Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Guest Post: Handvo (Indian Savory Snack Cake)

There are many reasons I'm grateful to my best friend N. Just one among many is for introducing me to fantastic homemade Indian food in high school. Years later, this passion for Indian cuisine led me to discover a community of talented bloggers who inspired me to invest in some spices and dare to make Indian food in my own kitchen. One of those bloggers was Harini, who authors the lovely vegetarian Indian food blog Tongue Ticklers. Harini has the unique talent of not only cooking scrumptious Indian food, but also presenting and capturing it beautifully and creatively. Some of my favorite posts over the years have been her Vella Cheedai / Jaggery Balls, Mango Dessert Soup with Coconut Cream, Semiya Upma/Vermicelli Pasta Salad, and Keerai Masiyal / Mashed Greens Curry. Having enjoyed her work so much, I naturally wanted to share it with you. I'm delighted to introduce Harini today as my latest guest blogger. Please give her a warm welcome!

Hi, old and new friends :),

It is my pleasure to be invited as guest blogger to 6 Bittersweets, a home for delectable goodies and sinful visuals! Xiaolu as you all know, always puts her best food forward. So it was bit of tussle for me to choose a dish for I have to bring in something as gracious to the table! She gave me a free reign which made it a lot easier, her only wish being that I should bring in something Indian. Perfect! Indian food is comfort food to me.

Stove top in Skillet
Stove-top Variation
I am very proud of the diverse and wide culinary heritage India has to offer, and picking out one spectacular dish was a dilemma. We have more regional cuisines than States! I however decided on a dish that I feel has not received its share of the limelight. It is rustic but I am sure many of you can identify with it. For me this is an opportunity to show that Indian dishes serve more than just spicy curries.

Oven baked version 1
Baked Variation
"Handvo" [haand – woe or aand-woe] is a savoury cake from the Western region of Gujarat. It is not traditionally a vegan dish but is easily adaptable. Along the way, I have made this dish my own, which I think is what cooking is all about. My version is quicker than the original version as I do not set aside the batter for fermentation. Instead I add baking powder to imitate the effect. A reason I chose handvo is that the recipe does not call for any hard-to-find ingredients. I am sure most of the ingredients are already stocked in your pantry!

Handvo makes a healthy, wholesome breakfast as it is a combination of lentils and rice. The original version calls for two tablespoon of wheat flour but since my daughter has allergies, my version is gluten free.

Pearl Millet Flour Variation
Handvo [Printable Recipe]
Serves 4

NOTES: My version is vegan, soy free, gluten free, nut free.

To soak overnight:
4 Tbsp PLUS 1 tsp (61 g) rice
4 Tbsp PLUS 1 tsp (35 g) brown rice flour
4 Tbsp PLUS 1 tsp (61 g) split mung bean lentils [Optional]
4 Tbsp PLUS 1 tsp (61 g) split bengal gram lentils
4 Tbsp PLUS 1 tsp (61 g) husked black gram lentils
3/4 cup PLUS 1 Tbsp (200 ml) vegan buttermilk, and more if needed [Recipe follows]
About 3 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 2 small lemons

Spice mix:
1 Tbsp grated ginger
2 green chillies, chopped, or per taste
5 garlic cloves, or per taste, crushed lightly and peeled
3 Tbsp cilantro (coriander) leaves, finely chopped.
1/8 tsp asafoetida (hing)
4 to 5 Tbsp vegetable or any neutral oil
1 cup grated bottle gourd/zucchini, loosely packed

1 level tsp gluten free, aluminium free baking powder
A pinch of baking soda

1/8 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp red chilli powder [optional]
Salt to taste
1 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp white sesame seeds
1 sprig of curry leaves

2 Tbsp chopped cilantro (coriander) leaves
Fresh grated coconut [Optional]

An 8” square cake tin or jelly pan, if baking
A skillet, if using stove top method
Mixing bowl

Prepare the tin (if you are baking):
Heat a shallow wok. Add a Tbsp of oil. When hot, add the mustard seeds. When they splutter add sesame seeds. Stand back! Sesame seeds tend to jump about as they splutter. When lightly golden, remove wok and immediately add curry leaves. Pour this into your cake tin. Using a half cut potato rub the hot oil and seasonings all over the bottom of the pan. Also grease the sides with the same oil. Set aside.

Prepare the batter:
Soak the rice and lentils together overnight in sufficient water. Next morning drain the water, rinse till water runs clean, drain, and grind to a paste. To grind add 1/4 cup of the prepared buttermilk or more if needed, a tablespoon at a time. Stop the motor in between and push the lentils down the sides so that the blend is even. The batter should resemble pancake batter so try and add buttermilk sparingly. You can increase the liquid towards the end if needed.

Pour into a mixing bowl. Add the grated bottle gourd or zucchini. Set aside.

Run the ginger, green chillies, and garlic cloves together in a mixer or just pound together in a mortar. Add to the batter along with coriander leaves. Heat 2 Tbsp of oil and add asafetida to it. Pour this into the batter.

Add turmeric powder, salt and sugar. Mix the batter well. If thick adjust with more buttermilk till it attains the consistency of pancake batter.

Add baking powder and a pinch of baking soda. Mix first in figures of eight and then beat well so that the seasonings and leavening agents are uniformly distributed. Taste and check the salt.

Oven Method:
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C [350 degrees F].

Pour batter into the prepared pan till it reaches half way up, carefully and evenly so that the seasonings are not pushed to the sides of the pan. Tap to even the surface. A jelly pan works best, but if you do not have one use a square cake pan. I also like to use a bundt pan as it makes cutting much easier.

Bake at 180 degrees C [350 degrees F] till the top starts browning, about 35-40 minutes. If the top is firm and browned the cake is done. If your oven has burn points, rotate half way through. If the batter starts browning in 15 minutes, reduce temperature to 160 degrees C [320 degrees F] and continue.

Remove and cool in pan for ten minutes before slicing. The cake tends to stick to the bottom and it is best to slice in the pan and remove with a pancake turner.

Stove top method:
Heat a skillet and season with mustard, sesame and curry leaves like you did earlier. Pour a thick layer of batter, about three ladles evenly. Level the surface without disturbing the seasoning.

Cover and cook on very low heat for about 7-10 minutes. With a flat spatula raise once corner and check whether browned underneath. If not cook a little more. Using a broad spoon and a broad pancake turner, carefully remove the cake and turn it over to cook the other side. Hold the cake on the top with one spoon while turning else it might break. Again cover and cook for the same time till the base is browned. Do not increase the heat.

Remove onto a plate. Cool for about 2-3 minutes before cutting into wedges.

Repeat with the rest of the batter. This will make 2 handvo cakes.

While serving garnish with extra seasoning and coriander leaves or fresh grated coconut. Serve with mint chutney or tamarind chutney. If its tea time you will not need the chutneys.

Recipe for vegan buttermilk:
I soak about 10 cashews in hot water till soft and blend to a fine paste. Thin it with warm water till it reaches the consistency of milk. Measure 1/2 cup and add lemon juice to make sour buttermilk. Alternatively, use fresh pressed coconut milk or any non-dairy milk of your choice, and add lemon juice. Set aside till needed. Taste and check for sourness. Adjust with more lemon juice as needed.

The cake will be dense and not rise as much as regular cakes. If using bottle gourd or zucchini the cake tends to be a little sticky and not spongy. I noticed that if I use onions or carrots the cake gets a spongy texture. I suppose it has something to do with the liquid in the gourd. You can also try finely chopped coriander, spinach or fenugreek leaves.

If you would like the cake really spicy add 1/2 a teaspoon of red chili powder alongwith salt. Substitute pearl millet flour or sorghum flour (4 Tbsp PLUS 1 tsp) instead of rice. I have reduced the quantity of the flour here because they are more dense than rice.

I enjoyed my time here and hope you enjoyed my post too.


  1. I love how your guest posts introduce me to bloggers I'd really never heard of! I'm definitely going to have to check out the mashed greens curry :) I'm thrilled that this is vegan and gluten-free, as it means everyone in my family could eat it. I simply need to stock up on unusual flours first :)

  2. Yum I love handvo, though I haven't yet attempted ate several times at friends and love the taste. Thank you for stopping by my blog.

  3. I'm loving all the guest posts Xiaolu. It's a great way to find out about new blogs.

    I love Indian food, but have never heard of handvo. It looks and sounds wonderful, and reading the ingredient list looks like it's full of flavour. Thanks for sharing! I'm off to checkout Tongue Ticklers!

  4. Great post!!! Indian food is not so popular in my country, but I hope to make something on my own just to try it! It looks delicous!

  5. Hi Harini! This looks so simple and delicious!
    Xiaolu, I didn't know you've a penchant for Indian food ;)

  6. You guys are faaaast! Glad you're enjoying the guest/Indian food posts =D.

  7. A lovely guest post and speciality! It bet that savory cake taste great.



  8. I recently found Harini's blog as well and love her photography style. I'm so glad she setted for a recipe such as haandvo - its SO good but lhardly hear abt such regional dishes. Great work!

  9. This sounds interesting, like an unleavened beans cake. Never heard of it before. So much grinding involved, certainly good exercise if blenders are not handy

  10. Hi :) Thanks so much for stopping by my blog & commenting! I really love what you're doing on your blog and I think your photographs are fabulous!

    Thanks for sharing! :)

  11. Xiaolu, thank you so much for having me over:). I love flickr for having introduced me to you and your varied recipes as well. Your orange almond biscotti has been on my mind for a while now and needs to be replicated soon! Thanks also for introducing me some new friends here.

  12. I absolutely LOVE Haandovo. The traditional, stove top method as well as the baked version. Paired with a zingy mint chutney, it makes for an ideal breakfast/tea-time treat. Lovely pictures, Harini!

  13. i LOVE haandvo! It's on my list of things to blog this month too, except your photo totally will school mine. Good for you for trying this out!! I actually like to make mine in cupcake pans for individual servings! :) thanks so much for sharing. ps - i'm behind on your posts. need to get caught up!

  14. Wow, this sounds interesting and delightful..And those photos are amazing!

  15. Looks great Harini. Have tried the quicker buckwheat flour version,but tnever from the scratch. Intrigued by the cashew buttermilk as well. Cheers to you and Xiaolu. Keep it going

  16. The Hando in all the versions is looking Fantastic Xiaolu! Loved ur friends cooking style... !

  17. Oh Great ... i found a great blog and thanks to Harini for this.

    I love handvo and make it with different seasonings n vegetables often , but never tried with any kind of vegan buttermilk. Pictures are fantastic as always..

  18. Its a treat to see two friends whose food and photography I enjoy very much, in the same place.
    Harini, I love the way you photograph Indian food. I'm becoming inspired to make this soon. :)

  19. This looks delicious! Just found your wonderful blog! New follower!

    - Jessica
    (All Things Cajun)

  20. I love Harini's work and once again here a gorgeous presentation of an intensely comfort snack!! :))

  21. Ooo, this looks really delicious! I've never been to Harini's site, so thank you for introducing me to a new and talented blogger :)

  22. Oh this is wonderful! I'm always trying to learn more about Indian cooking and this recipe sounds delicious! I'll be sure to check out Harini's blog!

  23. I have never seen this before! I love finding new (to me) food :) thanks for sharing

  24. This snack cake looks perfect! Awesome recipe.

  25. I don't know much about Indian cuisine except that I like it and would like to eat more of it. This is definitely a recipe I'm not familiar with and I'm excited to try it out!

  26. You and me both.. I too love Indian food, I have this great affinity for all the spices, and love when they hit the hot oil and dissipate all those smells into the air. Have you ever hand Indian ice cream before?

  27. I'm glad you all are enjoying Harini's post =D.

    Elle - do you mean kulfi? if not then i have not had it and would be very curious to try!

  28. I am an Indian and I never heard of this dish ever!! I love how tasty it looks and I am sure we will love it. this is going in my wish list. I HAVE to try this :)I never visited Harini's before and she is GOOD!

  29. Xialu thank you for passing from my blog. I am glad to find Harini guest posting here. She is an old friend but lost track somewhere in the past. The snack she has prepared looks very tasty.

  30. Love your version of making HandvoH!! Congratulations on making the FoodBuzz Top 9 recipe.

  31. Sips and SpoonfulsApril 7, 2011 at 9:24 AM

    So glad I got to discover a beautiful new blog today. My mom makes handvo but has a completely different recipe for it. This one looks far easier :) Beautiful photos!

  32. This is such an intriguing dish! I bet the combination of flavours is divine.

  33. Growing up in Malaysia, I think I've been exposed to more Southern Indian foods but don't think I've ever seen this..this looks and sounds great..definitely a plus with the easy to find ingredients...thanks for sharing!

  34. This looks fantastic I just made socca - which is what I thought this was at first glance - but there is so much more to it! I'll have to try this out next.

  35. Such an interesting recipe! I would love to try this!

  36. What a delicious guest post! I'm trying to think whether I've tried this before. It actually does look familiar and I recall it being quite tasty indeed! :)

  37. I really like Indian food and learn another new snack today :)

  38. Thx for stopping by everyone! Harini and I really appreciate your support =D.

  39. Very interesting and delicious savoury snack!

  40. Oh my gosh this looks delicious and PERFECT! I love the photos!

  41. This snack looks so flavourful with the spice mix. Xiaolu, you're right. yHarini is such talented blogger!! I'm glad to have found her here.

  42. Hi Xiaolu, came by once more to thank all those who have commented above. Much appreciated:). I recognize many of you and like Ivy said, somewhere along the way life has kept me busier and I have lost track, but I do remember you all:). Thanks also to Xiaolu for introducing me to some lovely blogs!

  43. Handvo is one of my favourite breakfast snacks - it's great with a cuppa sweet chai. I love to add peas and sweetcorn for a bit of variety too. Lovely recipe, great job girlies!

  44. Love Handvo and this is truly looks like gourmet Handvo...

  45. Lovely recipe and lovely pictures! Which one is husked black gram lentils?Is it kala chana or split urad dal?

  46. Hi, husked black gram is split urad dal.

  47. Wow I would loooove to try this. There are a lot of ingredients I don't use though so I don't think I'll be trying it any time soon. :(

  48. Oh man, I 'd love to taste it, but more than half of ingredients is impossible to get in Lithuania :-(

    One day I will have it! ;-)


I love hearing from you all! Please leave me a message if you have questions, advice, or just to let me know you stopped by. Your feedback is always very much appreciated. Thanks! <3 Xiaolu