It’s the Indian festival of Makar Sankranti from 13- 15 January. As the Sun God begins its movement northwards away from the southern hemisphere, it brings in warmth.
This is the first festival of the year and is celebrated all over India for abundance and health. India being an agrarian country festivals evolve around crops, harvesting and the farm animals. The paddy having been harvested and sold, brings in cash and joyfulness.The farming community celebrates Sankranti or Pongal for three days preparing feasts for family and friends, praying to Mother Earth and decorating and feeding the cattle.
‘Pongal o Pongal‘ – as they traditionally say in South India. A rice and milk kheer (pudding) sweetened with sugar cane juice is made in a clay pot. The milk is allowed to overflow signifying abundance.
In Maharashtra cane sugar is the main cash crop. Jaggery/gul and granulated sugar is made from the juice. Fresh jaggery (chikki gul), a golden orange -brown solid is abundantly sold during this season. Today, I have specially made Til Gul, a traditional Maharashtrian recipe for my ‘virtual’ community. The ingredients are proper to boost health and provide warmth to the body during the winter.
‘Til gul ghaya, god bola’ …Take sesame and jaggery sweets and speak sweet words.
1 cup sesame seeds/ Til roasted
1/2 cup peanuts roasted / coarse grind
10 – 15 raisins (optional)
1 cup chikki gul / a jaggery with lighter hue if available
1 tsp. ghee /clarified butter
1/2 cup grated dry coconut or desiccated coconut (optional)
1/2 cup roasted gram dal (optional)
Warm a non stick wok /deep pan on the stove, add the ghee. As it melts add the jaggery and keep stirring continuously. To test if liquid is ready for setting: Take a drop and plunge in to some water – it should make a blob. ( This is the test, needs practice).
Meanwhile prepare the dry ingredients in a large plate and keep handy.
As the jaggery begins boiling, add the dry ingredients one by one, as much as the semi liquid can take. DO NOT pour all at once! Keep stirring to mix evenly. Switch off /on heat, if necessary. As the mixture begins to thicken and leave the sides of the wok it ready to be removed from heat.
Dip your hands in cool water or pat them with ghee /oil and take small portions of (hot) mixture and roll quickly into balls, of required size. ( makes 25 small ones).
Else …grease a flat plate or tray. Pour the mixture evenly and pat. Let it rest and cool. Cut into squares and serve, or keep in airtight box.
‘Til Gul ghaya, god bola’….and share with friends and family.
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