Thursday, 2 February 2012

Nan Khatai - Indian Cardamom Semolina Biscuits

Food has this amazing ability to evoke a variety of emotions and memories. Many a times, it evokes nostalgia of a time when life was simpler and it's memories are fonder. It is not usually so much about the taste of a particular food but more often, the memories it brings back!!

This post remembers a time when neighbourhood bakeries in India were no non-sense establishments with a limited yet memorable product list. There were no brownies, no multi-grain breads, no chocolate chip cookies, no blueberry cheesecakes and definitely, no macarons!! Instead you had mawa cakes, cream rolls, savoury puffs, khari biscuits, coconut macaroons, pastries slathered with sweet cream and canned cherries and these nan khatai biscuits. Today, the legacy of that product list lives on, albeit much diminished, in the oldest bakeries of India's towns and cities, struggling to hold its own against an ever-changing baking landscape!!

Of all the memories I have of eating these biscuits, the one that stands out is of the one during my school summer holidays. Right in the middle of my mother's  afternoon siesta and in the stillness of the afternoon heat, raiding the biscuit tin with my partners-in-crime, as silently as was possible, made it the highlight of our afternoon adventures!!

The recipe is extremely simple with my favourite technique of mixing the dry ingredients into the wet ones. These are very basic biscuits with a short-bread like consistency with the semolina giving it an added texture that an all-flour biscuit would not have. The cardamom is a unique flavouring instead of the regular orange/lemon zest.

The biscuits are not very high on visual appeal (I struggled with the photographs) but that is more than made up with the taste and the memories they conjure up! Winter is still around and so my suggestion is that have these with a steaming cup of tea or milky chai and immerse yourself in nostalgia.

Nan Khatai - Indian Cardamom Semolina Biscuits
Adapted from recipe by Nancy Lopez-McHugh on "Honest Cooking"

Cook time: 10-15 mins
makes 12 medium sized biscuits (the recipe can easily be doubled/tripled)

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup semolina
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar (I took regular  white sugar and whizzed it)
  • 1/2 tsp ground green cardamom powder (can also use lemon or orange zest instead)
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter or ghee (clarified butter)
  • 2 tbsp milk
Cooking Directions:
  • Gently melt the butter/ghee and allow it to cool.
  • Pre-heat oven to 180 deg C.
  • Sieve the dry ingredients - flour, semolina, sugar and baking powder together in a bowl.
  • Add the cardamom powder to this mixture and mix well.
  • Add the milk to the cooled down butter/ghee and whisk together.
  • Add this wet mixture into the dry ingredients and mix together. This will yield a firm dough.
  • Cover this mixture and let it rest for ten minutes.
  • Pull out equal parts of the dough and form into small balls. Then flatten the balls slightly with the palm of your hand. Remember, don't make the balls too big as they will spread when they bake.
  • Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10-15 mins or until lightly brown.
  • Cool on a wire rack.


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  2. Oh my gosh, these were my favourite biscuits when I was studying in aunt make the most tender, crumbliest ones imaginable and I'd annoy her with my hovering, watching and waiting while she baked these! I will be trying these soon :-)

    By the way, whereabouts are you from in India?

    1. Caroline from patterned plate..soo good to see you here!!! :) I think these biscuits are part of everyone's childhood memories ... You must try them although i doubt they'll come close to your aunt's version..but they are good nonetheless!!!

      have spent most of my life in bombay.. so lets just go with that.. else my father is from gujarat and my mother from orissa!!! :)

  3. man, i tried this yesterday night but i did it all wrong, used 1/2 cup butter and made the cookies too big too. i MAY also have put in too much baking powder, there was a hint of bitterness. end result wasn't too bad but nothing close to a good nankhatai. that's what you get for baking when a baby's kicking your shins :|

    anyway will try this again properly tonight.

    1. Ohhh nooooo.. 1/2 cup butter... the mixture would have become too wet.. and then they would have spread like crazy!! eeeps.. you poor thing!! I can't stress enough the importance of correct measurements.. just follow them correctly.. a friend of mine tried them..and her daughter prefers these biscuits to the supermarket biscuits!! :)) Give it a shot again.. and am sure it will work.. and then do let me know how they turned out.. Cheers!!


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