Sweet sesame tikkis and a wish for a very happy sankrant!

For a third year in a row I made the same distressed phone call to my mom yet again "but may be its a really tiny step in the recipe that you missed telling me last time! Why doesn't my til-gul ever turn out like yours?!?". You probably got the context right, after tries and tries of tilgul (til=sesame seeds, gul=jaggery/unrefined sugar, tilgul is a traditional Indian sweet made from sesame seeds and jaggery) somehow my tilgul just never comes out right (officially I have blamed it on the quality of jaggery available here btw :D)! My mom makes the best tilgul ever and I have taken her recipe, read and re-read it, even double-checked the instructions from Ruchira! (For all the non-Marathi folks out there, Ruchira is like a bible of Marathi cooking! I got my copy as a wedding gift from my grandmother who was sleeplessly worried of how I'll ever manage cooking an eatable dinner for my husband :D). Anyway, so I tried and tried but always the jaggery would make the tilgul either too soft or too hard! Now mind you it would taste yummy just the texture would suffer and my poor husband would always encourage me by saying "stomach knows only tasty" :)

So, this time when I made the same phone call last weekend my mom had her answer ready "Just skip gul, use sugar, that will surely work". Hmmm, tilgul without gul! Then she told me a recipe of a tilgul that I had very much liked as a kid and seeing as that one did not have jaggery, I decided that may be it wasn't the craziest of ideas to make tilgul with sugar! And what do you know, this was by far my best til-gul.. ever! In all fairness though it should be called sesame tikki or sesame snaps but hey, today is Sankranti and I have a til-sweet for you, thats all that counts, right?!

(Follow the read more link below for the rest of the recipe...)
Sankranti, celebrated on Jan.14th of each year traditionally marks the Sun's entrance to Capricorn zodiac. The day is celebrated by many Indian regional festivals like Lohri, Pongal and Uttarayan. (although I wonder why this day is different from winter solstice day.. anyone know why?) In Maharashtra we celebrate Makar Sankranti. It is traditional on this day to offer each other til-gul (til=sesame and gul=jaggery). Til symbolizes the bonds of togetherness while gul symbolizes sweetness in the relationships. Offering each other tilgul symbolizes fostering a very warm and caring relationship for the year ahead. As a kid me and my brother used to call it signing a bond to not fight for the rest of the year.. :D (that never worked!)

Anyway, without much further ado, here is a recipe of my sesame tikki/sesame snaps/tilgul. Oh and by the way, if anyone over in US has tried making tilgul wadis with store-bought jaggery, please I would love to know your secret to getting this right!

Source: from my mother
1/2C sesame seeds
3/4C white granulated sugar (I am guessing brown sugar would be even better here!)
1 cardamom pod
1/2tsp ghee (clarified butter)

  1. On low-medium hear roast the sesame seeds for 10-15mins until aromatic and until they start to change color. Keep stirring continuously making sure the seeds do not burn. Keep aside.
  2. While the sesame seeds are roasting prepare for the steps ahead. Apply ghee to a large stainless steel plate on which you will spread the hot tilgul mixture. Also grease a rolling pin and a knife for rolling the wadis and then cutting them.
  3. Heat a thick bottom pan on low heat. Add sugar and cardamom pods. Keep stirring continuously until the entire sugar melts. If after 5mins sugar has not started melting, increase the heat gradually. Keep stirring though so it does not burn.
  4. When the sugar is entirely melted add the roasted sesame seeds and mix well.
  5. Remove from heat. As fast as possible spread the sesame-sugar mixture onto the greased stainless steel plate. Using a rolling pin spread the mixture evenly as thin as possible.
  6. Using the greased knife cut small squares. This has to be done before the mixture cools entirely. Note: this is a bit time-sensitive, the part of spreading til-gul and cutting it has to be done fast while the mixture is still hot and before it hardens completely.
  7. Let the mixture cool completely.
  8. Using the knife remove the wadis and enjoy!
Till next time, happy makar sankrant (pongal, uttarayan or lohri whichever you celebrate!) to everyone!