Diwali or Deepavali is the most anticipated Indian festival. Deepam means lamp and oli can mean both light & sound. Commonly known as the “Festival of lights”, people celebrate this joyous event by lighting lamps throughout the house and bursting crackers. The mode of celebration differs in various parts of India due to cultural and religious significances, but the spirit of the festival is the same across the nation. It is an occasion to observe the victory of goodness over evil and it marks a new beginning where hope prevails despair.
As a child, I always eagerly looked forward to Diwali. Be it bursting crackers, wearing new dress or eating sweets, it was all exciting! But the part I enjoyed the most was the family get-together we had at our home. Unfailingly, all my cousins would visit us and we had a bash. Diwali celebration in the south of India starts before dawn and it was the one-day that my cousins and I didn’t mind getting up early. We would put on our new clothes, have our share of the festive treats and then go around sharing goodie boxes with all our friends in our street. This was so much fun, as we not only got to eat different kinds of food from different households, but as a girl I was curious about what dresses my friends got. For that one day, the whole neighborhood becomes like one big house of celebration.
Yes, exchanging presents is an important custom during Diwali. Indians are true to the phrase that sharing is caring! One such popular edible gift is laddu. Be it a promotion, or a birthday celebration, or any religious event, these small round bites are sure to be there on the table. These are the perfect gift choice as it is easy to prepare, easy to pack and has a longer shelf life when compared to other Indian sweets. Laddu or ladoo, derived from the Sanskrit word ladduka, (meaning, a small ball) is a popular sweet variety throughout South Asia. The origin of laddu is fortuitous. It is believed that a famous ancient Indian physician, named Sushruta (one who laid the foundation for the Ayurvedic system) used these as medicines. He was a legendary surgeon in the Indian medical profession and used til, also known as sesame seeds, as an antiseptic to treat his patients after surgery. To ease the consumption of sesame seeds, he coated the seeds with jaggery and honey and gave these to his patients. Something that was used for medicinal purposes, gradually led to the birth of one of the most popular sweets throughout the country. Even till date, til ke laddu, the sesame sweet balls are common nationwide.
Laddu is made with flour, sugar, and ghee. Chickpea flour, wheat, and semolina are the common flours used in the preparation of this sweet. These sweetmeats are more typical in north India than in the south. Besan laddu, motichoor laddu and boondi laddu are amongst the famous ones.
Another common variety is the rava laddu or the sooji laddu – sweet bites made with semolina, my most-favorite sweet. Rava or sooji is semolina in the native language. While there are several regional variations of this dish, the recipe that I am sharing with now is a simple and traditional version of making rava laddu in the South. It is my family recipe.
Some people prefer the laddu to be smooth while some prefer the coarse grainy texture of the semolina. Some also add grated or desiccated coconut. To make it more exotic and special, you can decorate them with nuts like almonds, cashews, raisins, & pistachios. Another delectable ingredient, khoya or mawa, a derivative of the milk product widely used in the preparation of Indian dessert, is also used to enrich it further.
The recipe below gives a very smooth and fine laddu. The only catch is grinding semolina to a fine powder at home is slightly tricky. Back in my native, we have these small-scale mills that process grains to fine flour in smaller quantities for household use. But when you are grinding it at home, grind and sieve is the best technique. For each grind, sieve the flour and repeat the process until the desired output is achieved. I did it thrice for 1 cup of semolina. Try to get the small grain variety that is available in all Indian grocery stores.
You can create your own variation of this dessert. It is so simple that even a novice in the kitchen can prepare it with ease. To make an Indian laddu, all you need is flour, a sweetener and some sort of binding agent like ghee or oil. If, you are opting for healthier flour and natural sweeteners, this could become a healthy snack option as well. Enjoy the treat. Happy Diwali guys!
Recipe of Rava Laddu
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Ingredients (12 medium-sized laddus)
1 cup ground semolina, roasted
¾ cup powdered sugar
4 tablespoons melted ghee (clarified butter)
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon broken cashews
Roast the semolina on medium heat until it starts to emit aroma and slightly change color. Let it cool and then grind it. Sieve and grind until you get a fine powder.
Mix ¾ cup of powdered sugar, cardamom powder and 1 cup of powdered semolina in a mixing bowl. Taste and adjust the amount of sugar and add more if needed.
Melt 1 tablespoon ghee in a pan. Once it is hot, add the cashews and fry them until they are golden brown. Pour this into the flour mixture and mix well.
In the same pan, heat the remaining ghee. Once it is hot, reduce the heat to the lowest. The ghee has to be hot while mixing in with the flour.
Pour 2 tablespoons of hot ghee in the flour mixture. Mix it with a spoon and if you can handle the heat, take a small portion of the flour, press it together and see if the flour holds together. If it does, the amount of ghee is sufficient.
Then take a small amount of flour, pressing them between your palm and fingers, shape them into smooth balls. Apply little pressure while doing this. If it keeps breaking, add a teaspoon of hot ghee at a time until you can shape them properly.
Repeat the same for the rest of the mixture. Store it in an airtight box.
– Adjust the amount of sugar as per your preference. The 1:1 ratio of powdered semolina and powdered sugar gives a medium sweet laddu.
– Grinding semolina to a smooth powder is slightly difficult. You might have to sieve it twice and then grind it again to get a fine texture.
– You can also add raisins, cashews and almonds.
– Pouring hot ghee is very important as it helps in binding the flour easily. Start with a minimum amount of ghee and add more only if it is very difficult to shape.
– You have to shape them quickly when the flour mixture is still warm. It becomes difficult once the flour mixture cools down.