An occasional series in which staff members share a recipe that we turn to time and again:
In the three years since I moved to the United States from Mumbai, as Bombay is now called, I get most homesick during festive seasons. My maternal grandmother nani would make comfort food, and her karanjees are what I miss most.
Karenjees are dough stuffed with soft, shredded coconut that is flavored with cardamom, saffron, sugar and Gulkand, a rose petal jam that lends a distinctive flavor and fragrance and sets my nani's karanjees apart from all others.
I'm thinking about karanjees because today is the start of Ganesh Chaturthi, or Ganesh Utsav, the festival celebrating the birthday of Lord Ganesh, the son of Shiva and Parvati. To Hindus, Lord Ganesh is one of the most beloved gods, and he is invoked at the commencement of any auspicious function.
My family always celebrated the festival at nani's home, where she set up a clay idol of Lord Ganesh. I would get to wear a new frock.
To make the karanjees, Nani would scrape the inside of the coconut with her sharp knife and shred the coconut meat. It was fun to watch her. (Nowadays, of course, shredded coconut meat eliminates those tedious tasks.) One of my duties, as nani's helper and taster, was to grind the cardamom seeds with a mortar and pestle. She would then cook the shredded coconut slowly with the spices, sugar and Gulkand. I would take the dough she had kneaded and make small balls for her to roll out. The final step -- deep frying -- would be a grown-up's job.
We kids would eagerly wait for nani to bring us the karanjees. The first one would always be served to the Ganesh idol as an offering.
When I decided to try to make karanjees myself after coming to the United States, the first attempt was terrible. A few tries later, success tasted as sweet as the karanjees themselves.
I have bragged to nani about my expertise and have promised to make some for her during my next visit home. I think of it as a way of continuing a tradition.
Makes 10 to 12
1 cup Sooji-Farina (Indian semolina)*
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus 3 cups or more for frying
1 cup low-fat milk or water
11/2 cups shredded unsweetened frozen coconut*
11/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds
2 tablespoons Gulkand*
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 teaspoon rice flour
In a large bowl, mix the Sooji-Farina and the whole wheat flour. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the oil and 3/4 cup of the milk or water, adding the remaining 1/4 cup, a tablespoon at a time, if necessary. Knead the dough until it is slightly firm but pliable. Shape the dough and leave it in the bowl, covered, for an hour.
Meanwhile, in a large pan on low heat, add the frozen coconut and the sugar. When the mixture turns sticky, about 25 minutes, add the cardamom, a pinch of saffron, if using, and the Gulkand and stir. Add the raisins and cook until the mixture turns a light brown color, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice flour and cook, stirring constantly, about 5 more minutes. Remove from heat.
Divide the dough into 9 pieces and shape each one into a small ball. Using a rolling pin on a work surface sprinkled with flour, roll the balls flat to a width of about 4 inches. Just off the center of each flattened piece, spoon 11/2 tablespoons of the karanjee filling (there will be some left over). Fold each piece in half over the filling, leaving no air pockets, and press down on the edges until sealed. Using a straight or serrated pizza cutter, slice along the edge for a finished look. Use trimmings from the 9 pieces to form 1 to 3 more balls, and fill them the same way as the others.
In a large pot over high heat, add the 3 cups of oil. When the oil is hot, gently add two karanjees and fry, turning if necessary, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the karanjees and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining karanjees. Serve cool.
*NOTE: Sooji-Farina, also called rava; unsweetened frozen coconut; and Gulkand, a rose petal jam, are available in Indian specialty stores.
Per serving: 336 calories, 4 g protein, 48 g carbohydrates, 15 g fat, 1 mg cholesterol, 5 g saturated fat, 16 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber
Recipe tested by Priya Phadke; e-mail questions to email@example.com
Priya Phadke is assistant art director for The Washington Post's Sunday Source.