Sweets with Benefits
Winter in India has its own regional sweetmeats which have a variety of ingredients
Confectionary is either elaborate or simple, whatever be the season. While most food is a confluence of diverse culinary cultures, some comestibles warm our hearts differently when it is cold. Laddoo is one of the most popular Indian sweets, since it is affordable and long lasting. Nitika Kuthiala, a Noida-based Himachali food expert, says, “Panjeeri, Sonth ke laddu and alsi ke laddu were breakfast items to be had with morning tea. In winter when it is too cold to start working early in the morning, kitchens opened only after 10 am. These sweets kept us warm until then.”
Alka Keswani, curator of Sindhi Rasoi food blog, speaks about the history of Majoon. “It comes from the term Majoun, an Unani preparation used to make variations of medicines for different illnesses. Earlier, majoun was made mixing cannabis, ghee, specific medicinal herbs and honey. Poppy seeds and dried fruits and/or nuts may or may not be present in Unani Majoun. It could be either in dry powder form or be jam-like. Sindhi style Majoon has nuts and mawa which makes it a winter dessert, says Keswani.”
In Coorg, the Kodavas sip Bella Kaapi throughout the day in the winter months. Radhica Muthappa, foodpreneur from Coorg, says, “Bella Kaapi is a coffee decoction made with black jaggery, which is a bit more unrefined than the usual coffee. Coorgi food coincides with festivals and not seasons. November-end to early December is when the rice harvest happens. Puthari, our rice festival, gets its name from puthiya kari, which literally translates to ‘new rice’. Payasam made poppy seeds and jaggery keeps peoples warm.”
Oindrila Bala, a MasterChef India 2019 Season six contestant, says winters in Bengal mean pithas and nolen gur. “Pithas are steamed rice crepes. The famous Patishapta has a filling of coconut and cardamom. Earlier, Shora Pithe would be made in clay ovens. Now we use idli makers.” Bala’s favourite winter memory is of the hawkers strolling through the street with baskets on their heads shouting out ‘Joynagare Moa’—a sweet made with khoi (a kind of puffed rice) and sugar.
Winter in Odisha are also about pithas made after the new harvest of the season. Sweta Biswal, Odia food blogger from Bhubaneswar shares, “People add warming and digestive spices like black pepper, carom seeds and cloves to pithas.” Methi Pak is common in the western India. Bohra Muslim YouTuber Zahabiya Modi would make a face when her grandmother made Methi Pak. “When the temperature dipped, my nani forced us to eat it. Only when I grew up and had kids, I realised what a powerhouse of nutrition it was.”
✥ 250 gms fenugreek seeds
✥ 400 gms jaggery
✥ 100 gms desiccated coconut
✥ 200 gms khoya
✥ 1 cup wheat flour
✥ ½ cup ghee
✥ 100 gms mixed nuts (chopped)
✥ Soak fenugreek seeds overnight. Wash thoroughly and discard the water.
✥ Add the methi to a pressure cooker with 1 cup of water and cook for 2-3 whistles or until the methi is soft
✥ Mash the methi with a spatula
✥ In a pan, heat 1 tbsp ghee. Add wheat flour and roast it golden.
✥ Add jaggery and the remaining ghee, and let it melt completely
✥ Add khoya and let it combine with the jaggery. Add the mashed methi and mix well.
✥ Add in the desiccated coconut and chopped nuts
✥ Let it cook on a low flame for 20 to 25 minutes, until everything has combined well and the ghee has separated
By Zahabiya Modi