Friday, November 1, 2013

Diwali cha faraal: Shankarpalya

It's pretty festive around these parts - Halloween with all the bakingroasting, and carving it involves, and Diwali with all of its lights and food and family fun! Happy Diwali everyone!!

Now I don't know about you, but whenever we celebrate a festival around here, we seem to focus on the eating, drinking, and general merry-making parts of it. Not for us the fasting and penance (though oxymoronically enough, fasting or "upaas" food is absolutely delicious and worth making even if you're not fasting, and happens to make "fasting" pretty freakin' enjoyable - in fact, watch out for an upaas food post here soon). 

And when the festival in question is Diwali, that means you start mixing up some dough and frying up some deliciousness! It's time to get busy making some "Diwali cha faraal" - or festive treats specially for Diwali.

And so I hopped and skipped over to my mom's kitchen to make some faraal. Okay, okay, I confess - she did the making, and I performed the highly important tasks of taste-testing and "helping" (aka pinching at the dough and frying one or two batches). Who doesn't like a sous-chef who gets in the way and gobbles up half of what you make immediately after all?!

I think I can confidently say I made it more fun for all of us.

Mix together ghee, milk, salt, and sugar. 
Add in "enough flour" - no, literally, that's the instruction. Keep at least 4 cups of flour at hand and just add in as much as you need to get a nice firm yet pliable dough.
Divide the dough into 5-6 balls and then roll out each ball of dough.
Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. Using a shankarpali cutter (to get the crinkly edges) or a regular knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into pretty diamond shapes.
In a deep fryer or a deep vessel, take about 3 - 4 cups of vegetable oil and heat on high. Drop a pinch of dough in to test (the dough should turn brown after a couple of minutes). Then gently slide the cut shankarpalis into the hot oil and stir them once or twice while they are frying.
This is not brown enough. If you take them out before they're ready, they'll fall soft before very long. You want these to be crunchy on the outside and just a little soft on the inside so fry them until they are a nice deep golden brown.
These shankarpalya are super easy and absolutely delicious. They're basically fried cookies.

Fried cookies!

I might have to fry all my cookies from here on out. Also, although they are sweet, they aren't overly saccharine, which makes them dangerously irresistible. Beware.

Aren't they cute? I have a kidlet memory of being told that "shankarpali" means "Lord Shankar's earlobe" - Marathi readers, please let me know if this is actually one etymological explanation or if it is my own imagination, or if someone in my family thought up a cute story to go with a cute little fried treat. Also, if true, Lord Shankar had um, "different" and delicious earlobes. Excuse me while I go to hell for sacrilege.

The recipe comes from the cookbook "Annapurna" - a book that, in my mom's kitchen, is quite literally in tatters and marked up with grease stains after decades of heavy use around fried items. I think this is it - but definitely not sure because our copy at home has, through much loving, lost its front and back covers. I'm reproducing it faithfully, but with an effort to be a little more explicit in my instructions, as well as converting measurements from the Marathi "vaati" to cups. 

Also, see this implement? 

It's specifically for making pretty crinkly edges for shankarpalya and a variety of other fried Indian goodies. If you don't have a shankarpali cutter at home (quite likely - I think only Indian households have this unique and irreplaceable uni-tasker), just use a knife or pizza cutter. You won't get the fun crinkly edges, but they'll taste just as good (maybe).

Shankarpalya (Indian Fried Cookies)
From Annapurna by Mangala Barve


1 1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup ghee
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 - 4 cups flour
3 - 4 cups vegetable oil for frying


Heat the milk until just warm. Remove from heat, mix in the sugar, and stir until it dissolves. Set aside to cool.

Once the milk has cooled, mix it with the ghee and salt. Add in 2 cups of flour and mix. Then start adding in the flour 2-3 tbsp at a time and knead until you get a nice firm yet pliable dough (you should be able to roll it out without it sticking to your rolling pin).

Let the dough sit for at least 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into 5-6 individual balls. Roll out each ball of dough to 1/4 inch thickness.

With a knife or pizza cutter (or, if you have it, a shankarpali cutter), cut the rolled out dough into diamond shapes.

In a deep vessel, heat the oil on high. When oil is hot (test by dropping in a pinch of dough - it should turn brown after a couple of minutes), reduce heat to medium and gently slide in the cut shankarpalis into the hot oil. While the shankarpalis are frying, stir them once or twice with a slotted spoon so that they get evenly browned. If they start taking too long to brown, turn up the heat again until the oil gets hot once again.

When the shankarpalis are a deep golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon, making sure to drain off as much oil as possible.

Let the shankarpalis cool completely before storing in an air-tight container. These keep well for 2-3 weeks.

Happy Diwali!

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