Saturday, January 14, 2012

Til Gul for Makar Sankranti!

"Makar Sankranti" is the first auspicious occasion at the beginning of the year.
It is on this day that the sun starts it's northward journey (Uttarayan) and enters the zodiac 'Makar' aka 'Capricorn'.
'Sankranti' means 'transmigration'. Represents the transition of the sun from one sign to another. Now, there are 12 transitions in a year, as there are 12 zodiac signs! But it is particularly auspicious in the month of January (Magh) as it marks the harvest season and also the end of winter. From this day onwards, the days start becoming longer in the northern hemisphere.

Most of the Indian festivals are celebrated based on the lunar calender. But 'Makar Sankranti' is celebrated based on the solar calender. Hence the date for celebrating Sankranti is always Jan 14th.
Then why wasnt it this year? This year Sankranti falls on Jan 15th!!
Lord Wiki explains....
Scientifically, the shortest day of the year is around Dec 21-22 after which the days begin to get longer. Hence actual Uttarayan is Dec 21. This was the actual date of Makar Sankranti too. But because of the Earth's tilt of 23.45 degrees and sliding of equinoxes, has caused Makar Sankranti to slide further over the ages. 1,000 years ago, Makar Sankranti was on Dec 31 and now on Jan 15. 5,000 years later, it shall be by the end of February, while in 9,000 years it shall come in June.. Interesting!!

This festival is celebrated differently across India. Let me tell you how people from Maharashtra enjoy this festival...
Maharashtrians celebrate it by worshiping the sun and distributing Til Gul laadus. People visit their friends and relatives and exchange Til Gul laadus and say "Til Gul Ghya ani Goad Goad Bola", which literally means "Have til gul and speak sweet words". It is a day where we forget all our indifference and start our relationships afresh with a whole lot of love.
 - Newly-wed brides are dressed up in black saarees gifted to them by their in-laws. They are accessorized with jewellery made out of sugar candy which is to be created by her sister-in-laws. Haldi-Kumkum is organised where close friends and family are invited.
 - Babies who celebrate their first Sankranti celebrate "Bor-Nahaan". Lots of other tiny kids are invited to this function. Assorted goodies consisting of bor (a fruit), sugar candies, chocolates etc. are slowly poured over the toddler's head and all the other kids rush to pick up all that they can!

The food prepared is closely linked with the climate at this time of the year, like it is during most of the Indian festivals. Til (sesame seeds) and Gul (jaggery) used in sweets on this day has properties in them that keep our body warm.
Sweets like Til Gul laadu, Til Gul Vadya, Gul Polis etc. are some of the traditional sweets prepared on this day.

Enough said...? Maybe not!
Now, let us get to making some crispy and crunchy Til Gul Laadus shall we?


Level: Medium (heat involved)
Serves: Makes coin sized 16 Laadus




Ingredients:
1 cup white sesame seeds
1/4 cup broken roasted peanuts
3/4 cup grated jaggery (any kind - a blessing!)*
1 tblsp milk (If you do not want the til gul laadus very hard)
1 tblsp clarified butter/ghee + some more
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
A mini-muffin pan
A small bowl of cold water (for syrup testing)

Method:
Step 1 - In a pan, dry roast the sesame seeds on a low flame. Stir continuously. Do not leave it alone even for a bit. They burn very quickly. When the seeds turn light brown, slide them onto a flat plate and let them cool down completely.

Step 2 - Grease the mini-muffin pans with clarified butter/ghee. (Liberally if you dont have a non-stick variety mini-muffin pan). Grease another glass plate similarly for pouring the final mixture at Step 6.

Step 3 - In the same pan, heat the clarified butter/ghee on low flame. Add the grated jaggery and keep stirring it rigorously till it all melts and starts forming a smooth paste. When it starts bubbling, every 1 min drop a tiny drop of jaggery in the cold water and try to form a ball with your thumb and index finger. It should not dissolve in the water. Once it forms a small soft ball inside the water, the syrup is ready. This should not take you more than 3 to 4 mins into the heating process. So be alert.

Step 4 - Pour in the roasted sesame seeds and peanuts into the melted jaggery. Mix it well. Confirm the heat is still on low. The mixture will start turning runny again. Don't forget to keep stirring.

Step 5 - Immediately pour in the milk, cardamom powder and nutmeg powder. Mix well again for a minute. We are done!

Step 6 - Pour this mixture onto a greased plate to help it cool and to stop it from cooking further. Start scooping the mixture into the greased mini-muffin moulds. Make sure you keep pressing the mixture down so you get a good solid shape. You don't want empty pockets in between. Leave them to cool for 30 mins.

Pop these out onto a plate or into your mouth. Perfect!



Tips:
* Generally, "chikkicha gul" - a sticky variety of jaggery is used to make this preparation. I failed to find any in the Indian stores around my home. This is the reason I put the mixture into moulds as it is difficult to roll out the mixture into rounds with regular jaggery. Plus I don't like handling very hot jaggery. Did it once, not pretty!

You can also plate the hot mixture onto a greased plate and shape it into an even flat layer. Then, when it cools down a little, but is still warm, you can cut it into squares or diamonds or any other shapes. Do not pull them apart just yet. Let them cool completely and then break them apart.

1 tablespoon of milk does not make these laadus chewy! Just crunchy enough to eat a lot at one time...without breaking a tooth!

And last but not the least... use a mini-muffin pan and NOT a normal muffin pan!

HAPPY MAKAR SANKRANTI EVERYONE!
Til Gul Ghya ani Goad Goad Bola!



5 comments:

  1. Niceeeee !!.. I love this :-)

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  2. Nice ladoos shamu! innovative shape too... i m loving it... :-) mala khayche ahet attttaaaaaaaaa....

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  3. These are great for all the NRIs who can't find all the 'right' ingredients and above all who feel home sick around festive times.
    Keep it up Shamu!!!

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  4. Nice blog. Like the simple look and the recipes that are given with a 'no fuss' method.

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