Makhana is actually Fox nut (or Gorgon nut) that grows in ponds and is often called water lily seed. The plant belongs to the water lily family but the seeds are different.
The foxnut seeds are roasted to make them pop and makhana is actually the popped seed of Euryale ferox. These light popped nuts are an excellent snack on their own once roasted or fried in ghee and we make kheer, subzi and many more recipes using makhana. Vrat ka khana or fasting recipes use makhana a lot as this nut is allowed in all Hindu fasting rituals.
This caramelised makhana used to be a favorite snack of all of us siblings and I remember even my younger brother could make it on his own when he was around 12 year old. There was only one condition for whoever makes it, that it will be made for the whole family in large amount. So any one of us would take the largest kadhai, fill it up to 3/4 with raw makhanas and start roasting it on low heat patiently. It takes about 15 minutes to get completely roasted and to get crisp and then is the time to caramelise it. Caramelisation takes another five minutes and then the snack is ready. By then the whole family would know what is cooking and we all would gather in the kitchen and the crisp caramel laced makahnas will be polished off within a matter of 10 minutes. There were times when someone would offer to make the second batch as well. You get the drift, we were a bunch of foodies :-)
Here is how the raw makhana looks. It is chewy in texture and does not melt in your mouth easily. The story changes once it is roasted well or is fried in ghee.
makhanas 2 cups
sugar 1 tbsp or a little more
ghee 1 tsp (optional)
salt a pinch (optional)
Heat a thick base pan or kadhai greased with a tsp of ghee if using. It is perfect even if you roast the makhana without any grease on the pan.
Tip in the makhanas and start stirring them on low heat along with salt if using. It takes about 10-15 minutes for the makhanas to get crisp, you can take out one makhana and test. It actually starts 'sounding' crisp when you stir it in the pan.
Once the makhanas are crisp, start sprinkling sugar on it while stirring. A generous pinch of sugar at a time and keep mixing evenly. The sugar melts, gets brown and coats the makhanas. Keep sprinkling more sugar till you get a thin light coating on all makhanas.
Take off the stove and pour all the makhanas in a large plate, separate them all so they don't stick to each other. It cools down within five minutes and is ready to eat.
It doesn't last a couple of minutes after it is served. Trust me.
If you plan to keep it, store in an airtight container after it cools down completely.
It can be added to salads and can be crushed to add to your breakfast cereal or parfait desserts. Possibilities are endless and the recipe is easy. Can it get any better?