sesame ginger honey bars for makar sankranti ; a festival that celebrates nuts and seeds...
These sesame ginger honey bars are a fresh spin on the very traditional til ka laddu that I have grown up eating every winter. A baked recipe of the same til ka laddu. Variations of til ke laddu and other sesame goodies are made during winters on the pretext of some or the other festival. White sesame for Makar sankranti and black sesame for Ganesh chaturthi it used to be, the laddu would be different slightly but real goodness of season's best produce always. I am an atheist but food makes me religious by a good measure.
Makar sankranti is the harvest festival in winters, celebrated all over India in some or the other form. This festival also marks the transition of Sun into the zodiac sign of Capricorn (makar in Hindi) on it's celestial path. Since it is the peak of winters in northern India, makar sankranti is supposed to be a festival around nuts and seeds of all kinds. People make and consume loads of brittle bars made from sesame, peanuts, mixed nuts and seeds and sometimes sprinkled with flowers and herbs too. The brittle bars come in all shapes and sizes and are called revdi, chikki, tilkut, gajak, pak, laddu, burfi etc etc, depending on what other ingredients are used in those goodies.
Loads of peanuts with shells, pop corn (popped without butter), other nuts and seeds and jaggery is consumed during this time which actually helps combat winter blues as well. This harvest festival is celebrated differently in different parts of India and involves different kinds of foods as well, the reason being so much variation in our climate and local produce, the food always evolves from geographical, climatic and agricultural factors.
In northern India, I see sesame being a big part of makar sankranti. I see sesame being the center of this festival even in Maharashtra as they use sesame a lot and even call this festival tilgul (til=sesame in Hindi). A lot of sesame goodies were made back home, til ke laddu being the most common.
This time around I was struggling with time management as I have been busy with a few small projects to handle. I kept thinking of buying some til ke laddu from the market but gave in to the idea of baking them instead in order to save time. And to my pleasure, these bars were fantastically like my good old til ke laddu in flavours, only a notch better I would add. The recipe is simple, one that makes you save time and still be able to inhale those insane aromas of sesame and jaggery together while it bakes and finally enjoy the fruits of your 'hard work' for days to come.
(makes 30 bars)
white sesame with husk 500 gm
powdered jaggery or grated jaggery 75 gm
honey 75 gm
grated ginger 50 gm
unsweetened coconut flakes or grated fresh coconut 2-3 tbsp (optional)
Pulse the sesame seeds in your food processor so it makes a coarse powder. Add the grated ginger and pulse once more. Add the jaggery and honey and pulse till it all comes together and becomes sticky.
Grease a baking tray (30x25 cms) and spread this mixture on it. Press down firmly so the thickness is uniform all over. Sprinkle the grated coconut and press down so it sticks well.
Bake at 150 C for 20 minutes and check if the top layer of coconut has started browning and the mixture is sticky (like half molten jaggery) if you insert a knife inside the sheet. You can bake for 5 minutes more if it's not aromatic and sticky inside. Your home will be filled with a pleasant aroma of sesame and jaggery, the way it used to feel like in my childhood when my grandmother would make these til ke laddu.
Take out the tray, mark the bars with a sharp knife and let it cool completely. The bars will come out with a little prodding, using a flat blade of knife. If you feel the bars have stuck to the tray, just heat the tray a bit over gas flame rotating it all over for just a few seconds and the bars will come out easily.
These bars taste so good we went berserk eating them. So much so we could not eat any proper meals that day. Just the way it used to happen when we were younger and dadi used to make these and we would stuff ourselves insane.
These are good granola bar sized bars, a bit wider and very filling for a nourishing breakfast with milk and one fruit may be. Arvind has been grabbing one every single day as he heads out for office to munch on it on the way, that is after having his regular breakfast. Sometimes he grabs two of these and winks at me :-)
You can always add some almonds and walnuts in these bars along with sesame but the flavours would change. Sesame goes really well with ginger and honey as well as with jaggery so I wouldn't change it if I am making it for makar sankranti. I associate this time of the year with these flavours too, and many more if I speak honestly.
These sesame ginger honey bars are actually better than any granola bar, grain free, gluten free and nourishing. Yes these are high on calories and not all calories are bad.
The texture of these bars is a bit chewy, but in a very pleasant way. The caramelized honey and jaggery sticks to your teeth when you dig in and you enjoy it like a chocolate fudge.
Addictive stuff. Go bake some.