Baked Haandvo

Cheat’s Baked Haandvo

Almost every corner kirana (grocery) store in Mumbai stores little plastic packs of Idli, Khaman (Yellow dhokla), Dhokla (the white kind), and Theplas, each with a small pack of appropriately paired chutney or Chhundo (a raw mango relish) or green chile and mustard pickle. These make for a quick pickup–on a particularly uncreative morning, a mother in a hurry buys a pack on the way to the school bus stop and empties its contents into the ward’s plastic, cartoon character tiffin box in a psychedelic color. A tired woman on her way back from work picks one to eat it on the train home. A receptionist at the doctor’s in the locality picks it up for a fuss-free and cost effective lunch. These are freshly made by small women’s co-operatives or by the store themselves, in small quantities that get over quickly thereby ensuring freshness.

In a similar kirana store in Vashi, they had all the usual suspects, but if you went at the right time, they would have a packet or two of Haandvo–that was my absolute favourite snack to pick of the lot. A Haandvo is a Gujarati savoury cake made of mixed lentils and rice that have bene soaked and patted dry, then ground to a coarse powder, mixed with natural yogurt and fermented for a few hours. Then, grated vegetables and seasoning is added and the batter is slow-cooked with a lot of oil-based tempering in a shallow wok. It is then cut into squares and served with a mint chutney. Of all the Gujarati snacks, this one is probably my favourite, especially when followed by a mug of strong, ginger-lemongrass tea.

When I started cooking my own kitchen, I missed that occasional treat. I found a company that made the instant mix for Haandvo, and while it worked okay, I missed the freshness of the real thing. But who has the time to do the elaborate prep that the dish needs? So I invented a cheat’s recipe that is very very close to the real thing–you use idli/dosa batter (store bought is just fine as well) to stand instead of the fermented mixed grains and add chickpea flour and vegetables of choice (or refrigerator status) just before baking. I also prefer to bake it instead of cooking in the wok on the stove because then I can forget about it and go about life in general until I hear the oven “ting.”

Works like a charm, makes for an excellent snack box option or the kids, and paired with a soup or salad, a great dinner, too!

Tip: Be liberal with the tempering–the crisp crackling seeds and curry leaves add a great deal of flavor and texture. To make a vegan version, use soy milk instead of the natural yogurt and add a little lemon juice for the tartness. 

Baked Haandvo

A square of Baked Haandvo topped with the crisp crackling of seeds and curry leaves is a perfect tea time snack!

Cheat’s Haandvo Recipe (Baked)

Ingredients:

  • 200 gms. medium semolina (rawa/sooji)
  • 1 cup thick natural yogurt (dahi); the sourer the better
  • 4 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup grated/minced mixed vegetables (bottle gourd, zucchini, carrots, beans, peas, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.)
  • A handful of fresh methi leaves, chopped fine (or 1 and ½ tsp. kasuri methi)
  • 2 tbsp. idli/dosa batter; the older the better
  • 4 tablespoons chickpea flour (besan)
  • 1 tbsp. ginger-garlic-green chili past
  • 1 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp. soda bicarb or Eno Fruit Salt (unflavored)
  • Salt to taste

For the tempering (optional):

  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. sesame seeds
  • 3-4 dried red chilies, split into two
  • A pinch of asafetida
  • 8-10 curry leaves

Method:

  1. Place all the ingredients for the cake (except the soda bicarb) in a mixing bowl and mix to a smooth batter, adding more water if required. Leave to rest for 10 mins.
  2. Add the soda bicarb or fruit salt and mix again.
  3. Tip the ingredients into a well-greased baking tin or a disposable foil case. Bake at 180 degrees centigrade for about 30-40 mins. or until a skewer comes out clean.
  4. For the tempering, heat the oil in a small pan and add mustard seeds, sesame seeds, red chili, curry leaves, and asafetida in that order. Turn off the heat and immediately pour over the hot cake. Let stand for a few minutes for the tempering seep into the cake.
  5. Serve with chutneys, hot or at room temperature.