Tiny Hands: Making Tambittu With Your Little One

In our new column with Archana Pidathala, author of the beloved cookbook Five Morsels of Love, we explore the art of getting your child excited about the sights and sounds of a kitchen.

I have taken my six-year-old son Arjun to vegetable markets, organic stores, produce sections in super markets, and to my favourite butcher since he was seven or eight months old. He has followed me quite naturally into the kitchen ever since. Initially, he would wander in and be curious about the textures, aromas and sounds permeating the kitchen. Over time however, he slowly started doing small tasks that interested him ­­— shelling peas (to find worms), peeling boiled eggs, skinning roasted peanuts, chopping mushrooms (still his favourite), scraping carrots, squeezing limes, grating cheese, pounding pepper, frying papads, marinating meat, stirring curries et al. I have watched with delight how this process of spending time in the kitchen continues to awaken his senses, helping him form a connection with food and developing his taste buds.

A few days ago, on a crisp September morning, Arjun had an unexpected holiday from school because of a bandh protesting rising fuel prices. Many games of football (no, I don’t like playing football) and an endless game of Monopoly later, Arjun looked at me and said “Amma, lets cook; something new.” I had been meaning to try a roasted gram delicacy called tambittu, which my mother-in-law makes around this time of the year. While I know tambittu is made as a sacred offering, for religious reasons, what has always excited me is the genius combination of everyday ingredients and how very nourishing the resultant fudge is. A quick peek into the pantry confirmed the availability of all the ingredients we needed for the dish — roasted gram, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried coconut, cardamom and jaggery — and we set to work immediately. As I dry-roasted the sesame seeds, poppy seeds and dried coconut, Arjun cracked open the cardamom pods and pounded the seeds to a powder. He blitzed the roasted gram in the mixer and played with the talcum-like powder that emerged out of the mixer jar as I set the jaggery syrup to bubble. We mixed everything together, rolled the dough into balls and ate the fudge while it was still slightly gooey and warm. With its grainy texture, the subtle crunch of the sesame and poppy seeds, earthiness of roasted gram and jaggery and warmth of cardamom, tambittu is sure to please children and adults alike. The best part is that with 15 minutes of effort, our school snack box situation was sorted for the rest of the week.

 recipe for making tambittu

Tambittu Recipe

(makes 25 pieces)

Ingredients

3 cups roasted gram (huri-kadale/pottukadalai)
25g shredded dried coconut (about ¼ dried coconut shell, finely shredded)
1 tsp white sesame seeds
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp cardamom powder (crack about 10 pods and powder the seeds, you could use the skins for tea)
3 cups powdered jaggery
2 cups water
½ cup ghee, melted

 Method

 Grind the roasted gram in a mixer/food processor to a fine talcum-like powder. Measure 3 cups of the roasted gram powder into a vessel and reserve the rest for use later. Dry roast the shredded dried coconut, sesame seeds and poppy seeds, separately, and add them to the roasted gram powder. Add the cardamom powder and mix well.

 Place the powdered jaggery and water in a thick, heavy-bottomed pan. The water should just about cover the jaggery. Give it a good stir and bring to a boil on medium heat. Lower the heat and simmer for a couple of minutes, till the jaggery dissolves completely.

 Divide the roasted gram mixture into 6 portions. Take one portion of the roasted gram mixture in a vessel; pour 4 teaspoons of ghee and a couple of ladlefuls of the hot jaggery syrup into it. Stir briskly with a spoon till the mixture comes together without any lumps.  The resultant dough should be stiff yet soft enough to pinch a ball out of the dough and roll it in ones’ palms. Add more roasted gram powder or jaggery syrup as required.

 To shape the tambittu, pinch a ball of dough and roll into a ball in your palm.

{Optional} Circle your right thumb and index finger around the ball. With your left thumb and index finger flatten the top and bottom of the laddu. Finally dent the top of the laddu with your left thumb.

 Repeat the process with the rest of the roasted gram mixture and jaggery syrup. If the jaggery syrup cools down, heat it for a minute or two before adding it to the roasted gram mixture.

 Once the tambittu is completely cool, store in a dry, air-tight container. Can be stored for a week at room temperature and more if refrigerated.

 recipe for making tambittu

Words and images by Archana Pidathala, author of Five Morsels of Love, a cookbook based on her grandmother’s 1974 Telugu cookbook, Vanita Vanṭakālu. You can find Archana on Instagram here.



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