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  • Matthi
    Spiced Indian Crackers

    YIELD: 24 (2-INCH / 5-CM) CRACKERS
    TOOLS: You’ll need a food processor; a rolling pin; a baking sheet; a fork; a kadhai, wok, or saucepan; a mortar and pestle; and a slotted spoon.
    NOTE: Believe it or not, I tried baking these and they came out even crispier and tastier. If you choose to bake them, place them on a well-oiled baking sheet (spray them lightly with oil across the top as well) and bake at 350°F / 180°C for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. There’s no need to flip them. Remove from the oven and place on a tray to cool.

    I remember piles of these beautifully round, flaky crackers sitting in a large plastic bin in my Mattu massi’s (aunt’s) pantry in Chandigarh. We would always sneak in the pantry to grab a couple in between meals and slather them with spicy Indian pickle.

    • 1 cup /140 g whole-wheat chapati flour*
    • ¼ cup /40 g sooji (semolina or coarse cream of wheat)
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns, coarsely ground in a mortar and pestle
    • ¼ teaspoon ajwain (carom seeds)
    • 2 cups plus 2½ tablespoons /470 mL vegetable oil, divided
    • 3 tablespoons /45 mL warm water
    1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, the sooji, the salt, the ground peppercorns, the ajwain, and the 2½ tablespoons of oil. Process until the mixture forms a coarse texture. The coarser the black pepper, the better. Pound the peppercorns in a mortar and pestle just a few times.
    2. As the processor is running, add the water very slowly, 1 tablespoon at a time, to the food processor. Continue processing until all the ingredients come together into a coarse ball. This dough should be slightly hard and crumbly. You don’t want it to be too smooth, or the end product will be too soft, like a puri, when frying in the oil.
    3. Using a tablespoon measure, carve small balls out of the dough and roll them between your hands until they are as smooth as possible. Flatten out each ball with the palms of your hands.
    4. On a clean, dry, and flat work surface, use a rolling pin to roll out 1 ball into a thin round that is 2 inches / 5 cm wide. The thinner it is, the crispier it will be. The dough will crumble at the edges.
    5. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough until all have been rolled out. Place the rounds of dough on a baking sheet. Using a fork, prick the centers of each round a few times to make sure they don’t puff up when you fry them.
    6. In a small kadhai, wok, or saucepan over medium–high heat, warm 2 cups of the oil. The oil should be about 1 inch / 3 cm deep in the deepest part of the kadhai. You’ll know the oil is hot enough if you drop in a tiny ball of dough and it rises to the top immediately. The key to successfully frying these up is to ensure that the oil is not too hot; if it is too hot, the crackers will burn on the outside and won’t cook through. As soon as you see that the oil is ready, reduce the heat to medium or medium–low. If it starts to smoke, it’s too hot. Just pull the kadhai away from the heat to let the oil cool down a bit.
    7. Carefully place 7 to 8 uncooked matthi into the oil at a time, depending on the size of the pan. Don’t overcrowd them. Cook for 2 minutes on each side, turning them over once to be sure they brown evenly. Remove from the heat.
    8. Remove the matthi with a slotted spoon and transfer to a baking sheet lined with a paper towel to absorb the extra oil. Set aside to cool completely. This step is important to make sure they remain crisp.
    9. Repeat Steps 7 and 8 until you have finished frying all the matthi. Set aside to cool for at least 20 minutes.
    10. Transfer to an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Try eating these with a little mango pickle and a cup of tea—amazingly addictive!
    11. *If you are not near an Indian grocer who stocks chapati flour, you can substitute white whole-wheat flour. Most recipes and commercial takes on this snack use white all-purpose flour (maida), but I prefer to use whole-wheat flour. Use all-purpose flour if you prefer a lighter, flakier texture. See my notes on chapati flour.

Indian For Everyone by Anupy Singla. Copyright © 2014 Anupy Singla. Published by Agate Publishing. All rights reserved.

© 2016 Alta Editions LLC.