A pinch of this, a handful of that | Ghugra (Savoury hand pies)

Green peas ghugraI knew Rushina as a food columnist much before I began blogging.  Later, while I was still new to the world of blogs and ‘blog friendships’ I discovered her blog and felt an instant connection with her posts. I spoke to her on phone and nervously asked whether she could share tips on food writing as it was a relatively new thing in India back then.  It was the beginning of a friendship that has blossomed into sisterhood since.  Rushina is now the proud owner and culinary guide of  ‘APB Cook Studio‘.

In January, Rushina brought out her first cookbook, ‘A pinch of this, a handful of that’.  I received an adorably autographed copy of the book at the launch.  I have read the book through, marked some of my favourite parts and re-visited most of them a few times already.  The doodled autograph probably gives you an idea about the kind of person Rushina is – thoughtful and observant.  The book exudes that warmth.

The cover

Of the many cookbooks I own, this one occupies two very special places – my bedside table, and my heart.  ‘A pinch of this, a handful of that’ is a compilation of traditional and contemporary recipes.  It follows a memoir style of writing, with each section dedicated to the people who have influenced and helped Rushina evolve as a cook and person – her parents, nani (grandmother), maharaj (the cook) and so on.  The book is dotted with family anecdotes and Rushina’s own reflections on her relationships with certain key people in her life.  Many sections will take the reader back in time and down the memory lane.  The recipes will make you want to get into the kitchen, and start cooking.

The book has over 250 recipes, and it appealed to me that several are inherently vegan or are vegan friendly. Rushina belongs to a Gujarati family where the kitchen was ruled by the ‘maharaj’.  Maharaj is the title given to professional male cooks and literally translates as ‘king’, and in this context the king of the kitchen.  Traditionally most maharajs were vegetarian and would not allow non-vegetarian cooking in kitchens manned by them.

I am a huge fan of cookbooks that are a pleasure to look at.  In this case the photographs are very few and they do not do justice to the Rushina’s cooking.  Nevertheless, it makes a very good read for all ages as the recipes are well written, easy to follow and the author has ensured that there are enough recipes for the novice, the experienced, the traditional and the modern cook .  It is the kind of book that you can go to bed with and ensure mouth watering visions.

Since Holi is just round the corner, it feels right to share the recipe for ‘ghugra’ from the book. In the North, holi is celebrated with ‘thandai’ and ‘gujiyas’.  The North Indian gujiya is a crisp hand-pie filled traditionally with dry fruits smothered in khoa, a form of thick, condensed milk.  This was the kind of Holi I grew up with and the kind of sweet I used to make.  While I have come up with a vegan version, I make it rarely owing to the calories and effort involved. That said, I know I shall share the recipe when I am feeling indulgent towards the tummy. 🙂

In Gujarat, Rushina’s home state, Holi is celebrated with ‘ghugra’.  Ghugra is the savoury version of gujiyas and the filling is made with crushed green peas and coconut combined with mild Indian spices.

My tips:

  • Ghugra is very addictive so make small ones. Mine were about 1.5 inches in length.
  • I used my own recipe for the crust. The recipe for the filling is based on the recipe given in the book.
  • For a healthier version substitute maida with whole wheat flour and bake instead of deep-frying.
  • I made 25-30 ghugras by scaling down the recipe for the filling. Given here however is the recipe from the book with a yield of 100 ghugras.
  • The filling is versatile and left overs can be used as a topping for open faced sandwiches.
  • I used about 3-4 tbsps. of sunflower oil for 500g flour.
  • I used about  3/4 cup of water to knead 500g of flour.  Allow the dough to relax for some time (10-15 minutes) if it offers resistance to kneading and then continue.  Too much water will make the ghugra chewy.
  • Fry on low flame throughout.  Test the correct temperature by frying a small portion of dough.  If it comes up immediately it means that the oil is very hot.  If it gently rises to the top, but gets riddled with bubbles as it fries there could be two reasons – either the water content is high or the temperature of the oil is high.  Frying at low temperature (rather optimum temperature) ensures even colour, cooking and crisp texture of the crust.
  • Saute the filling till moisture is minimum.  Excess moisture can render the crust chewy.  If the first batch turns chewy, allow the shaped ghugras to dry for 3-5 minutes before frying.
  • Fresh green peas can be substituted with tender, fresh pigeon peas (lilva tuvar) when in season (Winter).


Vegetables in fried pastry crustRecipe: Vatana Na Ghugra | Savoury hand pies with green pea filling
(Green Pea Fritters)
Reproduced with permission from ‘A pinch of this, a handful of that’ by Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal
Time 2 hours | Makes: 100 pieces


3 kg refined flour (maida)
3 tsp salt
1 tbsp oil


1 kg green peas
200 gms coriander leaves
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp asafoetida powder (hing)
100 gms green chilli-ginger paste
1 tbsp lime juice, dried mango powder (amchur) or citric acid crystals
20 gms beaten rice (poha)
400 gms fresh coconut, grated
Salt to taste

To cook the fritters
Oil for deep-frying



Sift the flour and salt into a bowl.  Add the oil and rub with your fingers, till it resembles breadcrumbs.  Add water, a little at a time and knead to make a firm dough. Set aside.


Shell the green peas and crush them lightly. Reserve.

Wash the coriander leaves in several changes of water. Drain well and chop fine. Reserve.

Put  oil in a kadhai or wok on medium heat. When hot, add the asafoetida powder.  Add the crushed green peas and cook for about 5 minutes.  Stir in the remaining filling ingredients and mix well.  Taste and add more salt, if required.

To assemble and cook the fritters

Pinch off walnut-sized balls of dough and roll them out into rotis in a lightly floured surface.

Spread 2tsp. of filling along one half of each roti, keeping the edges of the roti free.  Fold the other half over the filling and pinch the edges together to seal.

Put the oil for deep-frying in a kadhai or wok on medium heat. Fry the fritters in batches, till golden brown.  Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot with green chutney.

The contest and giveaway associated with this post is CLOSED.

Harini is a vegan food photographer, writer and recipe developer. She also loves feeding birds, reading, watching crime thrillers, and travelling amongst other things.

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  • Ree

    Sounds like a great book!!! Getting one soon!

  • preeti

    I regrete missing out on this contest!!!! I don’t know if you remember me, but my first ever blog event participation was in yours (FCI)
    I am giving 2 free giveaways this month…I do hope you have time to stop by.

  • Sujatha

    Hi Harini ! Got to know about you through lite bite. I’m glad that I found such an interesting food blog. Now , no looking backs.I’m following you.

    • Harini Prakash

      Thanks, Sujatha! Glad to see that the blog caught your interest. Welcome! 🙂

  • Perzen Patel

    A beautiful post Harini! For the giveaway, the person that has always inspired me to cook has been my Mamaiji (nani). She’s no longer with us but throughout my childhood years she was the one who taught me how to buy, clean and eat fish and she was also the one who made the most delicious Red Parsi Curry ever. In fact, as a kid I told her once innocently that Mamaiji if you die, please make sure you leave a big big pan of curry only for me so that I don’t miss having you around. Now that I cater Parsi food myself, the curry was one of the first recipes on the blog and continues to be a runaway hit on the menu too. I think it’s cz Mamaiji is looking over me and smiling every time I haggle with the fishmonger for those prawns we both love so much!

  • Madhu

    My inspiration to cook is my husband. He is a great foodie, loves trying out anything new and always encourages me and also constructively criticizes me. He loved the Ghugras and I also offered them to our American neighbors and they too loved it. They never thought that a vegan pie could be that tasty.

    • Harini Prakash

      Glad that they loved the vegan pies. Its nice to have a supportive spouse. Makes a world of difference.

  • farmonplate

    Such a lovely post! I am from Gujarat and I took a trip down memory lane while reading and looking at your gorgeous pictures! Ghugra was essential part of festival celebration back home – mom use to make sweet and savory both!

  • Nidhi

    This blog actually looks very much colorful and I liked the recipe and this is the first blog where I have seen the usage of cartoon to depict cooking, who ever has done it, its very good!!
    To talk about the recipe, I have ordered all the ingredients required and I am planning to add a bit of jeera and turmeric to the filling.. Is it suggestible for the taste??

    • Harini Prakash

      I wouldn’t use whole jeera when there is coconut in the recipe, but then we can all make our own interpretations. I don’t see why you should not try those additions. Do let me know how it turned out.

  • Sanjeeta kk

    Keeping the Ghugra small, using whoelwheat flour and baking instead of deep frying is what I am going to try out. Lovely pictures, Harini.
    My inspiration to cook is the ‘food’ itself…must say that food excites me more than ‘beep-beep’ 😉

    • Harini Prakash

      That’s what I too do usually, Sanjeeta, but in this case I wanted to remain true to the authentic version. In fact, I found that my kids actually like the baked version better! 🙂

  • Gopa dhar

    My inspiration to cook…..hmmm my family and friends . I’m on cloud nine every time they give a thumbs up to my dish.

  • Priya

    Those pies looks absolutely stunning, this kind of foods are always welcome among my kids, love the mini sized pies, that last picture makes me hungry with those tempting chutneys.

  • Siri (@Sirime)

    My biggest inspiration to cook is for my mom and my little sister. They are the ones who give me an honest critique whenever I try something new. 🙂 Then I tend to make for Srini and my inlaws!


  • sree

    My inspiration for cooking is my son. He cannot chew well , but wants to eat all kinds of food. So I try to cook a variety of foods, so he enjoys. He is all enthusiastic to try them.

  • spicesandpisces

    We have a very similar thing called “koraishutir kochuri”/peas kachori. They look delicious. I get the inspiration from my Maa and from my hubby. I learnt from my Maa to be patient while cooking. My hubby being a foodie and my greatest critic, he inspires me to try new things even if I fail once in a while.

  • Nandita

    My inspiration to cook? I guess it’s got be hunger. But jokes apart, it is the urge to provide nourishing food to my family that inspires me to cook. I loved the recipe Harini. As always, the photography and the presentation is stunning

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