Handvo, a traditional Gujarati dish, is a big family favourite. My grandmother used to make finger-licking delicious Handvo, a recipe she learnt from her Gujarati neighbours. This recipe then passed on to my mom and, from her, to me. In course of time, the husband was introduced to the wonders of Handvo too, and he took to it like a fish to water. 🙂 I continue to make it the same way I learnt all those years ago, and do so at least once every fortnight. Today, I’m going to share with you all the very same family recipe, with very few variations of my own.
What is Handvo?
Handvo – never ‘Handva‘ – is a savoury cake made using a fermented batter of rice and mixed lentils. Often, vegetables like bottle gourd, carrot and corn are added in, as well as greens like spinach and fenugreek leaves. Considering this, and the fact that very little oil is typically used in the preparation of Handvo, it is a very healthy, protein-rich dish. Green chillies, garlic, ginger, carom seeds, jaggery and sesame are used to flavour the cake.
For the uninitiated, the Handvo is a delicious, delicious thing, one you’ll surely get hooked to once you taste it! It is not too tough to put together, and makes for a great, filling breakfast or dinner, or even a tea-time snack. It can be had warm or cold.
How is Handvo cooked?
Handvo is traditionally cooked in a special type of cooker, the bottom of which is filled with sand. The batter goes into a separate compartment, and the entire contraption is placed on the gas. The Handvo cooks on a low flame for 40-60 minutes, the interior getting nice and crumbly, the top crusty. With time, people started to use ovens to bake the Handvo. Mom uses a shortcut to make it, pouring a couple of ladles of the batter into a heavy-bottomed pan and then cooking it covered on low heat.
I don’t own a traditional Handvo cooker, so I usually pop the batter into my OTG or, sometimes, adopt mom’s shortcut. The OTG also yields a delectable savoury cake, with the same type of crusty top that is achieved in the Handvo cooker. And, oh, the house smells heavenly while it’s baking!
Our family recipe for Handvo
Different families use different permutations and combinations of ingredients for making Handvo. However, please do note that the bottle gourd is a key ingredient, which gives a soft texture and lovely flavour to the Handvo.
This here is the version of Handvo I have stuck to, the recipe I am most comfortable with after several trials and tribulations. This is a completely vegetarian recipe. I have used curd here, due to which it is not vegan. To make the Handvo gluten-free, skip the asafoetida used in it. Most commercial brands of asafoetida available in India include wheat flour to a greater or lesser extent and are, hence, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you are able to find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, please do go ahead and use it.
Ingredients (makes 2 batches, each one serving 3):
- 1 cup idli rice
- 1/4 cup urad dal
- 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek (methi) seeds
- 1/2 cup toor dal
- 1/2 cup chana dal
- 1/4 cup moong dal
- 1/2 cup curd
- 5-6 cloves of garlic
- 3 green chillies or as per taste
- A 1-inch piece of ginger
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 tablespoons of jaggery powder or as per taste
- 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida powder
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
- 2 sprigs of curry leaves
- 1 small carrot
- A small piece of bottle gourd, about 2 heaped tablespoons when grated
- A fistful of green peas
- A fistful of sweet corn kernels
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon ajwain (carom seeds)
- Oil, as needed to grease the baking tin
- 1/2 tablespoon oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
For the finishing touches:
1. 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds per batch
2. 1 teaspoon of Eno Fruit Salt (plain) per batch
1. Measure out the idli rice, urad dal, fenugreek seeds, toor dal, chana dal and moong dal into a vessel. Wash everything well under running water. Drain out all the water, then add in enough fresh water to cover all these ingredients fully. Let them soak for 5-6 hours or overnight. When they are done soaking, drain out all the water from them.
2. Take half of the soaked ingredients in a mixer jar. Peel the ginger and garlic, chop roughly and add to the mixer jar. Chop the green chillies roughly too and add to the mixer jar. Grind together coarsely, adding a little water if needed. Stop at intervals to scrape down the sides of the mixer jar. When the batter is coarsely ground, transfer to a large, clean vessel.
3. Now, grind the rest of the soaked and drained ingredients, along with the curd. Grind them coarsely, stopping at intervals to scrape down the sides of the mixer jar. When done, transfer this batter to the large vessel too.
4. Add salt to taste to the batter. Mix well, using your hands. Set the batter aside, covered, for 5-6 hours or till it ferments.
5. Once the batter ferments, mix it gently.
6. To the batter, add the turmeric powder, red chilli powder, asafoetida, jaggery powder, carom seeds and sesame seeds.
7. Chop the coriander and curry leaves roughly. Add to the batter.
8. Peel the carrot and bottle gourd. Grate medium-thick. Add to the batter.
9. Add the sweet corn kernels and green peas to the batter too. Mix everything up gently.
10. Now, heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a tempering pan. Add in the mustard, and allow them to sputter. Transfer this hot oil to the batter. Mix well, gently. The batter is now ready to make Handvo.
11. Divide the batter into two equal parts. One part can be used to make Handvo immediately, while the rest can be refrigerated to use the next day. Start by preheating the oven at 200 degrees for 10 minutes.
12. Now, grease a large baking tin with a little oil. Keep it ready.
13. Just before the preheated oven is ready, add 1 teaspoon of Eno Fruit Salt to the batter you are using, and mix well. The batter will start bubbling. Pour this batter immediately into the greased baking tin, and sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon of sesame seeds all over the top. Place the in the oven immediately.
14. Bake at about 160 degrees for 35-40 minutes or till a knife inserted into the centre of the tin comes out clean. Now, place the tin back in the oven and broil for about 5 minutes. Allow the baked Handvo to cool down a bit, 5-7 minutes, then cut into pieces and serve. The second batch of batter can also be baked the same way.
Tips & Tricks
1. Do not be intimidated by the long list of ingredients or the proceedure. It is a rather simple recipe, and seems long because I have outlined everything in great detail.
2. You can use any kind of rice to make the Handvo. I prefer using idli rice. Sona Masoori, Ponni or Kollam rice, Basmati and par-boiled rice all work equally well.
3. You may skip the ginger and garlic in the batter, if you do not prefer them.
4. Adjust the quantity of green chillies and jaggery powder as per personal taste preferences.
5. Use fresh, thick curd for best results.
6. Make sure you grind the batter coarsely and not too fine. Grind the batter in intervals, as stated above, to stop overheating of the mixer.
7. I prefer using carrots, sweet corn, bottle gourd and green peas in the Handvo. You can use any vegetables of your preference, but the bottle gourd is a must. The bottle gourd is believed to soften the Handvo and make it flavourful.
8. Use plain Eno Fruit Salt (not flavoured). It needs to be added just before putting the Handvo to bake.
9. The baking time and temperature suggested above works best for me. Please adjust as per the make of your oven and consistency of your batter. I use a Morphy Richards OTG.
10. After 30 minutes of baking, keep a close eye on the oven to prevent burning.
11. The second batch of batter might become a bit thick due to the refrigeration. Loosen it up with a little water, and allow it to come to room temperature before setting it to bake. Don’t forget to add Eno Fruit Salt to the second batch too and top it with sesame seeds, just before you start baking.
12. The 1 teaspoon of Eno Fruit Salt per batch can be substituted with 1/4 teaspoon of cooking soda, though I haven’t ever done that.
13. A Gujarati friend of mine suggested heating up a little oil, then mixing about 1/2 teaspoon of red chilli powder to it and pouring the hot oil over the top of the batter, just before setting it to bake. This gives the Handvo a beautiful colour and flavour, but I typically avoid this step.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!