Handvo Indian Savory Snack Cake

From 6 Bittersweets (Guest Post by Harini of Tongue Ticklers)
Serves 4

NOTES: My version is vegan, soy free, gluten free, nut free. 

Ingredients:
To soak overnight:
4 Tbsp PLUS 1 tsp rice
4 Tbsp PLUS 1 tsp brown rice flour
4 Tbsp PLUS 1 tsp split mung bean lentils [Optional]
4 Tbsp PLUS 1 tsp split bengal gram lentils
4 Tbsp PLUS 1 tsp husked black gram lentils

3/4 cup PLUS 1 Tbsp vegan buttermilk, and more if needed [Recipe follows]
About 3 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 2 small lemons

Spice mix:
1 Tbsp grated ginger
2 green chillies, chopped, or per taste
5 garlic cloves, or per taste, crushed lightly and peeled
3 Tbsp cilantro (coriander) leaves, finely chopped.
1/8 tsp asafoetida (hing)
4 to 5 Tbsp vegetable or any neutral oil
1 cup grated bottle gourd/zucchini, loosely packed

1 level tsp gluten free, aluminium free baking powder
A pinch of baking soda

1/8 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp red chilli powder [optional]
Salt to taste
1 Tbsp sugar

Seasoning:
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp white sesame seeds
1 sprig of curry leaves

Garnish:
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro (coriander) leaves
Fresh grated coconut [Optional]

Tools:
An 8” square cake tin or jelly pan, if baking
A skillet, if using stove top method
Mixing bowl
Grinder/blender

Method:
Prepare the tin (if you are baking):
Heat a shallow wok. Add a Tbsp of oil. When hot, add the mustard seeds. When they splutter add sesame seeds. Stand back! Sesame seeds tend to jump about as they splutter. When lightly golden, remove wok and immediately add curry leaves. Pour this into your cake tin. Using a half cut potato rub the hot oil and seasonings all over the bottom of the pan. Also grease the sides with the same oil. Set aside.

Prepare the batter:
Soak the rice and lentils together overnight in sufficient water. Next morning drain the water, rinse till water runs clean, drain, and grind to a paste. To grind add 1/4 cup of the prepared buttermilk or more if needed, a tablespoon at a time. Stop the motor in between and push the lentils down the sides so that the blend is even. The batter should resemble pancake batter so try and add buttermilk sparingly. You can increase the liquid towards the end if needed.

Pour into a mixing bowl. Add the grated bottle gourd or zucchini. Set aside.

Run the ginger, green chillies, and garlic cloves together in a mixer or just pound together in a mortar. Add to the batter along with coriander leaves. Heat 2 Tbsp of oil and add asafetida to it. Pour this into the batter.

Add turmeric powder, salt and sugar. Mix the batter well. If thick adjust with more buttermilk till it attains the consistency of pancake batter.

Add baking powder and a pinch of baking soda. Mix first in figures of eight and then beat well so that the seasonings and leavening agents are uniformly distributed. Taste and check the salt.

Oven Method:
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C [350 degrees F].

Pour batter into the prepared pan till it reaches half way up, carefully and evenly so that the seasonings are not pushed to the sides of the pan. Tap to even the surface. A jelly pan works best, but if you do not have one use a square cake pan. I also like to use a bundt pan as it makes cutting much easier.

Bake at 180 degrees C [350 degrees F] till the top starts browning, about 35-40 minutes. If the top is firm and browned the cake is done. If your oven has burn points, rotate half way through. If the batter starts browning in 15 minutes, reduce temperature to 160 degrees C [320 degrees F] and continue.

Remove and cool in pan for ten minutes before slicing. The cake tends to stick to the bottom and it is best to slice in the pan and remove with a pancake turner.

Stove top method:
Heat a skillet and season with mustard, sesame and curry leaves like you did earlier. Pour a thick layer of batter, about three ladles evenly. Level the surface without disturbing the seasoning.

Cover and cook on very low heat for about 7-10 minutes. With a flat spatula raise once corner and check whether browned underneath. If not cook a little more. Using a broad spoon and a broad pancake turner, carefully remove the cake and turn it over to cook the other side. Hold the cake on the top with one spoon while turning else it might break. Again cover and cook for the same time till the base is browned. Do not increase the heat.

Remove onto a plate. Cool for about 2-3 minutes before cutting into wedges.

Repeat with the rest of the batter. This will make 2 handvo cakes.

While serving garnish with extra seasoning and coriander leaves or fresh grated coconut. Serve with mint chutney or tamarind chutney. If its tea time you will not need the chutneys.

Recipe for vegan buttermilk:
I soak about 10 cashews in hot water till soft and blend to a fine paste. Thin it with warm water till it reaches the consistency of milk. Measure 1/2 cup and add lemon juice to make sour buttermilk. Alternatively, use fresh pressed coconut milk or any non-dairy milk of your choice, and add lemon juice. Set aside till needed. Taste and check for sourness. Adjust with more lemon juice as needed.

Texture:
The cake will be dense and not rise as much as regular cakes. If using bottle gourd or zucchini the cake tends to be a little sticky and not spongy. I noticed that if I use onions or carrots the cake gets a spongy texture. I suppose it has something to do with the liquid in the gourd. You can also try finely chopped coriander, spinach or fenugreek leaves.

Variations:
If you would like the cake really spicy add 1/2 a teaspoon of red chili powder alongwith salt. Substitute pearl millet flour or sorghum flour (4 Tbsp PLUS 1 tsp) instead of rice. I have reduced the quantity of the flour here because they are more dense than rice.