Sunday, February 25, 2018

Akki tambittu (sweet treat with rice) - a very simple offering on Shivaratri

:-), ok even I have to flinch at my own (un)timeliness about blogging. It has been over 2 weeks since Shivaratri and I am finally waking up from my slumber to post about what I made. While debating whether to post this recipe here today or not, I told myself that it would be a wonderful recipe for next year's Shivaratri, you can all just search on the blog and make it. Also this is such an easy peasy recipe that you can make it anytime not waiting for the festival to come around next time. Unlike many Indian desserts, there is no syrup and consistency you need watch hawk eyed making this a totally beginner recipe.
Shivaratri is a festival usually in early February that almost brings with it the warm winds of summer in India. Though there is no formal distinction of Spring & Summer in India, the early months (late Feb - Apr) are mild and very spring like. The vast country it is, the seasons differ in their intensity from region to region but in my southern home town, these were always the pleasant months. Everything around you would start sprouting new leaves and the tender green mangoes would start to make a show. The anticipation of the upcoming summer holidays and the anxiety of final exam series always competed with each other.

Shivaratri unlike most Indian festivals is less about food and more about going inward in an almost meditative mode. I grew up watching nammamma and anna fasting the entire day even if it was a working day and then have a little portion of food in the evening only once that day. Even in that subdued food scene, there were definitely some Shiva favorites that were always made on the day and one of them is this tambittu. This version is made with rice and jaggery.
On a side note, when I read about the now almost craze ketogenic diets I always think of the fasting where people went without food for days and simply called it 'giving the body a rest' :-). I don't do extended fasting anytime. So I came back home in the evening and made this tambittu for the festival. Pictures are all taken on a hungry stomach and in dim WA winter lights :-). They don't do justice to the delectable dish this is. I will update pictures next time I make tambittu (and remember to take good pictures), until then..
BH & I have developed this habit of popping something sweet in the mouth after meals especially during weekends. Tambittu made a perfect post meal dessert for over 2 weeks for us. There are several variations of tambittu, some people make it entirely with the fried gram without rice flour but this is the recipe I ate when I was little. Nammamma added a small quantity of roasted gram as it helps to bind.
NOTE: Roasted gram/hurikadle is not the same as split bengal gram/chana dal. The former needs no cooking, it is used as a snack and for giving volume in chutneys. The latter needs to be cooked before consuming.

Also this weekend, bidding adieu to a wonderful artist, an actress whose comic timing was par excellence, a heroine who didn't get enough opportunities to give her acting abilities the due they deserved, a mom & wife that met an untimely end. Rest in peace Sridevi Kapoor. 
Ye lamhe ye pal hum, barson yaad karenge,
ye mausam chale gae to hum fariyad karenge

What do you need to make tambittu? 
1 cup rice (any short grain rice, I used sona masoori)
2 Tbsp roasted gram (hurikadle - used to make chutney)
3/4 cup crushed jaggery
1/4 cup water
3-4 green cardamoms
1 Tsp khus-khus (poppy seeds)
1 Tsp white sesame seeds
1 Tbsp dry coconut (kobbari) - I used grated this time, you can chop it into small pieces if you like that texture
1 Tbsp ghee (clarified butter)

How do you make tambittu? 
  • Wash rice twice in running water, drain the water and spread it on a thin cloth and let it dry for a couple of hours (This is all done indoors, no drying in the sun)
  • When the rice is dry, roast it until lightly pink, and plump up slightly. Switch off and let cool.  
  • Once it is cool, take it to the blender jar along with cardamom, roasted gram and grind it into a fine powder. 
  • I sieve the powder with a fine sieve and return any coarse powder back to the jar for further grinding and repeat the sieving process until you have a fine powder of all of the rice. 
  • Soak jaggery in water for 15 mins so it softens and dissolves. 
  • Heat pan, roast poppy seeds, sesame seeds separately until they both turn fragrant. It takes 1.5-2 mins for the quantity here. Take them out onto a plate.
  • Roast grated coconut until it turns light pink and toasty, remove it to the plate. 
  • Add ghee and roast cashew nuts until they turn light pink, remove them onto the plate. 
  • Mix the ground powder with all the ingredients in the mixing bowl. 
  • Return the pan to the stove and pour in the soaked jaggery and bring it to a boil on medium heat. It takes about 4-6 mins and becomes thicker. 
  • Pour this on top of the dry mixture and bring everything together with a spoon. 
  • Wait for a few minutes until the mixture can be handled, pinch off golf ball sized mixture (or any size you prefer), make a ball and make a dip on the top. -> This shape is how nammamma made tambittu, not necessary you should stick to this shape :-). I have seen perfectly round tambittu also. It is your preference. 
  • Enjoy the sweet tambittu, stays fresh for about 2 weeks if refrigerated. 
  • Do not use sticky rice, basmati and parboiled rice in this recipe. 
  • For quick version, you can make this with ready made rice flour, make sure to roast it on low heat until it is fragrant.
  • You can use roasted, de-skinned peanuts in place of cashews. 
  • You can add cardamom powder instead of grinding them with rice but I prefer the fresh fragrances.
  • Tambittu is moist and soft when made but firms up after a rest time. 
  • Remove the jaggery syrup before any thread consistency is achieved, getting to a thread consistency makes tambittu hard & chewy. 
  • The syrup is enough to make a mixture that can be shaped into balls but if it is a little crumbly/dry (sometimes jaggery variety makes the difference and Indian cooking is not precise :-)), add a spoon of warm milk and bind.