Til chikki, Gajak, Ellu urundai, tahini, tilkut and so on - the tiny nondescript sesame seed does get around. It is popular in all types of Indian cuisines and used extensively in both sweet and savory dishes.
Just two simple ingredients can make a variety of delicious sweets based on the region where it is made. In Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, the sesame laddoos made with both white as well as black sesame are of two types - one recipe uses thick jaggery syrup which is mixed into roasted sesame seeds and then rolled into balls before the jaggery cools down completely. This keeps the seeds whole and also adds a nice crunchy texture. The other recipe also involves roasting the sesame seeds. It is then hand pounded when warm with a traditional stone mortar and wooden pestle (which is kept on the floor because of its size and weight). The rhythmic thumping action crushes the seeds and releases the oil which mixes with the jaggery. Before the mixture cools, it is quickly shaped into bite sized balls and stored in an airtight container.
The chikki (brittle) is made with the same principle of using a sugar syrup. A thin layer of hot syrup is poured onto and spread on greased plates and then generously topped with the toasted seeds. This is left to cool completely before breaking into pieces. The thickness of the chikki varies from one person’s preference to the next. There are translucent paper thin versions and more wholesome candy like sesame chikki, which makes for a nourishing snack.
The best snack recommended for this time of year is one made with sesame and jaggery. It is light on digestion, contains plenty of dietary fibre and adequate heat for the body to function properly. The body also needs the right kind of fuel to break down the energy giving foods and help it assimilate into the body. That’s where the jaggery is the perfect fit. Natural sugar from sustainably and organically grown sugarcane is extremely cleansing for the body as well.
A medium sized snack box which can hold about 24-30 sesame ladoos takes little time to make. Making these delicious sweets in small quantities ensures that it is eaten when fresh. Eating one a day or once in 2 days is highly recommended for robustness of body and mind. It’s also so flavourful and delicious.
We often complain of overeating a packet of biscuits and feeling a huge slump and almost immediate lethargy and listlessness. That’s because the refined flour, sugar and preservatives add empty calories and make the person feel bloated. Some time back, we wrote a detailed writeup about the phasing out the refined, highly processed foods mainly sugar, salt, flour and oils from our kitchens. Read it here. Eating a snack made with local ingredients cooked in a traditional manner has the opposite effect. It adds energy and a spring in the step, leading to an optimally productive mind and body.
Strengthening core muscles happens when we target those specific areas and make them stronger. It’s the same thing with food. When we eat with the intention of understanding the benefits then it is easier to reach for some sesame-jaggery goodness rather than a crumbly something which we may not even remember.
When it comes to the sesame seed packing a nutritive punch, size truly does not matter!
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