Sesame & Jaggery Energy BallsThis week at The Chai Bar, we are celebrating the festival of Makar Sankranti.🪁 Makar Sankranti marks the Sun's transit northwards - from Sagittarius to Capricorn. Hence, the name Makar, i.e., Capricorn.
In India, the day of Makar Sankranti brings with it the season of happiness and prosperity. It is celebrated on the fourteenth day of January and is also known as the harvest festival. Farmers see it as a thanksgiving day dedicated to the Sun and Fire and mark the beginning of spring.
Though it's still peak winter here in the USA, Percy Bysshe Shelley's words,- "O, Wind. If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?" perfectly describes the spirit of our Makar Sankranti celebrations away from India.
Back home, the day is celebrated by flying kites, gathering, and sharing special Treats called "Til Ladu / Laddo."
Though flying kites has been a part of Sankranti celebrations, we must acknowledge the dangers of this festive tradition. These seemingly harmless kite competitions between neighbors and friends leave hundreds of stray kites and strings littered on the trees, terraces, and streets. Kites harm the lives of our feathered friends – the birds.
January month sees an annual, large-scale movement of birds in response to the change in weather conditions and availability of food. Unfortunately, Sankranti falls during this migration period. When we see the pretty picture of kites flying high in the sky at the end of a long string, this is an ill-fated death for hundreds of birds. The string is a strong combination of nylon threads, sometimes coated with powdered glass (Manja), cause a major threat to the birds in the sky.
"Failing to notice the fine thread that attaches the kite to the controller, the birds get entangled, causing mutilation of wings, fractures, and even nerve injuries."
It is important to recognize the need for traditions to evolve with changing times and social and environmental needs. Though flying colorful kites was a cherished part of this festival for our parents, we prefer watching the kite bird soaring high in the sky while stuffing our face with ladu.
Til Gud laddus are a Maharashtrian specialty made to celebrate this festival. Sesame seeds and jaggery form integral parts of this tradition. Made using just 4-5 ingredients, these energy balls use sesame and jaggery as the main components. These ingredients are prized in Ayurveda as two of the most winter-perfect foods that help keep the body warm and increase immunity.
Sesame seeds are considered a symbol of growth and bring in flourishment after slow, cold, and dry winters. Other Indian festivals celebrated in North, South, and East India like Lohri, Pongal, Bhogali Bihu, Baisakhi, etc., are all harvest festivals that mark this seasonal shift and use sesame seeds as the main ingredient in celebration.
The significance of sesame finds mention in Hindu mythology as well, said to be blessed by the God of death, people consumed sesame as a symbol of immortality. The oil present in the seeds helps generate body heat and keeps the internal body temperature from dipping.
Jaggery is a traditional sweetener from South Asia, made from raw, unrefined sugar cane juice. It comes in blocks or chunks ranging from a mild yellow to a deep caramel gold in color. To make jaggery, the raw cane juice can be cooked down without separation of the molasses and crystals into a concentrated treacle similar to maple syrup, except it's later set in molds. Latin Americans use something similar called rapadura in Portuguese or panela in Spanish.
Jaggery is rich in iron and vitamin C and is a traditional remedy for respiratory disorders and throat problems. Packed with the richness of minerals and vitamins, this superfood has been a part of Indian tradition since time immemorial.
So, across India, different springtime festivities use sesame and jaggery as an integral part of the festivities. Maharashtrian's Til Papdi, Tilcha ladoo, Puran Poli, or Bengal's Patishapta, Moa(balls made of puffed rice and jaggery), Nolen Gure Payesh or the til revdis from Punjab and up north, the festival of the Sun brings tea'licious treats with it.
Chai pairs perfectly with sesame jaggery balls. These festive treats to celebrate the harvest festival of Makar Sankranti.
Check out the recipe by Madhura's Kitchen Marathi.
• 3/4 cup White sesame seeds
• 1/2 cup Gudh / Jaggery
• 1/4 cup Roasted peanut powder
• 1 pinch salt
• 1/2 tsp Cardamom powder
• 4 tbsp Milk
• 2 tbsp Ghee
• Place a pan on medium heat.
• Add sesame seeds and roast on medium heat for about 7-8 minutes until these evenly golden. Do not roast the sesame seeds on high heat. Put the pan aside.
• Heat another pan on medium heat.
• Add ghee and gudh. You can chop or grate gudh if you want.
• Cook on medium heat for about 3-4 minutes until well melted.
• Add milk and mix well.
• Cook the syrup for about 2-3 minutes more after adding milk.
• Turn off the heat.
• Add cardamom powder and mix quickly. Add roasted sesame seeds and peanut powder. Mix everything well quickly.
• Rub ghee to your hands.
• Take a spoonful mixture in a spoon and transfer it into another spoon.
• Roll the mixture into a round shape while transferring the mixture from one spoon to another.
• When the hot steam is escaped, and the mixture is a little cold, transfer the mixture in hand and roll ladoo.
• You have to do this process when the mixture is still hot.
• Tilache ladoos are already.
Tea'p: If you want to use special chikkicha gudh (available at the Indian store), use 1/4 cup chikkicha gudh and 1/4 cup regular gudh.
You can also use 1/2 cup chikkicha gudh.
Tea'p: Milk gives nice binding to ladoo. If you are using regular gudh then milk helps in binding the ladoo. To go dairy-free, sub with full-fat oat milk.
Tea'p: If you (like us) find it hard to roll ladus, take a parchment sheet, pour your hot mix on it, cover with another parchment sheet, and use a rolling pin to flatten it out, cut it into your preferred shape and enjoy. Hassle-free with tea.May the sweetness of gur and the warmth of til bring you joy, and this Makar Sankranti usher in goodness, peace, good health to your life.
तीळ गूळ घ्या नी गोड-गोड बोला (eat sweet sesame and jaggery candy and say sweet and warm things to one another this harvest season)
Co-authored by Sargam Merchant and Madura Chaudhari
Excellent Article, so well written ,considering all aspect of "Makar Sankranti " 👏👏.