If you’re looking for something, sweet give gujiya a go. These dumplings look a little bit like Cornish pasties or empanadas, but they’re entirely different in flavor. The pastry is made with either all-purpose flour or semolina flour and ghee, and they’re filled with all sorts of ingredients, depending on where in India you enjoy them, as well as different names, which can be confusing.
In Goa, they’re known as nevris and are filled with coconut and jaggery, a type of cane sugar. Head to Gujarat and you’ll find that their version, ghugra, is stuffed with dried coconut, semolina, and nuts.
In Maharashtra, their karanji use coconut, milk solids (a bit like ricotta) and poppy seeds, while in Andhra Pradesh, they use dried coconut in semolina for their kajjikayalu. And in Rajasthan, their gujiya are decorated after being fried—they dip them into sugar syrup to make them even sweeter, then sprinkle them with chopped nuts.
My friend’s mum always used to make gujiya whenever Diwali started. I have such fond memories of her homemade version: pastry that was both crispy and flaky when I bit into it, with a sweet, beautifully textured filling consisting of coconut, pistachios, sugar, and spices. She would make the filling and pastry before stuffing the gujiya and forming them into their traditional crescent shape, sealing them, and deep-frying in plenty of ghee.
If you fancy giving gujiya a go yourself, here’s my take on the version that I remember from my childhood Diwali celebrations. They’re delicious served alongside a steaming cup of tea or coffee. —Romy Gill MBE
- Prep time 1 hour 15 minutes
- Cook time 15 minutes
- makes 20
ghee, or vegetable or sunflower oil
fresh coconut, grated (you can use dried unsweetened coconut if you can’t find fresh)
green cardamom pods, crushed with a pestle and mortar and husks removed
fennel seeds, crushed with a pestle and mortar
ghee or vegetable oil, plus extra for frying
raw pistachios, finely chopped, divided
- First, make the dough. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl, then add the ghee and combine. Slowly add 150 milliliters of water and knead until it all comes together into a flexible dough. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave it to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the filling. Combine the grated coconut, sugar, crushed cardamom seeds, fennel seeds and 30 grams of chopped pistachios in a bowl and mix well to combine.
- Heat the ghee, add the mixed filling ingredients and cook in a frying pan over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and combined with the other ingredients, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool before you begin to make the gujiya.
- Divide your rested dough into 20 equally-sized balls. Dust a work surface with flour and roll each ball into a thin circle, between 3 ½ to 4 inches in diameter, one at a time. Place a heaped teaspoon of the filling in the centre of the circle then, using your thumb and forefinger, pinch together around the filling to seal the parcels so the filling doesn’t escape. Repeat until you have made all 20.
- Half-fill a heavy-based, deep pan with ghee or vegetable oil and heat to 345 to 355ºF (175 to 180ºC). Once hot, drop in your gujiyas in batches and fry for 3-4 minutes until crispy and golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain the excess ghee. Repeat until all of the gujiyas are cooked, then sprinkle with the remaining pistachios to serve. Store in an airtight container.