It has been quite sometime since I published a post on the blog. Yes, work has been hectic as usual with a busy first term getting used to the new team and of course the students.
It is almost 8 years now since I am in this experience. Everyone wakes up in the morning to get ready for their jobs, I get up to be with my special friends. It is a world, where every day is new, every minute is different and work is but a learning process. It is a place where I draw inspiration and strength from. I love my world, as it helps me to love myself and my life more than what I would have. It is here I learn, experience,communicate, solve problems, share joys,tears, stress and love. We have all kinds of activities …we have a curriculum to teach, discipline to follow,swim, play,paint,laugh,talk celebrate, sing and dance!! Frankly speaking, this is where I learned to respect relationships and be transparent to everyone. I am a different person altogether ever since I developed my skills working at a Special Needs School. These students have inspired me to live a joyful life inspite of the shortcomings one has…to be fair, we have no shortcomings in comparison to what these children have. I have learned to always be curious and to fight tirelessly for what we want. And of course to be happy for no reason!!
It is indeed a great experience as I learn more than what I had decided to teach.I am thankful to God to have chosen me for this role. At the end of the day I do not forget to thank God every night for my varied and active role which, although can be challenging at times, is rewarding in the fact that I am having a positive impact on people’s lives.
Although Diwali was paired with flu yet, I kept my enthusiasm high doing festive cooking. I have had loads of Diwali sweets made in the past years. Ever since the festival got over, I had this typical urge of finding something new and research about a recipe which I had never thought before.
Typical urge I say, because being a Gemini there is always something more and new I wish to look for…reminds me of Lewis Carol’s writing..Though she managed to pick plenty of beautiful rushes as the boat glided by, there was always a more lovely one that she couldn’t reach. “The prettiest are always further!” she said at last, with a sigh at the obstinacy of the rushes in growing so far off. So my mind ventured to the next festive occasion a couple of month’s away. Sankranti, which is due in January, has always seen sesame crackers or ladus in my kitchen. I remembered the spiked sugar beads(Tilgul) fondly used to distribute during the occasion. More fondly , as I loved munching on to them as a kid. These are distributed amongst friends and relatives during Sankranti. Til(Sesame) provides the warmth to the body during the Winters and the sugar coating is symbolic to the sweet words shared…hence “tilgul ghya, goad goad bola”(literally meaning ,have Tilgul and speak sweet)…this is what is conveyed while wishing and sharing Tilgul.
We would get greeting cards sent with a wee packet filled with tilgul sent by relatives from Maharashtra. The nutty sesame encapsulated in a sweet sugar coating has always been cherished. Little did I know that I would ever try making them at home. I have seen tilgul beaded together to make beautiful of ornaments. From Tanmani, Mangalsutra,Kambar patta, Bangdya for a new bride to Bal Krishna’s ornament for the new born in the family…tilgul has made these occasions very special.
When I created Age Old traditional group on Watsapp with my relatives, I knew it was a bond which kept me connected to the roots I belong to. This group set up last February has been an amazing inspiration for me. All my aunts, cousins, my mother, in-laws share there culinary experience and the traditions associated.When I asked if anyone recalls making tilgul my cousin’s wife mentioned about her mother’s recipe for Tilgul. I did a happy dance. I was looking for the precious recipe and the technique for almost a couple of months time.
The day the recipe was shared, I started my experiment within an hour’s time. A couple of failed attempts during the day followed another attempt in the evening. I checked with my mother-in-law and she suggested using a brass paraat(her mother-in-law always made it in a brass paraat). All thanks to my ajji sasubai….this is how things unfolded in my kitchen…
The recipe will be treasured now on this blog and hopefully, the next generation will make an attempt to keep the tradition alive. It is a tedious task for sure and time-consuming too. But absolutely worth it. I am glad I was able to attempt this bygone practice.
For this, one needs the following utensils: A brass paraat(flat vessel),iron tawa and heat resistant fingers 🙂 Yes, the stirring is done by fingers and not the spoons. However, midway in the process, I tried using my silicon brush which I use for coating butter etc for my bakes. It worked wonders!
1.One may use puffed rice, sesame seeds, flattened rice, pumpkin seeds, candy sugar, fennel seeds and such tiny particles help the sugar syrup to form a coat. A fine particle that is conformally encapsulated in an ultra- thin layer coats of sugar creates most unique spiky beads. I used puffed rice and sasame seeds.
2. Sugar syrup. I used castor sugar which was readily available in my pantry. To this I added gel food colour. The food colouring is optional.
To make the sugar syrup:
Soak a vaati(traditional cup/bowl) of sugar in some water for about 10-15 mins. To this add a teaspoon of yogurt while it soaks.
Add 1.5 cups of water and place it on heat. Make sure the heat is low. To this add a teaspoon of milk at a time. This gets rid of the scum the sugar carries. Strain this off in a clean muslin cloth. Place the syrup once more on the heat. Carry on this process (2-3 times)adding milk and getting rid of the scum until the syrup is clear.
Boil the syrup to get one thread consistency. We do not want too thin a syrup nor can we do with thick one.
Depending on the size of beads one needs, one may need to make the syrup. I had make it twice for both my sesame seeds and puffed rice.
Now the real task begins:
Traditionally, halva is made on shegdi/choolah(a traditional stove fueled by coal and wood). However, I made them in my UK kitchen of course on the gas burners. I so wish to have a choolah now!!
Place a teaspoon of sesame seeds/puffed rice/anything of your choice.
A teaspoon of sesame seeds yield more than half a vaati of tilgul. Make sure the gas is burning absolutely on a low heat. To this all one needs to do is add a drop of the syrup every minute and stir delicately with fingers. YES, WITH YOUR FINGERS!! oh Boy! did it burn my fingers yes, it did…it was rather challenging. But I started using my silicon baking brush at some point during the process and am glad it worked.
Each of the particles start coating with the sugar syrup and create intricate spikes. One needs to make sure not to add more syrup or else the kaata(spikes) dissolve in the hot syrup.
Keep stirring..it is a long wait and of course patience counts in till you start seeing spikes. I did it for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. It was only the next day that after another hour of coating and stirring that I could see spikes appearing. Carry on coating and stirring until you are happy with the size of of tilgul.
Once done, let the sugar beads cool and store them in an air-tight container.
The whole process demands time, energy(yours and of course gas)and patience!! Please do not rush it!! It is a challenge yet worth it…just like my job:)
Halwa using sugar candies.
- Always keep the heat at the lowest. Best to use brass vessel on tava. Steel vessels overheat.
- If the brass paraat/vessels starts coating with sugar syrup, it may break the spikes created on the seeds. Place the beads on a separate plate. Wash the brass plate and dry to continue the process.
- Do not rush the stirring. Stir delicately. I used the silicon baking brush only after confirming, it was not breaking the spikes.
- If the weather is hot, do this in the early hours of the day and in the evening.
- Have patience and do not rush the process. I needed 3 days to get the results.
- Enjoy the whole therapeutic process.