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T(ea) For Tambittu

T(ea) For Tambittu
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A friend recently gushed in admiration while poring over the contents of my ratty diary in which I typically scribble down recipes. She even went on...

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A friend recently gushed in admiration while poring over the contents of my ratty diary in which I typically scribble down recipes. She even went on to write down a few from the book. There was one "heirloom recipe" that she seemed particularly delighted to stumble upon. It was the 'Tambittu". It is like a ladoo, but differs in the fact that it has a tiny depression on it's top. It's elevation to special ranks beyond the mainstream ladoo lies in it's shape. Press down too much while shaping it, and it gives way and crumbles. Press too little and it gets relegated to the realm of the unremarkable.

Typical of Indian sweet dishes that make their appearance once a year to coincide with the arrival of particular festivals, the Tambittu comes to the Kannadiga table every Sravanamasa.

Growing up, I knew that if I spotted the Tambittu at home, it meant that Naga Panchami was around the corner. Circular rows upon rows of Tambittus would be carefully constructed, deliberately boxed up and distributed and exchanged with dear friends and close family. And then would begin the delightful exercise of gazing upon and ranking our collection of Tambittus. There were ones that we would sigh at and marvel upon - an aunt's neat, precision-like dainty impressions crowning perfectly shaped Tambittus. And then there were those that were sniggered at - hastily made ones without any regard to form or a sense of aesthetic. Or those that elicited fear - for they were so hard to bite into, we were scared to lose a tooth or two. And finally those that were decidedly frowned upon - Tambittus made with sugar. It was blasphemous! The ones that ranked high on our list were very biasedly my own mother's. Breaking into a powdery, sweet cascade of coconut, and gram with the very first gentle bite.

We didn't visit temples in droves on the occasion of Naga Panchami. Nor did we stand in serpentine (pun intended!) queues to pour milk down the snake holes. My mother gets nostalgic and tells of how my Ajji would draw out a Naga (snake) in rangoli form in the puja room. And offerings of Tambittu, milk and popped jowar would be made to the Naga Lord. The month of Sravan was looked forward to, not in the least due to the change in after-school snacks. There would typically be the Tambittu accompanied by either crispy chaklis or savoury popped jowar. As we grew older, there came an addition of hot piping tea to this ritual. Unlike the modaks that are made once a year on Ganesh Chaturthi or the til-gul polis that are made on Sankranti, the Tambittus can be enjoyed for an entire month. But once the season changes, one can only yearn and wait in anticipation for its reappearance the next year.

Recipe

Ingredients

● 2 cups powdered Bengal Gram/puttani

● 1 cup powdered jaggery

● ½ cup ghee

● 1 tbsp finely grated dry coconut

● 1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds /til

● 1 tsp powdered elaichi

Method

Heat ghee in a thick-bottomed skillet. Add jaggery to it. Mix until jaggery dissolves completely. Turn off the heat. Add powdered Bengal Gram and mix well. Add the dry coconut, sesame seeds, and powdered elaichi too at this stage. Mix until the mixture incorporates all the ghee and jaggery. Take a fistful and first roll into balls. Then gently press thumb onto the top to make a little impression and set aside. Repeat until all mixture is used up.

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