For those of you who are not familiar with Gond or Tragacanth gum, it is a kind of edible gum that is obtained from drying the sap of some variety of shrubs that mainly grow in the Middle East and some parts of India. Gond is very nutritious and has been used in India from many generations.
Until I got married, I didn't know what Gond was. I loved the Gond laddus from the sweet shops but I knew nothing of what it actually was. I was happy just eating it. It was my first Diwali after my wedding when I came face to face with Gond. My mother-in-law makes excellent Gond laddus that are famous in the family. It was the first time I saw her make the laddus. I helped, but I am afraid I wasn't good for much else. The laddu mixture was to be made into balls when the mix was still hot (not warm, hot) otherwise it wouldn't work.
It is kind of a Diwali tradition for my Maa to make these laddus. I made the laddus with her a few more times before I got the courage to try it myself. I was here in Bangalore and I was craving for these delicious laddus. "Necessity is the mother of inventions". I realise now, it's so true. My craving for the laddus is what made me attempt to make the laddus the very first time.
I have made Gond laddus many times since then. But I have never made them the same. I love experimenting in the kitchen and I have always wanted to work out what flavours would work in Gond laddus. In all my attempts, my aim has also been to simplify the process as much as possible. I also wanted to come up with a recipe where I wouldn't have to make the laddus when the mixture was hot. I wanted an easier mixture to work with.
I was extremely happy when this latest attempt of mine proved to be just that. It is a simpler recipe where you can do a few steps ahead of time so that on the day of making the laddus, you aren't exhausted by the process. Here I use home made almond butter and I generally make my almond butter few days ahead of time. You can very well use a store bought almond butter of your choice too. I also realised while making this recipe that the oven puffed Gond can be stored in an air tight container for a couple of days. All these small processes save you time and effort later on.
Apart from using many nutritious ingredients, this recipe can also very easily be made vegan. The only thing is to replace the Ghee in the recipe with any neutral flavoured oil of your choice. Cold pressed almond oil will also work quite well and will re-enforce that wonderful flavour of almonds. Let's see what will we need to make these delicious laddus!
2 cups - Ragi/Finger millet flour
1 cup - Besan/Gram flour
3/4 cup - Seedless dates
3/4 cup - Jaggery powder
2 tbsp - Ghee
50 grams - Gond/Tragacanth gum crystals
1 cup - Whole almonds or 1/2 cup - Almond butter
3 Cardamom pods
Roast the almonds and the Gond in separate trays in an oven for about 10 minutes at 150 degrees C.
When you take these out of the oven, the almonds should be toasted and slightly cracked and the Gond should have puffed up. To test whether the Gond has cooked all the way through, take a piece in you hand and press it between your fingers. If it breaks into a powder and you have no hard bits in the centre, the Gond is cooked.
Put the puffed Gond in a food processor and break it into a coarse powder. Take the Gond out and add in the roasted almonds. Grind it in the food processor until the almonds convert into a fine paste. Your almond butter is ready.
Roast the Ragi/Finger millet flour in a pan at medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly until you can notice the flour getting darker.
Add in 1 tbsp of the ghee to the roasted Ragi/Finger millet flour and take it out in a bowl.
Roast the besan in the same pan now for about 10-15 minutes on a medium flame, stirring constantly until it gets darker. Add in the remaining ghee and mix it into the flour evenly. The flour should turn aromatic. Take out the flour in the same bowl as the roasted Ragi flour.
Wash the dates if you feel the need to and roughly chop them. Place them in a pan and add the jaggery. Cook this over low heat until the jaggery melts and starts cooking the dates. Cook it for around 5 minutes. The dates and jaggery should form a sticky paste at this stage. Take this off the heat.
Now add the powdered Gond, half cup of almond butter and the date and jaggery paste to the roasted flour mixture.
Crush the seeds from the cardamom pods into a powder and add it to the mixture as well.
Mix everything evenly with a spatula or by your hand when the mixture cools a little.
Make small balls/laddus with the mixture and store them in an air tight container once cooled.
These laddus are a hit at my home. Loaded with healthy and nutritious ingredients, these laddus satisfy the mind and the taste buds without a doubt. Make these for Dussehra or Diwali or just because you feel like having something sweet and nutritious.