India is a busy place. 1.2 billion people living in a country one third the size of the US makes for a crowded country. The first thing I notice about India every time I go back there is how close everyone stands to each other. Starting from the Immigration and Customs lines at the airport, you can not help avoid an awkward proximity with strangers. If you are still in your “western” mindset and leave too much space between you and the person in front of you, someone might just remind you to move up in the line a bit! India is a country on the move – everyone is rushing to be somewhere!
I was used to this hustle and bustle of India while growing up there. My parents would wake up early, and my Mom would need to cook breakfast and lunch for everyone before she headed out for her day at work. Me and my sister would take our two-wheelers and rush to school. We would all be on our own till we wrap up the day at work or school and head back home. The evening tea time was the first time my parents, grandma, my sister and I would sit down and share a meal. I have such happy memories of our evening tea time! This was the time for the family to sit together and talk about their day. This was the time to bring out your report cards, especially if you hadn’t done well! This was the time to ask your dad for the new shoes you needed!
My Mom or Grandma would invariably make something savory to go with the evening tea. My personal favorite was handvo, a savory vegetable cake made out of semolina & chickpea flour with fresh vegetables. This is one of those dishes that go well with a variety of condiments. Everyone had a way to personalize handvo in my family. I used to love eating it with chutneys – be it a green chutney made with cilantro and lime or a spicy red chutney made out of red pepper and garlic paste. My little sister loved eating it with some home made yogurt. My grandma loved it with a drizzle of peanut oil and my mom loved it with a mango pickle! In a way, handvo compares to bread – it goes well with everything!
This cake is perfect as a pre-meal, the thing you want to be eating while talking about what you want to eat for dinner! It also travels well, I remember sharing this dish with my friends and family on many road trips. Handvo is a simple dish and is easy to make. You can always add your personal touch to it by adding your favorite vegetables. Don’t be daunted by the list of ingredients, most of them are already in your pantry, I promise! You can also easily substitute a thing or two, this is a very forgiving recipe! Hope you enjoy it!
Savory Vegetable Cake
Recipe (serves 6-8):
1 cup coarse semolina flour
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1 cup yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp Baking powder
Dice all the vegetables finely
1 small potato
1 small onion
1 red bell pepper
1/2 cup peas
1/2 cup shredded cabbage/ 1/2 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup coriander leaves
1 lemon juice
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp salt
Pound following ingredients in a pestle mortar/food processor to paste.
2 garlic cloves
1 inch ginger piece
3 green chillies
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp ghee
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp asafotida/Hing
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Peel the carrot, potato and onion, dice them finely along with red bell pepper and scallions. Add peas and shredded cabbage or zucchini to the mix. Also add chopped coriander leaves.
Pound garlic, ginger, green chilies and cumin seeds in a pestle mortar/food processor to paste.
Mix semolina flour, chickpea flour and baking powder in a large bowl. Add yogurt and olive oil and mix well.
Add all the vegetables to the batter along with the garlic-ginger-chili paste. Add lemon juice, honey and salt. Mix well, the batter should be thick at this point.
Next, heat 2 tbsp ghee, add the mustard seeds and let them pop (it will make a popping sound). Now add the cumin seeds and asafoetida/hing, cook for only a few seconds. Add this to the batter.
Add 1/4 cup of hot water to the batter and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Pour the batter in the oil greased cake pan. Sprinkle a generous amount of sesame seeds on top. Place in the center of the oven for 15 minutes then reduce the temperature to 300°F for another 45-60 minutes until the cake has a dark brown color and the toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Take the cake out of the pan, cut it into slices and serve warm or cold.
This dish will stay well in the fridge for up to 3 days.