A buttery, biscuit-like slice often served at Hindu festivals, chana magaj is sweet, spiced, and textured, the perfect accompaniment with a cup of masala chai. A taste of this sweetmeat will whisk you away to the bustling, sandalwood-scented temples of India in a heartbeat.
- ¼ cup (35 g) slivered almonds
- 2 tsp red food colouring (see Note)
- edible silver foil (vark) (optional, see Note)
- spray oil
- 500 g besan (chickpea flour) (coarse besan, if available)
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) milk
- 2½ cups ghee (clarified butter) (see Note)
- 500 g icing sugar, sieved
- 2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 50 g (½ cup) milk powder, sieved
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Drying time 8 hours
Cooling time 30 minutes
Resting time 1 hour
You’ll need to begin this recipe a half day in advance
Place most of the almonds into a bowl, reserving a small amount for silver coating (if using). Add the red food colouring to the bowl, ensuring the almonds are coated well. Allow to dry overnight. (These will be used for garnishing, so you can choose to use any colours you like). For the silver almonds, spray lightly with oil so the silver foil sticks, use 2 sets of tweezers to break off a small amount of the foil being careful not to touch the silver foil sheet, or it will stick to your hands. Place silver on almonds one at a time, once silver foil is on almonds, you may press it in with your fingers.
Once the almonds are dry, continue with the recipe. Place the besan in a large bowl, then gradually add the milk, rubbing it in with your fingers until it resembles the texture of breadcrumbs. Sieve this mixture into a smaller bowl - it should look like fine, sandy-coloured flour. Don’t discard the coarse, leftover besan.
Place the ghee and the coarse besan into a medium saucepan. Braise on medium heat, for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the colour starts to turn golden brown. Add the fine besan and cook, stirring often for 15-20 minutes, or until the colour has deepened to a caramel. Remove from heat and pour into a 32 cm x 23 cm x 4 cm non-stick baking tin. (If you don’t have a non-stick tin, line it with baking paper instead.) Allow to cool, for about 30 minutes.
Once cool, add the icing sugar, cardamom, nutmeg and milk powder. Mix well, spread flat with a palette knife, top with almonds and set aside for one hour. Once the chana magaj is solid, slice into squares and serve with steaming hot masala chai (Indian tea).
• Red food colouring is available from supermarkets. You should be able to find besan (chickpea flour) at your local Indian grocery. Vark, or edible silver foil, is available at Indian grocery stores and selected cake decorating shops, but is expensive.)
Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Michelle Noerianto. Food preparation by Nick Banbury and Cynthia Black.