter on each side as they get cooked.
  2. Deep frying: You can deep fry the kababs till they turn golden brown. You can also make a batter of flour/maida, dip the kababs, roll them on bread crumbs and deep fry them.
  3. In the oven – Preheat oven to 350 F and bake them on both the sides till they are cooked. This should take 15 – 20 mins (10 mins approx. on each side) depending on the oven size. Baste them with oil / melted butter on both the sides when you flip them.

Serve them with any chutney, tomato sauce or dip.

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