When the pandemic nudged so many of us back into the kitchen, it also made us turn to old comfort recipes. Ones that had been forgotten, or replaced with easier alternatives, including packaged food. The early days of the pandemic made me feel like a child again, back in my village near Ratnagiri, where the days would begin with relatives coming in with snacks. It was a barter system of sorts — there was a daily exchange of madeline-shaped cakes, puranpoli, sandan, kheer, mitli (rava-coconut barfi), ladoos, karanji, khajur and more. The cakes, cooked on the stove or wood, were reminiscent of a rava cake. Sandan, soft like the idli, but sweet and coconuty, would be fried with ghee the next day. And then there was khajur, soft in the middle but crisp on the outside; its sweetness offset by the pop of khus.
The early pandemic days felt like that – with us trying all Konkani snacks under the guidance of grandmom. Each week would begin with us nudging her for recipes, quantities, in turn hearing tales from festivals past. That enthusiasm to keep the table stacked has now faded. The only one we keep returning to is the khajur, a tea-time snack beloved to Konkani households in Maharashtra. It hasn’t found its way into shops or restaurants yet ,unlike karanji or mitli. Even sandan is available in pockets like Dongri or the Mohammed Ali road during Ramzan. However, if you are invited to a Konkani Muslim home, you will find khajur — especially during weddings, festivals. The Bihari/Nepali thekua is somewhat similar, but it uses coconut and spices which are not included in the khajur.
Khajur uses simple pantry ingredients — wheat flour, rava, jaggery, khus — kneaded together to form a dough. This is kept overnight, so the flavours intensify. The rested dough is then rolled out, cut into diamond-shaped pieces, and then deep fried. I’ve always been in charge of frying, which has me conveniently placed to taste ‘a few’. You should however, let it cool down, as it gets crispier the longer it cools. The crisp exterior gives way to soft insides; subtly sweet, with a faint whiff of elaichi, and nuttiness from the khus. Some families use the wooden sancha (mould) to shape them. No matter what shape you choose, you get sweet nibbles that are excellent candidates for desi tea time.
1 cup broken wheat rava (lapsi rava)
1-1/2 cup whole wheat flour
4 tsp ghee
250 g jaggery
1/4 tsp elaichi powder
Mix the rava, elaichi powder and whole wheat flour in a bowl. Add in ghee and mix properly. Now, add the egg (one at a time) and mix.
Heat jaggery in a separate pan till it dissolves and becomes a little thick like caramel. Pour this in the bowl and let it cool to room temperature. Knead the dough and let it rest overnight so it can soak in all the flavours.
The next day, divide the dough into balls. Sprinkle khus on the rolling board, place the dough and roll it; it should be a little thick (think kaju katri). Add khus on the top as well. Now, cut it into diamond shape or any other shape that you prefer and deep fry in oil. Leave it to rest till it cools. Enjoy it with hot tea.
An edited version of this story appeared on Goya Journal.