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Nothing makes me more homesick than a festival. I wouldn’t say I come from a particularly traditional family, but we celebrate a host of festivals and there are some very particular family traditions revolving around each. And mind you, when I say traditions, I don’t mean religious traditions. Whatever day was being celebrated simply wouldn’t be deemed complete without having done the things that were part of its tradition. These traditions have given me a wonderful sense of ‘home’, of knowing where I come from, of where I will always belong.

Take Makar Sankranti for instance. No Marathi Manoos will feel complete on that day without eating Til-gul or sesame sweets. My mother makes tonnes of different kinds of sesame sweets and a full-fledged sweet exchange programme then ensues with all my relatives, with a ‘Til Gul ghya, goad goad bola‘ which literally translates to ‘May you speak sweetly after having these sweets’. Such a cute tradition, don’t you think? But this is only a social rite, albeit one I always look forward to immensely. The tradition I cherish more is the way these sweets were made – especially the Ladoos I am sharing with your today.

We had this huge, impossibly heavy, cast iron peslte and mortar which no one but Papa could weild. He would sit on the steps in the backyard of our old house with the tiled roof, pounding away at the sesame seeds with the pestle while my sister and I hovered around. I vividly remember the cool, sunny January afternoons, the dappled sunlight beneath the Pomegranate tree in the backyard and the tiny tremors in the ground every time the pestle came down. When we were little, we were only allowed to watch, but as we grew a little older and our arms a little stronger, we begged to help. Every once in a while then, Papa would let us have a go, and we’d grit our teeth and with both our hands heft the pestle and bring it down with a dull thud. We never did manage more than a few thuds at a time. Now of course, it would have been much easier to grind the sesame in a food processor, but Papa insisted on doing it by hand, and Mummy would wait till the last moment, all other sweets ready, for him to find an hour or two to get down to this. Once the mix was ready, everyone would pitch in to make the little round balls. Perhaps it was this that made me love this Til Laadu more than any other preparation. Everyone was involved and it was a labour of love.

Times change – the old house with the tiled roof is gone and with it, the backyard and the Pomegranate tree. The cast iron pestle and mortar are in the store room, and Mum now uses the food processor to grind the sesame. As for me, I am glad to have such a beautiful memory and as I pop a ladoo in my mouth, I can still hear the thud thud thud.

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Prep time : 45 – 60 minutes
Makes : 12 

WHAT YOU NEED :

2 cups White Sesame Seeds
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup grated Dry Coconut

WHAT YOU DO :

  1. In a sieve with holes tinier than the sesame seeds, wash the seeds, drain well and spread them out on a clean cloth to dry overnight.
  2. Once dry, heat a heavy bottomed pan and toast the sesame seeds till they are a light golden brown.
  3. In a food processor / blender, grind the sesame and sugar. We are going to rely on the oil contained in the seeds themselves to bind the ladoos together, so be sure to blend for a few minutes, until the mixture is slightly oily to the touch and stays together when pressed in the fist.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the ground sesame mixture with the coconut.
  5. Scoop up a handful of the mixture and using both your hands, press it evenly from all sides to form a firm ball which will not crumble easily.

MY NOTES :

The amount of sugar may be increased or decreased, to suit your taste.

The ladoos keep well for a week or ten days at room temperature when stored in a dry, air tight container.

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