Ganesha’s favourite Goan sweet

Arti Das | Updated on August 30, 2019

Passing the parcel: The nevri is also offered to Baby Jesus on Christmas - Arti Das

Ganesh Chaturthi is just a couple of days away and Goa is all ready to welcome the elephant god with platters of nevri, a crescent-shaped sweet

The buzz around every festival comes from the food it is synonymous with. Apart from the new clothes, gifts and greetings, hours of decorating the house and the arrival of guests, the activities of the kitchen are of special interest to revellers.

One rather obvious side-effect of urbanisation is the toll on festival foods that our kitchens once churned out. Pop-up bazaars and local caterers are convenient options for those who still want to eat traditional. Many rural households, however, still go the whole hog when it comes to preparing sweets and savouries from scratch. This is where I go for my annual fix of nevri, a sweet that marks the arrival of Lord Ganesha in Goa.

My earliest memories of the nevri are from my mother’s kitchen where she spent hours at the counter, neatly folding flour parcels stuffed with coconut and dry fruits. These were then dipped in smoking-hot oil and stored in airtight containers. The lids remained firmly in place — with the first batch of nevris (also known as nevreo) reserved for the elephant god. For variety, the nevri would also be made with roasted gram flour and spices such as asafoetida, turmeric and red chilli powder.

The making of the sweet needs more than just one pair of hands. My sisters were able assistants to my mother. The pastry shell was rolled out on the paat (a low wooden seat). This was followed by the stuffing and the sealing. The edges of the parcel were then trimmed with the help of a razor-sharp pastry wheel. I had my eyes on the edges, which, after being fried, turned crispy. My mother — belonging to a generation that believed in utilisation of kitchen waste — would also use discarded bits of the parcel to make a savoury item.

Every bite of the nevri symbolises happiness for foodies like me. The first bite, however, has to be careful one. It breaks the flaky shell and releases the aroma of the stuffing.

Ganesha’s food is not strictly for just his worshippers. In Goa, the nevri is also offered to Baby Jesus on Christmas. It is also used to welcome spring every year, with a festival called Shigmo.

The popularity of the nevri is no news for Goans, old and new. But the story behind its connection with Goa’s festivals is sketchy.

According to folklore expert and writer Jayanti Naik, the secret lies in its shape. Naik says, “I believe that the semi-circular shape of nevri could be a representation of female genitalia [symbols of fertility] and the celebration of Mother Earth.” She further suggests that the popular Maharashtrian Ganesh Chaturthi snack, modak — which resembles a tufted coconut — is the symbol of a male. Naik points out that many Goan households make at least one modak while preparing the nevri. The male-female symbolism comes from the philosophy behind the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi — apart from being about the deity, it is also a celebration of life and the bounties of nature after the months of monsoon. While the nevri and the modak represent the equivalent of the yin and yang philosophy in terms of festival food, a wooden canopy (known as matoli in Goa) that stands over the idol’s head is decorated with seasonal fruits and vegetables — signs of new life.

With time and changes in lifestyle, the frequency of making and also consuming nevris has gone down significantly. Nowadays people prefer varieties with a longer shelf life. That explains the use of desiccated coconut and roasted gram flour.

The stuffing also indicates social status; so does the size. It is customary for a new bride’s parents to send a platter of sweets to the groom’s family on Ganesh Chaturthi. The bigger the size of the nevri, the better for the image of the sender. And the stuffing of dry fruits is considered the most prestigious. These nevris are distributed among neighbours and friends. And the biggest one in the platter — unsurprisingly — is reserved for the son-in-law.

Arti Das is a freelance writer based in Goa

  • Ingredients
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup rava (semolina), roasted
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup toasted white sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1/4 cup mixed dry fruits
  • Method
  • Mix all the ingredients (except rava) and keep aside.
  • Nevri outer cover
  • 1 Soak 1/4 cup of rava in water for an hour. Take 1 cup of flour, add 2 tbsp hot melted ghee and mix well till it resembles bread crumbs. Then add salt, soaked rava and knead it into semi-soft dough. Keep aside for a couple of hours.
  • 2 Then take a small ball, roll it into a thin disc, put the stuffing and fold it into a semicircle. Cut the edge with fluted pastry wheel or fold the sides well and deep fry in hot oil. Store in an airtight container.

Published on August 30, 2019

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