Handvo is a traditional savory lentil cake that is favorite with Gujarati families. The preparations to making the Handva begins a day before, with soaking the dals and rice for couple of hours, grinding them to a smooth batter and allowing the batter to ferment. The batter is further enriched with additions of vegetables, or sprouts or leftover rice. Its is spiced well, is sweet and sour, tempered with all the whole garam masala and chillies. The Handva is then slow cooked for a good 1 hour or more in a special Handva oven which has a funnel to circulate the heat and comes with a special sand tray at the bottom. The crusty top and bottom are to die for and Handvo, pickle and milk as dinner is most sought after. The left-over Handva tastes even better as breakfast the following morning.
There are two ways of preparing the batter, the first is soaking the dals and grinding them and allowing the batter to ferment while the second is preparing the Handva flour in bulk and soaking the required flour, allowing it to ferment before proceeding with other additions. My family chose the latter and making the flour was quite a ritual!!
My mother had this very interesting habit, the moment she spotted me idle and while away my time, she would assign me some task!! At that age and time, it was pretty annoying but orders from mummy had to be followed!! One task she allotted quite often was taking the pots and pans of washed rice and lentils to the terrace and spreading the grains on old cotton sarees. The sarees were to be neatly laid on the terrace floor and held at corners by heavy stones or bricks. The lentils and rice was allowed to sun-dry for a day or two. During the nights the spread was bundled inside and laid back the next morning. If the sun was not very intense, especially during winters one of my favorite part was running my fingers in the lentil spread and making some random patterns while mum made her pretty patterns. This washing and drying of lentils was Handva and Dhokra flour in making. It was quite a task, picking, cleaning, washing and drying the grains, taking the loaded container to a neighborhood flour mill for grinding. Well, these were the times when life progressed at a very different pace. The women of the house were solely responsible for managing and running the households, each task was done with lot of love and passion. When the grains passed mother’s scrutiny and sharp sight we were rest assured of no impurities left behind, cause it was mummy who had done the task of cleaning it.
As time progressed and with the advent of packed and ready made foods we also began getting ready made flours including that for Handva and Dhokra, Idra, Idli, Dosa……the availability proved to be a blessing as it was much convenient to buy a pack of flour than to engage in the entire process of making it at home. Thus, convenience took over care and hard work!! Home made stuff is comforting in many ways mostly because it is predictable. We are sure what to expect as we take the first morsel of a home cooked meal. But this predictability alters when we are using lot of ingredients that are ready made. Until now we were assured of the taste to expect from the handava made from home-made flour but the ready made flours were made with proportions the flour-mill owner thought was right so with each flour-mill the taste differed and so did the crumb and texture of the dish. Sadly though, the demands of the daily schedule never allowed us to go back to the old ritual of washing and drying the grains and continued buying flours from local flour-mills so what if the flour-mix kept changing!! However, once you travel out of Gujarat to distant states and countries the assurance finding such flours ceases to exist, requiring us to fall back on old practices.
Since last couple of years I have begun making the Handva flour at home and have found it to be pretty easy and I once again enjoy the predictability of my Handva 🙂 I use small grained or broken rice whichever is available and all the dals I have in the pantry. The original mix calls for tuvar dal, chana dal and some urad dal but adding whichever lentil that is handy only enhances the nutrition of this cake.
Of course, I do not wash and sun dry the lentils instead, I dry roast them in a cast iron kadai. If you wish you can wash and sun-dry the lentils for couple of days. Since, I live in a country that has unpredictable weather sun-drying is not an option I can choose.
The flour mix is handy and if you are someone like me who does not ferment the batter, the flour proves to be a convenient option to prepare a pan Handva in a jiffy.
Handva No LotPrint Recipe
- 1 cup kanki/ broken rice or any short grained rice
- 3/4 cup tuvar dal/pigeon pea lentils
- 1/4 cup chana dal/bengal gram split
- 1/4 cup mung dal chilka/green gram split
- 1/4 cup yellow mung dal/green gram dal
- 1/4 cup masoor dal/pink lentils
- 1/4 cup urad dal/black gram split
Place a heavy bottom pan or kadai on a slow flame.
Add the rice and lightly roast them for 5- 7 minutes, until they have heated up well.
Remove the rice and add all the dals/lentils. Roast them for 7-8 minutes, until they have heated up well and lost the moisture.
The reason to roast the grains is to get rid of the moisture and increase the shelf life of the flour.
Once the grains have cooled down to room temperature, transfer the ingredients in a dry grinder jar and grind the mix to a coarse flour (the texture should be like semolina). We are not looking for a fine powder like flour.
You may be required to do this in small batches to allow uniform grinding.
Transfer the Handva flour in a dry jar and store in a cool and dry place.
Use as required.