I’m sure you’ve hummed that along as you watched Mary Poppins, but have you ever flown a proper Indian kite? Sankranti, which is celebrated mid January, heralds the arrival of Spring in the Indian subcontinent and is a harvest celebration. You can read more here.
It is also celebrated as the Kite festival in India. The sky is a flurry of colour and kite flying gets intensely competitive. The string is strengthened with a specially prepared mix of glue and powdered glass. The intention is to keep your kite flying for as long as you can while you try and cut and conquer the kites of your fellow kite flyers. The origins of kite flying in India are not terribly clear, but the excitement is a treat to observe even if you prefer to keep your own palms unblemished.
No Indian festival is complete without sweets and Til Laddoos lay their claim to this harvest festival. The combination of Til (sesame seeds) and jaggery (unrefined cane sugar) is a warming one and perfect for the weather – the cusp of winter and spring. As with everything else, every family has their favourite version – from rock hard jaw breakers to crunchy and lightly sweetened laddoos.
So if you are ready, read on. I’ve made two versions – the traditional jaw breakers and a softer version for the tender milk teeth of our four year old.
Enjoy and as we say ‘ Tilgul ghya ani gode gode bola’ (literally – Eat sweet, talk sweet!)
200 grams til (sesame seeds)
225 grams jaggery
1/3 spoon cardamom seeds, crushed
1 tablespoon ghee
- Toast the sesame seeds until a light golden colour. Cool and keep aside. This can be done a few days in advance,
- Grease a plate (ideally, one with a high rim) with the ghee. Reserve 1 teaspoon for later.
- Heat a thick bottomed pan and melt the jaggery until it melts to a soft ball stage. (A drop of jaggery, at this stage, added to water, should form a soft ball.)
- Stir in the crushed cardamom. Add the sesame seeds and mix with the jaggery until completey coated. This needs to be done quickly as the jaggery turns to cool down and turn hard.
- Transfer the mixture to the greased plate. Grease your palms with the reserved ghee.
- Working quickly, roll small portions of the mixture into balls and place them on the high rimmed plate. (The ghee protects your palms from the heat.) Traditionally, the balls are about an inch in diameter.
- Once the balls start to harden they may start to flatten. This is when you can pick up the plate with the high rim and roll the balls around, en masse. This rolling motion helps them regain their shape and retain it,as they harden.
- Not much remains, except to pop one into your mouth and be deprived of conversation for a few delicious minutes.
If you’d like to try another, softer option here’s some Kurmure chikki (puffed rice and jaggery treats) favoured by my dad. Equally yummy and much kinder on the jaws.
- You can also melt the jaggery in the microwave. I do this in 30 second intervals until the melted jaggery is frothy and takes on a rich amber colour. Mix in the cardamom and the sesame and voila, the mixture is ready in minutes.