Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tilgul Kha, Goad Goad Bola

A new year, and a new round of celebrations. Come January, and most Indians begin to prepare for the first of the four harvest celebrations. In my part of India, it is called Makar Sankranti and is the only Hindu festival celebrated on January 14th, based on the Solar calendar instead of Hindu lunar calendar. In Delhi, the boisterous street-wide celebrations actually begin the night of Jan 13th with Lohri- the Punjabi version of celebrating this season of harvest. Loud drum beats, bhangra, bonfires with popcorn, gajjak and rewri would set the mood for Sankranti celebrations in our home the next morning.

My parents invited the sons-in-law of the extended family for a kite flying contest on Makar Sankranti. In my childhood, this meant all four of my dad's sisters and their families coming over to our home, attracted no doubt by our huge roof top and open skyline of South Delhi suburbs, ideal for flying kites from. Despite my dad's restraining order on kite-flying after one of the cousins fell off the parapet and broke his arm, the family continued to came together for the obligatory lunch at our place, which always ended with my mom's Lhapsi" and "Til-koot". For me, "Til-koot"- which literally means pounded Til - the aroma of fresh roasted sesame seeds (Til) and jaggery (Gur) is simply irresistible.

Unfortunately, my husband and daughters do not share my love for "Til-koot". Plus the fact that Makar Sankranti is not really observed in my in-laws' family and our move to USA, my enthusiasm for the whole festival has taken a cold dip these past years. This year, an off-the -cuff mention of gur ki rewri from a friend as we scoured the Indian stores in New Jersey brought back those memories from my childhood again. As I picked up the jaggery and sesame seeds, all I envisioned was a houseful of family, on a crisp, sunny, kite-worthy day, and a lunch accentuated with "Til-koot". I contemplated a whole week, before I actually ventured out to make "Til-koot", only to convert it to ladoo at the last minute. There is no recipe I followed, but here's a step-by-step account of what I did.
Til Gur ke ladoo
(Sesame seed and Jaggery sweet balls) 

Jaggery (Gur) powder 1cup
Sesame seeds (Til) 1cup
Unsalted butter 4Tbsp
  1. Roast the Til in a skillet on medium heat till a nice aroma comes out of them. They should not change color much in this step.
  2. Grind the Gur into a fine powder. *
  3. Add the Til to this and pulse grind again for a minute or so.
  4. Melt butter in a heavy bottomed pan on low heat. Then add the Til-Gur powder to it. Keep it on the flame for 2-3 min, stirring with a spatula to avoid sticking. Turn off heat when jaggery begins to melt a bit.
  5. Allow to cool enough to handle it, then roll out small balls between your palms. Keep them on wax paper till they harden**.
*I'd bought small cubes of Gur and I'd planned on using my food processor to grind it. I almost broke the blade of my most expensive possession in the kitchen. I finally warmed the jaggery a bit. My microwave has a "Melt caramel" setting that I used. If you don't I suggest you warm the jaggery till it is soft-enough to cut with a knife before you run it through the food processor. **Make sure you roll the balls when the mixture is still warm, or it begins to harden. I got 16 small (really small) laddoos out of this quantity. My two cents:
  • I saved a a bit of the ground Til-Gur and savoured Til-koot after maybe a decade. Sheer bliss.
  • Then the roasted sesame smell brought A out of his home-office and he devoured 3 of those ladoos on the spot. I won the battle of Til-koot .
  • In the evening, I forced my daughters to taste the ladoos and they got hooked. I hit a jackpot.
  • The next evening two of our friends dropped by for an impromptu evening together. We had my ladoos with masala chai and bhel-puri. I got a houseful of friends with 6 rambunctious kids underfoot, on a cold, crisp, slightly cloudy day. But we polished off the ladoos. Stuff that dreams are made of.
So what if it was a week before Makar Sankranti? A celebration is when the heart desires it......I wouldn't change anything, except maybe add another 1/2 cup of til to the recipe when I make it again.