This past Saturday marked the 6 year anniversary of my mom’s passing. The anniversary day isn’t usually too different from the other days of the year; I miss her at any given time. But this one hit me hard. Perhaps it was because it landed on a Saturday and the day before daylight savings time ended, just like the year she actually died. Who knows? It was definitely a mixed bag of emotions kind of weekend, but it ended on a lovely note with my dad, stepmom, brother, hubs, kids and I sharing a meal…and these nankhatai.
My mom was pretty famous for these ‘Indian shortbread’ as Gujarati people like to describe it to non-Indian people. The authentic versions are different from this one, so if you want the history and other recipes, you should definitely hit up the Google gods. But this recipe takes me back to my mom’s kitchen.
“You should start your own nankhatai business…Nasim’s Nankhatai!” I would say, excitedly. “I’ll design a brochure and we can start telling people you make these to order! How much would you sell these for?”
She’d laugh and tell me I was crazy.
I’ve made a few batches over the last couple months. Sent them to my kids’ classes for special occasions. They’re basically like a cookie with a Smartie; you can’t really go wrong in terms of pleasing children. These are also the ultimate chai-dipper! So, don’t think they are reserved for the kidlets only. Grab a few for yourself!
Every time I make them, snippets of memories enter my mind: my mom inviting friends or family over after prayers were done, then racing home to whip up a batch of these babies. Or my mom preparing ice cream buckets full for travelling family members, including myself. (Once, in college, my friend Rozeela and I survived on these for 4 days in Hawaii – saved us a tonne of money!) Her hands would whip around with just the right speed and pressure to form perfect balls before placing them on the sheet. My job was always to add the Smarties, eating all the deformed candy while going through the packet.
So, today, with another anniversary behind me, I am proud to share with you the recipe that will bring my mom back to you, if you ever had the pleasure to enjoy these with her.
Nasim’s Nankhatai – makes 24
Here’s what you need:
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 lb butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup sooji (cream of wheat or wheatlets)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
a few drops of vanilla
* I highly recommend adding 1/4 tsp (or more, to taste) of ground cardamom. My mom did not use it in her recipe, but it’s my favourite spice, and definitely makes this ‘cookie’ more Indian!
Here’s what you do:
1. Preheat oven to 250F. (Not a typo, it’s really 250!)
2. Cream together the butter, sugar and egg.
3. Add vanilla, stir until mixed.
4. Add flour and baking powder (and cardamom) and mix well.
5. Add sooji. Mix together – you can use your hand near the end to incorporate it all well.
6. Form medium sized balls and place onto greased cookie sheet. Press one Smartie in the centre of each nankhatai.
7. Bake for 1 hour.