healthy fiber rich handvo recipe | a baked savory lentil cake
Handevo is a gujrati dish which is more like a baked dhokla or a savory cake. We actually used to call it namkeen cake when we were kids because it was an unusual thing for most of our friends and explaining about our food was not always the best experience. My mother grew up in Ghazipur, a small town in eastern UP and her mother’s neighbours were Gujrati. The kind of food exchange it must have been in the 50s and 60s, we can only imagine but it definitely enriched our tables in many ways.
My mother used to bake Handvo over an earthen pot filled with either charcoal embers or cow dung cakes. We had a blackened aluminium pateela kept just for this purpose. It used to take a long time to bake, also because it used to be a huge handvo always. We were five siblings and there were always someone or the other visiting and if there was a dish everyone liked, it had to be made in large amounts. We never got enough of Handvo and as the smoky aroma of Handvo being baked filled our home, as we got restless with anticipation.
Some westerners have identified Handvo as a spiced up cornbread by the way.
What appeals me more in this dish that it can be very versatile in the way we use the ingredients. A mixed pulses batter with some 'carbohydrate grain', some veggies, a generous tadka and finally the baking makes it a whole new experience. I like the way it is baked, with a tadka topping and a tadka base as well. The tadka is a tempering of assorted spices, sesame seeds and herbs which imparts a nice aromatic and earthy feel to this baked lentil cake called Handvo or handva. My mother used to call is Adhau and I learnt the proper name much later in life.
In all the years I have been cooking, I have used many baking contraptions for Handvo, because a regular oven doesn’t yield good results. This is a savoury cake that doesn’t use fat in the batter but the fat is used at the bottom and top of the cake and helps crisp up the crust to a rich golden brown colour.
All the diverse types of batter mixes and baking contraptions that I have used to bake Handvo through many years will be added at the end of this post. I am hoping it will help bake this unusual savoury cake.
Note that this is a slow recipe and one needs to prepare for it in advance. The first day you soak the lentils and ferment the batter which takes almost 24 hours, then an hour of preparation and baking time. Make a big batch and refrigerate it in a container to be used upto 3-4 day.
Ingredients and process for the batter of Handvo (for a 10 inch diameter and 3 inch thickness)
This is a long list on ingredients, please check all the bold underlined text to find all ingredients in one place.
To be soaked overnight
1 cup rice (preferably broken rice of short grain rice)
1/4 cup urad dal (split black gram)
1/2 cup chana dal (split Indian black gram)
2 tbsp arhar dal (pigeon peas split)
2 tbsp masoor dal (red lentils)
Once the rice and lentils are soaked, drain the water and blend to make a thick batter. Ferment the batter till there are bubbles visible.
Once the batter is fermented, and mix the following ingredients
3/4 cup cultured yogurt (home made dahi)
2 cups grated bottle gourd (lauki)
Add the following tempering to the batter
2 tsp peanut oil
Pinch of hing (asafoetida)
1/2 tsp small black mustard seeds (rai)
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp green chilli paste
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp pepper powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
To make the above tempering, heat the oil in a small pan and add the ingredients in the order they are listed. Heat till fragrant and add to the batter and mix well.
Add about 1/2 tsp soda bi carb and keep the batter aside while you prepare for the tadka ingredients that are used to line the base and top of the Handvo.
For the tadka
1/3 cup peanut oil
2 tsp small black mustard (rai)
10 springs of curry patta, leaves separated
4 tbsp of sesame seeds
12 dry red chillies (unbroken)
To make the tadka, heat the oil in a small pan, add the other ingredients in the order they are listed and wait till all of them crackle but don’t burn. Take off the heat and pour half of this tempering mix to a 10 inch diameter aluminium baking pan.
Now pour the prepared batter in the baking pan and level it. With the help of a spoon, spread the remaining tempering over the batter.
The baking of the Handvo is done in two parts. First half is baked on gas stove and the second half in an oven or air fryer.
Place the baking tin in a large iron or cast iron frying pan, cover it and place on the gas stove. If you don’t have a large enough frying pan you can just place a dosa or roti tawa under the baking pan covers with lid and let the bottom layer brown while the Handvo cooks. Keeping the flame on high for the first 7-8 minutes and then on medium for another 30-35 minutes works best for this size of Handvo. By the end of this time the Handvo should be cooked through and the top layer will look set, a skewer or toothpick should come out clean.
Now is the time to keep the baking pan in the oven with top heating on at 200 C so the top layer of the Handvo crisps up. It takes about 6-8 minutes in a preheated oven on top rack.
If I am baking the Handvo in a smaller pan I usually do the second stage of baking in the air fryer till the top of the Handvo starts sizzling.
The alternative way to bake the Handvo on stove top is to cook it like a frittata. First you cook it directly in a frying pan, then invert the cooked Handvo in a plate carefully and then slide it back in the pan to cook the other side too.
There is a special Handvo pan available in Gujrat that can be used for baking Handvo as well.
As I said earlier, Handvo is very versatile and I keep replacing some of the ingredients every time I bake it. Some of the alternative ingredients are as follows.
Rice can be replaced with quinoa or broken wheat or any millets you like. You can also use half of the rice recommended and replace the half with any of these ingredients.
Horsegram can be added in small amount to the batter mix.
Instead of grated bottle gourd I have successfully used grated cucumbers or shredded cabbage or fenugreek leaves.
Handvo is such a versatile recipe that it can fit into your breakfast, meals or even snacks. This recipe results in a flavourful and spicy Handvo and you don’t need any chutney or sauce to go with it. But I like cucumber raita or a yogurt based dip with it the most.
The recipe and accompaniment may not be the authentic way of serving Handvo but since it is a healthy protein packed recipe, we love it in any which way. All the crisp edges are so delicious you might have a small fight on the dining table.
Try replacing rice with quinoa in this Handvo recipe and you will be surprised how filling it is. You won’t feel hungry for the whole day after eating two fat wedges of this Handvo.
Do let me know if you try the recipe.