These deep-fried treats filled with coconut, roasted gram dal and nuts were made for Diwali and the intention was to post the recipe right away. And then I got drawn into other, more pressing matters and Diwali came and went without a recipe being posted. When I was mentioning this to a friend, she simply said “Post it for Christmas”. At that moment, I wasn’t sure where this would fit in a season of cookies and fudge and other sweet treats. But it wasn’t that far-fetched after all because I realized that a version of this, called Nevri or Neureos is a traditional preparation for Christmas in Goa.
I have very fond memories of Christmas when I was in India. It started with the Christmas vacation and the sheer joy of not having school seemed enough! There was more though. Our neighbor, Grace Aunty, would set up her Christmas tree and decorate with ornaments and fluffed up cotton, and would be busy cooking and baking treats….kulkuls, nevris, rose cookies and fruit cake. On Christmas day, one of the kids would knock on our door carrying a plate with all the treats prettily arranged. Then, there was the Christmas party at the club, complete with a Santa Claus and gifts.
This type of a sweet is in fact quite common in many parts of India. The basic shape and crust being similar but very varied in fillings. The Maharashtrian karanji, the gujiya in the North, ghugra in Gujarat and kajjikayalu in Andhra. When the karanjis are dropped into the hot oil, the crust balloons into a pocket encasing the filling. I kept the filling in these as a typical Andhra one with dried coconut, roasted gram dal, nuts, raisins, powdered sugar and cardamom. This is a must for my mom every Diwali and even if only one sweet is made, this is it. It is not terribly sweet, in fact just so and usually not dusted with sugar. That was my effort to make it look somewhat Christmas-like 🙂
You can either hand shape it similar to a pierogi or an empanada or you can use a speical mold that is easily available as a hand-pie maker or sometimes called a ravioli maker when smaller in size. And you can keep the size fairly small too. I have also made a baked version in the past and although it does not have that uniform golden brown color, it is equally delicious and a tad bit more guilt-free. I do have some baking planned especially after seeing all the beautiful treats on Instagram but am happy I was able to post this recipe which comes with so many memories.
- Canola, peanut or vegetable oil to deep fry
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup fine sooji/farina/semolina
- 1 1/2 tbsp ghee
- a pinch of salt
- a mix of milk and water for kneading
- 1 cup finely shredded dry coconut, unsweetened
- 3/4 cup roasted gram dal (dalia)
- 1/4 cup raw cashews
- 3 tbsp golden raisins
- 1 cup powderd sugar
- 2 tbsp powdered jaggery (optional)
- 1 1/4 tsp cardamom powder (freshly made)
For the crust:
Mix the all-purpose flour, semolina and salt in a bowl. Add the ghee and work it into the flour until it looks crumbly. Then add the milk-water mixture, a little at a time to make a dough that is fairly stiff but pliable (like a puri dough).
Cover with a damp kitchen towel and keep aside for about half an hour.
Fo the filling:
Toast the coconut very lightly on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Powder the roasted gram in the mixer. Chop the cashews and raisins into small pieces.
Mix the coconut, roasted gram powder, cashews, raisins, powdered sugar, jaggery and cardamom in a bowl.
Make about 18-20 portions of the dough* (see note). Cover with a damp towel.
If using mold: Roll each portion into approx. 4 1/2 inch circle*. If it feels sticky, dust the surface very lightly with flour.
If using the mold, place the circle into the mold and dampen the bottom half of the circle. Add about 1 tbsp filling in the cavity. Close and press. Pinch of the excess dough.
Keep the pressed karanji aside on a plate and cover with damp kitchen towel. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
If not using mold:
Roll each portion into a 4-inch circle. Spoon the filling into one half of the circle, moisten the bottom half and close to make a half moon shape. Crimp it tight using a fork or if you are feeling creative, pleat it.
Heat oil on a medium flame and add as many karanjis as will fit without touching each other. Fry on medium flame until golden brown.
For a baked version:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Fill the karanji as described above.
Brush the karanji with milk and bake for about 5 mins. Remove form oven, brush with melted ghee and return it back to oven to bake until golden brown.
* The diameter of my mold is 4-inches. Portion and roll the dough according to the sixe of your mold. Don't make them larger than about 4-5 inches.