Wednesday, September 18, 2013

For the love of Gaundh- Traditional Jain Gum-Nut-Coconut Brittle.

This post here, has languished in the draft format for more than 15 days now. It was meant to be a quick one, to coincide with the occasion that it is associated with; namely the Jain fasting days of Paryushan or Das Lakshan Parv. But time flew by quickly. And life got busier than it has been all summer.  I will try to get a bit more organized and regular, but meanwhile, this is what you've been waiting for - another one of my MIL's specialities. She's made it every year that I've been with her during these days of fasting. The first couple of times, I didn't pay much attention. But then last year, by the time I figured that I'd like to know how to make it, she was already done. So this year, I was ready. Made sure she made it on a weekend, at a time when I was around, and got to see it being prepared first hand. As far back as I can recall, this is nothing that I ever saw in my own home.

For the want of a better description, I'll call it a brittle. It's just a little lighter and flakier than the jaggery-based brittle that we see in the Indian stores. It was also super-easy to make (as far as I can tell). The most unusual ingredient in the whole recipe is probably gaundh. Those of you that grew up in Northern India are probably aware of it as the ingredient most commonly fed to new mothers postpartum. It is supposed to provide the extra nutrition and help in lactation. Besides that,  it assumably protects against cold, heals wounds and is also implicated in Ayurvedic treatment of cardiovascular ailments and chronic kidney diseases. Gaundh is basically the dried up sap (gum/gaundh) from two Acacia spp. trees native to India, West Asia and Northern Africa. Dried sap appears as translucent amber-to-light brown crystals and is easily available in ethnic grocery stores. My MIL actually refers to the end product as Gaundh as lets just stick with that. This is how she made it....


Dry ingredients:
Butter 1 and 1/2 sticks
Gaundh crystals 1/4 cup
Shredded coconut 2 cups
Makhane/ Fox nuts 1 cups chopped
Almonds/ Cashews/ Magaz (melon seeds) 1 cup combined

Water 1 cup
Sugar 2 cups+ some more.
Crushed white peppercorns 1/2 tsp

  1. In a kadai, melt butter. 
  2. Start with Gaundh- put it in the butter, and fry it. It puffs up like popcorn to almost 3-times its original quantity. Take it out. Do NOT drain.
  3. Next repeat the fry and drain with Makhane, followed by the mixed nuts. 
  4. Toast the coconut slightly, towards the end. Turn off heat. Mix up all the dry ingredients together in the kadai together and keep ready.
  5. In another saucepan heat the water and sugar to get a syrup of 1-string consistency. Mix in the peppercorns.
  6. Pour the syrup over dried ingredients, mix very well.
  7. Immediately pour over a parchment-paper lined cookie tray, and spread out the mixture as evenly as possible into about a 1/4 inch thick layer. 
  8. Mark out the lines where you will cut the brittle while still warm. Then let it all cool, and firm up.
  9. This keep well in an air-tight container for several days- for sure 2 weeks or so, which is how long it lasts in my home.
My two cents: While she made it, it seemed pretty simple. The only place I think I might mess up, is the syrup stage. She actually didn't cook the sugar and water too long- just about 5 -6 min. , and when she poured it over the dry ingredients, I remember thinking that it was too"watery". But it all firmed up beautifully. The final Gaundh was light, and airy with a taste of coconut and almond in every bite. And a tiny kick from the peppercorns just adds to the experience. 

This light brittle is a major indulgence for practicing Jains during the fasting, since they stay away from most processed products. However, fasting or not, it is quite an addictive little treat. 

As a side note, the coconut my MIL uses is the dried coconut- or Gola as we call it in Northern India

Linked to:
Lets cook with coconut event at Simply food.
Mom's special Event hosted by Gayathri.