Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nan Khatai/Cardamom-scented sugar cookies.

Has there been any food you turned your nose up at, as a child, and you weirdly crave now? Let's take dosai, for example (Fermented rice pancakes, for the uninitiated.)

Chitra says she's jealous of me, each time I take photos of a dosai and put it up. I'm attributing it to the fact that she hasn't been in India for almost a year. At my house, when my mum makes dosai for dinner from the batter she made idlis with, for breakfast, we all groan. Go on a hunger strike. Give it up in ten minutes and eat 5 dosais (my brother, the wuss). Refuse to budge and sneak down at midnight to scarf down a bowl of cereal (me).

Nan Khatai is one those ubiquitous things in the snack-almirah. Often mispronounced as "nana katha", they're quite simply cardamom-flavoured sugar cookies. One of recipes that has all the women of the house come out to the porch and make on languid afteroons, gossiping about who ever isn't there then. Each tries to outdo the other with the shaping of the cookies. The children pop in and about to steal handfuls of the raw cookie dough.

After the Information-about-Calories Age and the following Age of Calorie-awareness, however, I gave up on them. If I was going to embracing obesity, why not with cheesecake or lasagne, right?

Thank God for the Age of Food Obsession. Now I'm willing to have a bite of almost anything, if it's tasty enough and halal. Mum and sister-in-law were making these biscuits the other day, and I photographed them for you to see. And put it up for you to try on your own/salivate.

Nan Khatai:


1 kg/2.2 lb All-purpose flour (maida)
1/2 kg or 1.1 lb Powdered Sugar
1/2 kg Ghee *
4 tsp powdered cardamom

*If you have no access to ghee, click here or try using browned butter!


1)Mix together the dry ingredients- sugar, cardamom and the flour.

That's a lot of cardamom. The cookies need it.

2)Make a well in the centre, and add the ghee into it.

Mix into a dough with your hand (the heat from your palms will help everything bind together).

You can use a hand-mixer, but it won't taste right. Says mum. Don't knead it so much like you would for bread, because you'll get stiff, hard cookies. Just mix until you can take small balls and shape them into cookies.

3)Get everybody together, make sure they've sterilized their hands and start shaping!

You can do traditional designs (circular, with a finger-indentation/"the Indian tear" in the centre). Or circular cookies with incisions.

Or go crazy, as much as your imagination and skills allow.

Or shape out letters for someone special or for your food blog.

4)Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees centigrade or 350 degrees Fahrenheit. These cookies should take 10-15 minutes (the bottoms should be golden-brown). Or what the heck. Taste it.

Let it cool down to room temperature on a wire-rack. Store in airtight containers. Or serve with tea.

These keep for a while. As long as you're one of those perfect people who doesn't eat between meals. Or you have a mum who locks everything up in a snack-almirah.


  1. That sounds so good Rabia. They look beautiful. I'm terribly imperfect and would probably finish the whole bunch in an afternoon : )

  2. Thank you so much! Terribly imperfect people rock, you can totally join the club :)

  3. good rabia, post all our kayal favorites, no more favorites as our moms and aunts stopped making these at home and I am tried of store bought commercialized craps...
    When will anju maavu, verkadalai and coconut wiht puttu pasiyaru, kanji and other favorites will get crop into yr blog...cant wait...hmmmm
    Or am I going to get some fusion food?

  4. my sis comments, Rabiya only cooks calorie loaded food for the blog and the ppl around them, but doesn't junk them down her throat or belly...Agree?

    More than the recipe, I enjoy reading yr, now I believe in the age old saying, "If Shakespeare were to descent to Chennai, he would have to re-learn English from the Chennailites".

  5. Seriously, best compliment ever!! Thank you so much, it means a lot that you guys continue following the blog! :)

    And Rabia machi is wrong. She's going to return to India to see a very "healthy" (my mother's choice of adjective) Rabia!