This year my birthday fell on Easter Sunday, which is possibly the most revered day of the calendar for Christians. After 40 days of fasting for Lent, and a Holy Week beginning on Palm Sunday (which celebrates Jesus’ arrival to Jerusalem), Easter Sunday is celebrated as ‘The Resurrection’; 3 days after his crucification, Christ rose from the dead. Today we celebrate the event by adorning everywhere with fresh flowers to symbolise the coming of new life, and by wearing our brightest clothes. More modern traditions include Easter eggs hunts, egg rolling, and the Easter bunny. Even those who aren’t Christians join in the festivities by celebrating the new bloom of life in Spring.
The fact that my birthday coincided with the day was wonderful. My mother decorated the entire living room with wonderful plants for our garden and fresh flowers picked from our spring blooms. The whole house was awash with life and happiness and fresh foods. We celebrated with a snack-style feast for the family in the morning, and we were planning an Indian feast for the evening – but we never got so far as that, being too full …
We ended up cooking the Indian feast the day after my birthday which was a little like extending my celebrating day, so I wasn’t complaining! In-fact, it was so full of treats that I felt well and truly spoilt. For the dessert, I decided to serve karanji that I had made in the days prior on a beautiful silver platter, as a great end to the meal.
Since hearing of karanji for the first time I was drawn to it and eager to try making the little sweets. In my county we have a famous savoury pastry called a pasty which is exactly similar in shape to karanji, although made with different pastry and fillings. I love finding things reminiscent of my childhood in other cultures, as it makes me feel more connected.
Karanji is typically served for Diwali or Holi, and tastes great as a snack with simple tea. If you’d like to try more festive Maharashtrian desserts, please try my recipes for shirkhand & puranpoli!
I’ve made a delicate combination of desiccated coconut, ground almonds, dried raisins, cardamon and sugar to stuff the karanji, making a suitably melt-in-the-mouth soft filling. Pastry puffs perfectly to make little parcels, and icing sugar with toasted almond slivers are the finishing touch.
Maharashtrian Karanji with Almond and Coconut
- 200g Self raising flour or Plain flour
- 2 tbsp ghee
- Milk as required
- 1 tsp ghee
- 40g ground almond
- 50g desiccated coconut
- 10 dried raisins
- 3 tbsp icing sugar (save extra to dust)
- ¼ tsp cardamon powder
- Tip flour into a deep bowl and make a well in the centre.
- Heat the ghee just until melted in a saucepan, and tip into the centre well of the flour. Now sprinkle salt and bring together with hands.
- Slowly add enough milk bit by bit and stirring consistently so that the mixture forms a soft dough.
- Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and soft, and set aside in a warm place covered with a towel for 30 minutes while making the filling.
- Again, heat ghee in saucepan.
- In a little bowl tip the coconut and almond powder, now mix the melted ghee into both. They should come together and become slightly sticky.
- Now chop dried raisins small, and add them to the mix along with the icing sugar and cardamon powder.
- Take the dough and on a floured surface, roll with your hands into a long sausage shape.
- Cut the dough into about 6-7 equal sized pieces.
- Now take one piece and cover the others with a cloth so they don’t become dry. On the floured surface, roll out the piece into a circle about 5 inches in diameter – try to maintain even thickness so it puffs well.
- Take a small spoon of the stuffing and put it to the left of the circle. Don’t overfill the karanji, otherwise they won’t cook well and may break.
- Now, dip your finger into water and trace a wet line around the outside circular edge of the pastry.
- Fold the pastry over the filling, pressing down gently to join.
- Now crimp the edges by pressing fork indents. You can also use a karanji press/cutter if you have one.
- Repeat the process for all the karanji, making sure to keep them covered until frying.
- Heat oil in a fat fryer or pan until medium-hot heat. Use good safety when frying.
- Add the karanji one by one. Don’t overcrowd the pan, so only add 3 at a time, or whatever your pan can accommodate comfortably. Karanji will puff up and become crisp and golden. You may have to turn them in the oil so that both sides cook well.
- Once cooked, remove from the oil and place on a plate lined with kitchen towel so the excess oil can drain.
Garnish with dustings of icing sugar and if you wish, toasted almonds. Store in an airtight container if not eating immediately.