If there is one thing that I am completely dunce about is cooking Indian food. I know a few recipes. Generic, tried tested dals and butter chicken but not traditional Indian food. Especially food made by my family. There is the divide in generations. My grandparents loved home cooked food and all their recipes were inherited by their children. However, I dont think any recipes have been inherited by family members in my age range (20-30 years old). Its with this fear I decided to spend time with my Amma (paternal grandmother) to learn some of her recipes. I first began by asking her to write the recipes down in her free time. I gave her a beautiful diary with handmade paper to write on but that didn’t fascinate her. I then asked her to tell me the recipes so that I can write them down but said that she doesn’t really know how much of each ingredient she puts because its all based on andaaza (approximation in Hindi).
Once I finally repatriated, I was absolutely excited for one day and one day only: Diwali. I love this festival. The traditions, both old and new have always been some of my happiest moments. Diwali is traditionally two days long. The eve of Diwali is known as Chotti Diwali. On this day in my home, we say a prayer and dedicate the day to our loved ones who we’ve lost. We do so by lighting individual diyas and placing them in the dark corners of our house. It was while talking to a close friend that I realized, this would be the first time that we would be placing a diya for my Dadu (paternal grandfather). I was genuinely very sad when I realized thatbut also happy that I could pay homage to him since I missed his cremation.
Since there was no way to convince my 83 year old Amma to actually write down the recipe, I decided to make them with her last Sunday. I spent a good part of Saturday collecting ingredients and props for the shoot and then most of Sunday was invested into make these beauties. Besan Laddoos are basically an amalgamation of slow cooked chickpea flour in ghee with superfine sugar. Cooking with Amma was a lot of fun. We began by making the flour using roasted chickpeas and cooking them in a round bottom wok, slowly titrating in ghee. 45 minutes of constant flipping and churning, I knew everything about how Amma started making these laddoos. How she was the only child of 7 that could cook as good as her mother. While there was no way to validate this claim, the way she checked how my wrist moved, where I added the ghee, and the constant measuring of heat convinced me that no one could be as OCD as her. While churning the mixture, she would continuously check for two things: has the mixture turned to rose gold color and has the ghee separated from the chickpea. Only the confirmation of both would result in me claiming my hand back from the spatula to which it was firmly pasted around. I loved the passion she had while making these. It transcended recipe instructions from a page. It was analyzing and using your senses: smell, touch, taste, and eyes to see if the dish is done. I never cook with a recipe, or even when I do it’s mostly like a template for steps not for the “how, what, and when.” Those are things I control. I think what I loved the most about this was that, it was the first time I felt like a true sous chef. Even though I had opinions, I could not voice them because my chef knew so much more. It was a very humbling feeling, but one that I cherished because at the end of the day, when life will move on, this day will always be etched in mind.
To everyone far from home or reading this in the middle of the festivities, have a wonderful Diwali <3
500 grams roasted chickpeas, ground into a flour like consistency
500 grams ghee
250 grams superfine sugar
20 almond thinly sliced lengthwise
Seeds of 10 cardamom pods coarsely ground
In a round bottomed wok on low heat, add the four and let it register a temperature. Then add half the ghee. Slowly mix well. Circle the wok and cut from between: like making a giant “D.”
As the mixture gets dry, slowly add ghee until all of it is incorporated. Cook for 45 minutes or until the mixtures gets a rose gold color.
Remove from heat and add the cardamom and almonds. The residual heat will toast the almonds well.
Let the mixture get completely cool (about 2 hours) and the add the sugar and mix well. Now, you are ready to make balls. Mold them like you would Play-doh and shape them as whatever size you please. They will hold!