Makar Sankranti celebrated as a harvest festival marks the beginning of Sun's journey from Dakshinayan to Uttarayan when it enters the zodiac sign of Makar rashi (Capricorn). This is one of the few Hindu festivals which is celebrated on same date , i.e 14th January every year. This festival known by different names is celebrated with varied customs in different parts of our country which you can read over here.
Since the festival falls during midwinter, the food prepared during this festival would be from the ingredients that would provide high energy and keep the body warm. Most of the sweets prepared for this festival includes the sesame seeds [til] and jaggery [gul].
The jaggery used for preparing these sweets is different from the jaggery that we use in cooking, a stickier variety going by the name of chikki gul. We call it "annta god/patal god" in amchi language. After coming to this part of the world, I found out from my amchi friends that they stock this anta god which they get from India once every year. Surprisingly the grocery stores here would stock up ready to eat laddoos imported from India but not this special jaggery :( and hence it was always store bought ones that we ate here.
There are distinct memories associated with this festival while growing up in Mumbai ... as kids we used to move in groups from house to house with packets of sugar granules/halwa and tilgul laddoos which we would exchange while greeting the families in our society "Til gul ghya god god bola ", married women dressed in best black outfits wearing jewellery busy visiting neighbours houses for haldi kumkum, exchanging gifts and sweets such as tilache laddoo, tilachya vadya/burfi, churmuryache laddoo, etc, sometimes snacks too.
Luckily few months back, my friend"A" suggested to use Kolhapuri jaggery that is seen in stores here and she ensured the jaggery works equally well and firm laddoos can be made. The laddoos that she had prepared tasted delicious and I decided to prepare them for Sankranti this year.
1 cup roasted white sesame seeds
1/4 cup roasted black sesame seeds
1 cup grated Kolhapuri jaggery (if you have access to anta god/patal god/molasses you may use the same)
1/4 cup ground nuts, roasted, deskinned and coarsely crushed
1/4 cup dessicated coconut
Fistful of almonds, sliced
1/2 tsp nutmeg powder
1/4 tsp dry ginger powder
1 tbsp ghee and little more to grease your palms.
In a deep pan, dry roast both the sesame seeds on low flame till the color of white changes to light brown and they stop popping. Transfer them to plate and allow them to cool down. In the same pan, roast the ground nuts, remove the skin and crush them coarsely. Keep them aside. Dry roast dessicated coconut for a minute. Switch off the flame.
Grate the jaggery. Heat ghee in a pan and add grated jaggery. Allow it to cook on low flame and stir it continuously. When the jaggery melts bubbles will appear on the surface. The solution will start thickening. Check the consistency of the syrup by pouring a drop of it into cold water. If the drop does not get diluted and a small ball can be formed, switch off the flame. Add sesame seeds, coarsely crushed groundnuts, roasted coconut, nutmeg powder, dry ginger powder in batches and stir it nicely. Allow the mixture to cool down for 2 minutes. Now grease your palms with little ghee and pinch out equal portions from the mixture. Roll each portion into round ball. If the mixture cools down reheat for 30 seconds in MW and continue making laddoos till the whole mixture is used up. Allow them to cool and they will firm up. Store them in airtight containers.
- You can use plain white til or change the proportion of white til and black til as per your preference
- When I am short of time I use microwave to melt the jaggery and the laddoos turn out to be equally tasty. Take ghee, grated jaggery in MW vessel. Sprinkle some water and microwave for 2 minutes stirring at the interval of 1 minute. By this time the jaggery gets melted. MW further for a minute and half and you can see bubbles on its surface. Now add a drop of jaggery to little water in a plate. If it doesn't get diluted and a small ball can be formed that means the syrup is ready. [the oven timings may differ and hence you may need to continue till you reach this stage]
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