I remember these biscuits from my childhood – the aroma of green elachi (cardamom) wafted through our home when these were baked. These delicious biscuits are most often served with tea. They are dunked and swirled around the teacup. There is an art to eating Naan Khatay – it’s all about timing…get it as soft as possible and schlurp it up before it breaks and ends up in the tea!
One of my guilty childhood pleasures was plucking the whole almonds off the biscuits and leaving a pile of naked nutless biscuits in the tin. I always got caught and I never learnt my lesson. Naan Khatay was probably the single most regular cause of my childhood hidings (back in the days when bedroom slipper thrashings were compulsory!)
The main controversy around Naan Khatay is whether it originated in Pakistan or India. Since I am sure that these biscuits have been around way before the 1947 partition of India, the answer is clearly – India! This is good enough for me and that is why your Diwali feast should include a stack of these treats. I have also been troubled by whether the correct spelling is Khatay, Khatai or Khataai. So, I have just been doing some research and the only fact that I have been able to establish is that each one is fine – so you can choose. Call it what you like, it’s fabulousness remains the same even if you translate it into Afrikaans! I have just decided I have a prize for the person who comes up with the best Afrikaans name for these biscuits – so please post your answers as a comment.
Almonds or pistachios? Although I have never made these biscuits with pistachios, I see most Pakistani recipes are made this way. These biscuits will probably become a family favourite of yours so I think you should try both and put it to the vote. Also, I see that most Pakistani recipes contain egg. The biscuits are sometimes also glazed with egg and dusted with chopped pistachios. I don’t include eggs in my recipe because why mess with perfection?
Indian, Pakistani or even Afrikaans. Khatay, Khatai or Khataai. Pistachios, almonds or pecans. Eggy or not. All that really matters is how many biscuits you can eat!
Here is my recipe for an Eggless Naan Khatay….
125ml Spar castor sugar
125ml Spar sunflower oil
Pinch of salt
2,5ml cardamom essence
5ml ground cardamom
5ml bicarbonate of soda
500 – 625ml cake flour, sifted
Whole blanched almonds, to garnish
Pre-heat oven to 190 degrees celsius.
Lightly grease a baking tray with butter.
Place the butter in a mixing bowl and use a hand-held beater to cream until light in colour.
Gradually add the castor sugar and beat well.
Pour the sunflower oil into the creamed butter and continue beating.
Add the semolina, salt, cardamom essence, ground cardamom and bicarbonate of soda.
Stir well to combine and sift 500ml of cake flour into the mixing bowl.
If the dough is too sticky, add the remaining flour a little at a time until a soft dough forms.
Cover the dough with a damp cloth to prevent it from drying out.
Grease your palm with a drop of oil and roll the dough into balls.
Place a whole blanched almond on the ball of dough and flatten gently.
Space the biscuits on a baking tray.
Bake for 10 -12 minutes or until the biscuits are pale golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack.
Substitute almonds with pecan nuts and use cinnamon instead of cardamom.
Greasing your palms with oil prevents the dough from sticking.
Place the almonds over the biscuits as each one has been moulded into a ball to prevent them from cracking.
These biscuits puff out a fair bit so ensure that there is sufficient space between each biscuit on the baking tray.