Whenever I had friends or family coming to Delhi for longer than three days, a trip to see the Taj Mahal always seemed to be on the table. I have seen the Taj in every season possible and every time I went, I noticed this one very interesting thing — tour guides always had a new story. While the rough history would be the same (king loved wife, wife died, he built a structure of love that took 21 years to build) there would be additions to the story. I have heard things like, there was another Taj that was being built in all black, the workers hands were chopped off after construction, and that there are National Treasure style tunnels that connect the Taj to New Delhi. To be honest, none of these sound impossible but it just baffled me that every time I visited this place, there was something new to learn that somehow didn’t reflect upon my cursory internet research (read: glance at the Wikipedia page).
When tour guides would add these flairs, I would just nod, listen, and accredit this new found information as their creative hook to keep us interested. It doesn’t ruin the story and at the end of the it helps us understand more about a wonder of the world. Its like an approximation — “this is what happened here, approximately.” In Hindi, this idea of approximation is called Andaaza. The one place that andaaza’s used rampantly is Indian food.
Home cooked food, specifically food made by my Amma (paternal grandmother) is basically a recipe made through the senses. Measurements for most things are by vague spoons, cups, and by hand, with the most important test of if something is going right— looking at it. It’s a direct diversion from looking a recipe and making something. And this isn’t the case for one off recipe. It’s literally anything she makes (including the two other recipes we had made for the blog last year). I dont question her methods ever, I merely try to formalize them for common folk like us who cant just make something with just an andaaza (yup, Hindi is that grammatically versatile).
These Shakkar Paare (sweet semolina cookies) are a recipe in every baniya mom’s cooking rolodex. Its a 50/50 semolina to all purpose flour that is lovingly kneaded with salt, lots of fat (in the form of veggie oil) and warm water. The dough is rolled out and strategically cut into diagonal fingerlings and then fried in hot oil (I have no clue about the temperature of this oil because I was told to measure the heat of the oil by dropping some of the dough and waiting for it to rise up. So, you’re on your own there). Once cooled this fried product is merely savory paare or Namak Paare (as most people thought I was was making on my Instagram stories the other day) is then dipped into a hot sugar and water bath which is prepared by heating the mix until the sugar forms strings between your hands without breaking thrice. Then like a hallway you work the biscuits, cool, and with each bite say “carbswon.”
Ps. To see a step by step of this recipe, head to my Instagram story highlights and look for Diwali 2018.
250 grams semolina flour
250 grams all purpose flour (maida)
150 grams vegetable oil
1/2 cup of warm water (approx)
2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon carrot seeds (optional)
2 cups of powdered sugar
1 cup of water
Weigh out your flour and mix in a large flat plate along with salt and the carrot seeds (if you’re using them)
Add the oil and mix well with your hands until you reach the consistency of damp sand
Slowly add the warm water and mix until you achieve a relatively sticky yet pliable dough that comes together.
Begin to heat the oil on low to medium heat and divide the dough in 3 equal sections and begin to roll out one while keeping the other two under a damp muslin cloth
Roll the dough round on your work bench, about 1/2 inch think
Make longitudinal slits all the way down, 1/2 inch thick
Cut each strip diagonally every two inches
Add the strips into the oil and cook until lightly browned
Remove from the oil and place in a large sieve with a bowl underneath to remove excess oil
In a heavy wok, add the sugar and water and cook down in medium high heat until the syrup begin to form stings when placed in your two fingers, about 6 minutes
Add the cooked cookies into the syrup and move constantly, pushing the cookies in the bottom to the top
Cook until all the sugar syrup has been soaked in and the pan is dry and coated with dried sugar
Place on a baking sheet and let it cool.