Mathri – the perfect snack

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How does it feel when it is your baby’s first day at school? And how does it feel when you are not able attend? Yeah ok, I know baby A has been going to the daycare at the same place since a month. She is familiar with the place and people. And also, it is technically not ‘school’ but ‘playschool’. But still, she carried a small school bag and tiffin box and a bottle today – and that qualifies me to create all the panic and excitement and jumping around about it, and also to have butterflies in my stomach. About my not being able to witness the big day – I don’t know when I will be able to break the “schedule-meeting-at-the-most-inappropriate-time-n-day” habit :(.

Anyways – so when I got a call from the daycare supervisor that baby A needs to carry a small tiffin box with finger food to eat in the ‘playschool recess’, I had to go the ‘thinking out of the box’ way. She could not carry khichadi, dalia or sooji kheer – that was for sure. Her aaloo paratha and cheela qualified but she needed a literal finger food too. While I was brooding in the kitchen, baby A sat in a corner munching. I looked at her to check if she had ‘edible’ stuff in her hands (not the week old biscuit she found under the bed). And Eureka! My problem was solved – she could carry what she was munching on – the light, crunchy, melt in your mouth mathri ! She can hold it easily and she loved the lightly salted, mildly peppered taste.

Though there are several versions of mathri and the conventional one is like a round disc, this is what my mom makes and she is a master at it. They are always so crisp, that if not ‘handled with care’, they often break into pieces en-route from Indore to Delhi. I have the exact recipe, but never once have I been able to replicate my mom’s creation. Maybe baby A’s affiliation to them gives me another push to perfect myself.

Ingredients –
Maida/ all purpose flour – 2 cups
Rawa/ Sooji – half cup
Salt – 2 tsp
Ajwain/ Carom seeds – 1 tsp
Roughly ground black pepper – 1 tsp
Oil/ ghee – 1 cup (for the dough: you may not need all of it)
Milk – 1 cup (for the dough: you may not need all of it)
Oil – 2 cups (for deep frying: you may need more of it!)

Method –
1. Mix (with your hands) maida, sooji, salt, black pepper powder in a wide bowl.
2. Soak ajwain in a bowl of water for 5 minutes, add it to the above. This would make the ajwain bind to the dough and prevent it from getting separated and settling down in the kadhai/ wok while deep frying. This is a tip my mom read somewhere. Alternatively, just throw in the ajwain while mixing in step 1.
3. Now, add ghee/oil to the dough spoon by spoon, and keep rubbing it in the dough. Keep doing this till the dough looks crumbly. Test – if you hold the dough tight in your fist and release it, the dough should hold shape.
4. Add milk little by little to bind the dough. We need a very very firm dough – with as little liquid as possible. Test – you should not be able to poke your finger into the dough.
5. Keep the dough (covered) aside for an hour.
6. Take enough dough to form a (tennis) ball and roll it to a thick roti with a rolling pin/ belan. If you have done a good job with the dough, it should be difficult to roll out the dough, you will need to apply some pressure on the rolling pin.
7. Cut into rectangular mathri(s) using a knife.
8. Before starting with step 6, keep a wide kadhai/ wok with oil on a medium high flame. Test – the oil is hot enough if a small ball of dough slipped in sizzles to golden pink and rises up.
9. Reduce the flame to sim/ low and add in a batch of 10-12 mathri(s), depending on how wide your kadhai is.
10. We want these to be deep fried for a long time (5 to 7 minutes), so that they are cooked from inside and crisp on the outside. Turn them around twice or thrice – so that they look golden, light brown uniformly. These should not blow up like a poori, but remain firm.
11. Take them out of oil and dump them on a newspaper/ tissue paper to drain out excess oil.
12. Store in a airtight container when cooled off completely. Munch on as and when you like :).

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