A Week Of An Indian Christmas – Day #7 : Nevries/ Nevreos/ Neurios (Half Moon Shaped Sweet Puffs Filled With Coconut And Semolina)
It is perhaps fitting that the final post in this Indian Christmas series of mine is about the much loved festival sweet, the Nevri. Nevries (also called Nevreo/ Neurio) are perhaps the most important part of the Christmas platter of treats called Kuswar or Consoada in Goa. These half-moon/ crescent shaped sweet puffs are filled with a cardamom flavoured coconut and semolina filling and are very popular with adults and children alike. They are light and crisp on the outside, and soft and sweet on the inside. They are never too sweet and given their taste and texture, tend to disappear soon after they make an appearance on the table!
This is a sweet that no one religion can claim as its own as it is very much a part of both Hindu and Christian celebrations in Goa. Originally a Hindu preparation and prepared for Ganesh Chathurthi Goa, this sweet puff is made with a variety of fillings. It can be made with a sugary semolina and coconut filling or with a lentil and jaggery filling. The Nevri that is made for Christmas here is filled with coconut and semolina. One can use fresh coconut in the filling but it will not keep for more than a day or two whereas it will last much longer if dessicated coconut is used instead of fresh.
There are many versions of this sweet puff, some with different fillings and some shaped more decoratively depending on which part of the country they’re made in, but all half-moon shaped and delicious. It is invariably festive fare and made for a variety of festivals including Ganesh Chathurthi, Holi and Diwali. So you will find Nevries being also being referred to as Gujiyas, Karanji, Kajjikaya, Kadubu, etc. You will also find the occasional savoury version, sometimes called Ghugaras, too.
You will usually find the coconut filling in Nevries uses either fresh coconut or dessicated coconut. Those with fresh coconut have a shorter shelf-life than Nevries with dessicated coconut. I chose to use half of each as fresh coconut lends moistness to the filling that is really a nice contrast to the crunchy texture of outer skin of the Nevri.
Nevries aren’t very difficult to make but rolling the dough, filling and shaping them is what takes a lot of time. So if you can find family or friends who are willing to help out then you just need to assign tasks to people, set up an assembly line and you’re in business. If you have to do this on your own, then you need to plan to keep aside a couple of hours at least. I spent the larger part of the day making mine, as my effort was a one-man show. And wouldn’t you know, it was only when my hands were in the flour that my phone would ring, the courier deliveryman would decide to turn up and our puppy would decide to start some mischief?
There are moulds available for shaping Nevries, if you can find them though you don’t really need them. However shaping them without moulds isn’t difficult. I prefer to use a pastry cutter to cut out circles out of the dough and then fold them over the filling. This means I have to roll out the dough about 6 or times (for this recipe) instead of rolling out small individual circles (about 40 of them!). The cutter also ensures that my Nevries are all the same size.
Do check out this video which shows how to make Nevries/ Gujiya. The recipe and filling are different but the method is much the same.
Before the recipe, I would like to wish all those who celebrate a very Merry Christmas and say "Happy Holidays" to all my readers and friends.
Nevries/ Nevreo (Half Moon Shaped Sweet Puffs Filled With Coconut And Semolina)
For the dough:
For the filling:
- First prepare the dough. You may knead by hand or use the food processor like I did. Put the flour, salt and ghee in the processor and run it a couple of times to mix well. Then add about 1/2 cup of warm water and run the processor a couple of times. Now add as much water as is necessary, a bit at a time, to form a smooth and elastic dough.
- Turn the dough out, cover it with a towel/ cling wrap and rest it for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Now prepare the filling
- Heat about half the ghee in a wok or pan and fry the cashewnuts till a light golden brown. Remove and keep aside. In the remaining ghee, fry the raisins till they puff up. Do not brown. Add to the cashewnuts.
- Lightly toast each of these - sesame seeds, poppy seeds and the dessicated coconut - separately till they’re golden brown and give off an aroma. Add to the cashewnuts and raisins and keep aside.
- In the remaining half of the ghee, roast the semolina over medium heat, until it turns pinkish and gives off an aroma. Add to the other fried/ toasted ingredients.
- Now put all these together back into the wok/ pan and add the sugar to it. Over medium heat, mix everything together until the sugar starts to melt. Take it off the heat and add the grated coconut and cardamom powder and stir well. The filling is ready.
- To make the Nevries, pinch of walnut-sized bits of the dough. Shape them into smooth balls and roll out into small thin circles (about 1/16” thick and 4” diameter). The dough needs to be rolled out thin otherwise your Nevri will be chewy instead of crisp once it is deep-fried. Place a heaped tsp of filling in the centre and moisten the edges with water. Fold the circle over the filling into a half moon shape and seal the edges well.
- Use the tines of a fork to press the edges together decoratively. You can also use a fluted pie cutter to cut the edges into pattern.
- Another alternative, one which I prefer, is to use a fluted pastry cutter (I use my 3 7/8” sized one). Divide the dough into four portions. Work with one and keep the others covered till needed, so the dough doesn’t dry out. Roll out the dough into a large circle (1/16” thick)). Using the pastry cut out circles, fill and seal as mentioned above.
- Keep on a plate/ tray. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling.
- Heat the oil for frying and when it is the right temperature (a bit of dough will bubble and rise up turning golden brown), carefully slide in about 4 to 6 Nevries into the oil. Let them rise up and turn whitish and the surface will start blistering. Slowly turn them and let the other side cook. Cook them, over medium heat, turning them often till they’re done and uniformly golden brown in colour.
- Remove them using a slotted spoon and let them drain on paper towels. When they are completely cool, store them in an airtight container. These Nevries will keep for about 3 days.
This recipe makes about 35 to 40 Nevries
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