Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Jaggery Halwa

Festival feasts are so special. I think smart old women from way back shrewdly decided that only way to keep the novelty of some foods alive is to restrict it and present it with fanfare only once or twice a year. The strategy obviously worked, as a kid I was always looking forward to the special foods associated with the festivals. Chakli-karanji for Diwali, the necklace of crystal sugar for GudiPadwa and best of all,Tilgul for Sankrant. Tilgul is this heavenly concoction of melted jaggery and sesame seeds. You give the candy around and implore the eater to speak sweetly the rest of the year. Every household has a unique way of preparing this and predictably the results vary. Some will have the chunky-chewy kind, some will have the brittle, and then there are those who are extra generous with their jaggery and sugar content. My mom makes the chewy fudge kind which totally rocks.

This year I didn't have my new calender so it completely slipped my mind till I recieved "Happy Makar Sankrant" sms and phone calls. My pantry(my small cupboard in a 5 by 5 kitchen that I like to call pantry) is never properly stocked at the best of times and with seldom used ingredients like gur and sesame seeds it is never more so. I needed to make something for the prasad so I did some brainstorming and came up with a halwa with gud as a substitute for the sugar. Excitedly I set about making it and I was pleasantly surprised. Gur gave the halwa a depth of flavor that I had never anticipated. It also gave the halwa a deep golden color. The til seeds slightly roasted and sprinkled on top gave it interesting crunch. The smell of ghee wafted up and I was in ghee scented, jaggery heaven. Even as a kid I used to love pairing a hot fluffy roti with some homemade ghee and a piece of jaggery. I couldn't wait to call my Mom and tell her what a resourceful cook I've become till she deflated my baloon by telling me there are a lot of people who make halwa with gur. Aw damn! And I thought I was so original.
Anyway here's the recipe.

1 cup sooji
2-3 teaspoons Ghee
3 cups whole milk
2-3 saffron strands
handful of sesame seeds

Heat a pan and put the ghee in. Put the sooji in it and fry it till slightly golden in color. Heat the milk with the gur and saffron strands seperately. Once the sooji changes color, pour a little milk in it and keep stirring. Pour milk in slowly till the sooji is cooked and it seperates from the ghee. Dry roast the sesame seeds and scatter on top. You can use low fat/nonfat milk or use omit it completely and use water. I like the rich taste of whole milk. You can also add cashews and
raisins, I wanted to keep it simple and let the taste of gur and sesame stand out. Don't be scared of using plenty of gur. You want that flavor. And enjoy!


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