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April 19, 2008

Nankhatai




You know how it is when you have nothing to do and thoughts fly all around inside your head. Some make you think about the future, some remind you of the past. You begin missing someone and then one thing leads to another. This is exactly what happened to me yesterday. I got the day off as it was Mahavir Jayanti. I had absolutely nothing to do all day. I started my day with the mushroom pancake and then sat down to blog about it. I’d made it specifically for the event. So I figured I should blog about it when I have the time and not put it off to when I don’t.

Having done that, I got on the phone and chatted with two women I’ve never met, but would consider myself pretty close to. The first phone call was prompted by something I saw on this girl’s blog. We’ve been chatting online for about 2 months now and apart from the fact that we share the same name, we’ve found that we have so much in common. Since I found one more thing in common (something that you don’t usually notice online), I felt I had to call her. Then I called the next. Both these women have tried to reach out to me when I was extremely busy just to make sure I was OK. I had a really long weekend and I decide to call them both and tell them that I was fine. But I still felt I had to surprise my namesake by showing her what we have in common.


Then Amma called and we chatted for an hour. During that hour, I was transported back to my childhood. We talked about food, my father, my brother, some friends from IIT. That did it. Any talk of IIT Madras gets me extremely nostalgic. I wanted to do something that would make me feel good. Something that would help me get my arms around that imaginary pillow for a feel good hug.


I decided to make nankhatais. My mother makes the best nankhatais that I’ve eaten. She used to make these by the dozen and stack them up at home. I’d never tried to make them. My classmate went to the US a few years ago and then sent me an email asking for the recipe. She said, “Perellam teriyaadu ya, unnnoda Amma dabba dabba va roppi vechiruppa… andha biscuit (I don’t know the name, your mom used to have containers filled with these biscuits.) Amma was shocked when I forwarded that email to her. She said, “I didn’t know that she’d ever eaten them, let alone get nostalgic about them.”


These biscuits call for ghee(clarified butter), something that is always in short supply in our house as I almost never use it. The last time I bought some brand of ghee, it was horrible. That lasted us a year. I bought a much smaller bottle of Britannia ghee. This is really good. Looks, tastes and feels just like home made ghee. I grew up on cow’s milk. So to me, my butter and ghee must be yellow. White just doesn’t make the cut. Since I bought the ghee as recently as three months ago, I had plenty of it.


The recipe also needed powdered sugar. I have bura sugar at home which I always thought was powdered sugar until I tried to bake a cake with it. That cake would probably go down in my “Hall of Shame”. Picture perfect, but horrible tasting. So I decided to powder a little sugar just for this. When I was done powdering the sugar, I couldn’t resist tasting it. That opened the next floodgate of memories. My brother had a classmate whose mother was very close to mine. Their house was on the way back from school for me and so, at times, Amma and I would visit, or I’d even drop in on my own. She would always indulge me. She’d give me freshly made idli or dosa with powdered sugar and for some reason it would taste divine. The same thing at my own place never did taste the same. We lost her a few years ago to cancer. I remember how it took her away, and how she fought it. She was always cheerful. My strongest memory of V Aunty is when she was in remission. I didn’t know then that it was remission. I thought she’d fought cancer and survived. Then she succumbed. She was at the Apollo Cancer hospital right across the street from my office. I’d take lunch for her and for uncle everyday, never knowing, even on the last day, that it would be the last.


It’s funny how all of this is connected and how sometimes everything comes together. I remember when V Aunty and Amma would make batches of nankhatais and V Aunty also suggested making them spicy with chillies and cumin. All these memories came to me yesterday. And I am glad they did. Because, to me, memories are what make life worthwhile.


I made half the original recipe as it was the first time I was making them and they turned out delicious.


¾ cup(generous) Flour
1/8 tsp Cooking Soda
¼ cup Powdered Sugar
1/3 cup (generous) Ghee (Clarified Butter)
¼ tsp Cardamom and Nutmeg (Powdered)







Cream the sugar and the ghee until well blended.
Sift the flour with the soda. Add this to the sugar-ghee mixture. Add the cardamom and nutmeg powders. Make a dough and divide into small balls. Flatten each ball onto a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 180 C.

Allow to cool and dig in.


These cookies are off to Barbara, who is hosting Livestrong with a taste of yellow, for two reasons. They contain yellow ghee and the memories of a dear friend lost to cancer.






This is also one of those recipes that is distinctly Amma – so representative of her love for food, her love for us and of course, of her showing her love through her food. This is off to this month’s JFI, the theme of which is love. In real time, I also shared these cookies with friends. What good is good food if you can't share it with people who've touched your life?

21 comments:

Happy cook said...

When i read the name of the post it tookme to memory lane .
My mom usedto make them in her old fashioned oven and also and we used to love them.

Barbara said...

THey look interesting and yummy. THanks for supporting LIveSTRONG With A Taste Of Yellow.

Raaga said...

@Happy: Yeah... we ate them endlessly when we were kids, didn't we :-)

@Barbara: Happy to be a part of this in whatever way I can.

david santos said...

Excellent menu, Raaga!
I loved this post.
Have a nice week.

Nags said...

brings back memories :)

arundati said...

Dearest namesake....in you i've found a friend for always.......hugs.....sorry for being rude with the "guess who" part of the call....didn't expect you to call!!

Sunshinemom said...

Very beautifully written post, reading it, I knew what I would make for the JFI-love - something that my mom does for me, making all the dishes my sisters and I love, even now though we are grown up - she does it for us whenever we go for the hols to B'lore - Thanks for the nostalgia in my heart, the lump in my throat and the smile on my lips!

Raaga said...

@Nags: Yeah...I know :-)

@Arundati: Just you wait...a surprise awaits you :-)

@Sunshinemom: Mothers are that way... they just know how to make us feel good.

Sig said...

Looks like you've been very busy lately... I didn't miss much it looks like... :) Hope you are doing well...

Arundathi said...

That sounds like something you could get addicted to! Glad these made you feel better :)
Signed - The "other" namesake! :)

Kalai said...

Gorgeous cookies, Raaga! :)

bee said...

this nankhatai recipe has a lower amount of ghee than most others i've seen. i'd love to try it. try making your own ghee, dear raaga. it takes half an hour max, and it's so so worth it.
we used to consume almost no ghee until we started making our own. it's so delicious.

Pritya said...

Dear Raaga, That’s such a beautiful post…with memories and recipe all intertwined together. ‘Floodgate of memories’ - what a lovely phrase! Also, see how our memories are such links - in this case V Aunty and your Amma :). Enjoyed reading it.

Nandita said...

What a lovely read dear girl :)
I tried making Soya nankhatai from one of India's famous cookery author's recipe and it turned out SO BAD that even the hungry crows that visit my balcony each morning refused to touch it...i'd love to try your mom's recipe...sounds really good!

TBC said...

Beautiful post! I like the last line with which u ended the post.

Srivalli said...

beautiful post raaga...

Devi Priya said...

Very well written. Are these called Nan khatai?
Priya

Sumi said...

it was very nice to read your post.my grandma used to make this during our summer holdays,but she would use the mud stove and coal to bake these cookies.We used to help her in cutting the cookies into different shapes.It would be very interesting to watch her do those in batches.So this post is truly nostalgic in bringing back all those memories.Thanks for the receipe.

pink-hibiscus said...

Hi Raaga
I made these today using the exact proportions u have given. It came out very well. Thank you so much!!!

Sharada

Divya Kudua said...

I tried this out as soon as I saw your status message on Fb and it would be an understatement to say it was delicious.Perfect texture[with a lesser amount of ghee!]and the right kind of cracks on top..absolutely loved it!!

Usha Changa said...

Amazing recipe! Came out just like my mom made it her olden times oven on the gas stove.