Gram Sweets - Besan ke Laddu
Makes 10–12 small balls
Anticipation has a powerful effect where food is concerned, and a description is often enough for us to make up our minds. If I tell you that these Indian confections are made from gram flour, I’m quite sure that reactions will range from a polite “Oh?” to a not so polite “Eugh!” Forget the description and just taste them. They are delicious as well as being rich in protein and gluten-free. I tried them out on the house painters, Dutch countrymen with conservative eating habits. They cautiously sniffed and poked and nibbled, and came to the satisfied conclusion that they were nutty ‘zandkoekjes’, a loose-textured shortbread. The ‘laddus’ are usually left plain or topped with the ubiquitous chopped pistachios, but a pinch of silver leaf makes a lovely decoration. You might also like to try the Gram Fudge (see p.97), which has a different composition and an even more delightful flavour.
Grease a flat plate and set aside.
Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan or wok, add the gram flour and fry over medium heat for 10–12 minutes, stirring constantly. The flour should darken slightly and the raw and sharp smell you start out with will change to a pleasant, nutty aroma. Don’t skimp on this step, or your laddus will have an undercooked taste instead of the intended nuttiness. The texture will change from lumpy and loose to a fairly smooth, stiffish paste.
Transfer the paste to a mixing bowl and stir in the cardamom. Stir gently for a minute or two to reduce the temperature, then add the icing sugar, mixing well until it is free of lumps. It will be loose and grainy.
Dip a generous soup spoonful (the kind of spoon you eat your soup with, not a serving spoon) and deposit it in one palm. Clench your fist tightly several times, shifting the position of the mixture a few times. You need to compress it really well, or it will crack when you try to shape it. Use both palms to press back and forth into a neat crack-free ball; rolling will make it disintegrate. Arrange on the flat plate and decorate with small pieces of silver leaf. Leave to cool.
When the laddus are completely cool, transfer them to paper cases. Serve at room temperature. Store any leftovers in a cool place in an airtight container for a few days.