Friday, 24 January 2014

Til Ladoos - Sesame Jaggery Brittle

In early November last year, the news broke on social media, as news breaks these days, that Tarla Dalal, India's celebrated cook book author, had passed away. As the news spread, the unanimous reaction was not for the loss of a cook book author but for a loss of a teacher. Almost every home cook who heard the news reminisced how they first started cooking, by learning from her books.

Her appeal lay in her life story that many could relate to. She didn't go to any fancy culinary school, rather it was marriage that prompted her to learn how to cook. From there she went on to take cooking classes and eventually, published her first cookbook, 'The Delights of Vegetarian Cooking' in 1974. She would go on to build a food empire, with over 150 cook books to her credit.

So, what was the secret behind her popularity? A couple of things, I believe. She catered solely to India's vast vegetarian population and took in to account their religious and social compulsions. Her recipes were tested and simplified for the novice cook in such a way that if you followed her recipes to their last step, they would never fail you. Look around my blog and you will see many of my posts on Indian food are her recipes and till date, none of her recipes have disappointed.

But, even more crucial was what she taught us through her books. She taught Indians to move out their comfort zone when it came to food. This was much before the age of television cook shows and the Internet and food blogs. Why, it was even before India had opened her doors to the outside world.

We were hesitant and at times, even ignorant about food outside our individual communities. She taught us not only about India's diverse cuisine but also introduced us in small doses to global cuisine. And her students were delighted that from their home kitchens, not only were they exploring Indian food but also the world's.

So, you had a South Indian woman trying her hand at paneer korma, a Punjabi favourite and a Gujarati lady attempting a Thai green curry or Italian cannelloni, even if it was a much altered version that catered to an Indian, vegetarian palate. And to keep up with the times, as Indians were confronted with lifestyle diseases, she even came out with cookbooks for diabetics and those battling hypertension and obesity!

Rather than being some intimidating, highly qualified professional chef with supersonic knife skills, she had a personality that reminded many of a family aunt or friend who you would turn to for a trusted recipe and advice. So, when I decided that I wanted to make til ladoos, a traditional Indian sweet that is made in the winter, I naturally turned to her website and it did not disappoint.  

For those not in the know, these ladoos are best described as having a texture similar to a brittle that is then rolled into balls. The ingredients, sesame seeds and jaggery are considered by Indians as traditional foods to fight the winter blues.

The recipe is a very simple one. Do take care while rolling them as they can be a bit hot to handle. These are a personal favourite and I reckon, for many of you out there too!

Thank you Tarla Dalal, for teaching us Indians to cook and to step out of our predictable, comfort zone when it came to food and explore diverse cuisines, from India and the world!! RIP!

Til Ladoos - Sesame Jaggery Brittle

Makes approximately 12 ladoos. Adapted from this recipe.

  • 1 cup sesame seeds (til)
  • 2/3 cup jaggery (gur)
  • 1 teaspoon ghee or clarified butter
  • Roast the sesame seeds till they are light golden in colour. Cool and keep aside.
  • Heat the ghee in a pan and add the jaggery.
  • Simmer over a slow flame till it caramelises and forms a hard ball when you add a drop in cold water.
  • Remove from the heat and add the roasted til and mix it thoroughly with the melted jaggery.
  • Grease your palms with a little ghee, divide the mixture into 12 equal portions and shape the til mixture into balls. Be careful the mixture will be hot to touch.
  • If you find it difficult to shape  the balls, you can always grease a baking tray or plate with ghee and spread this mixture over it evenly. Press the mixture firmly and smoothen it using a cold and greased knife so it becomes smooth.
  • Cut into desired shapes (squares or rectangles) and separate while still warm.


  1. Beautiful post Sarvani. I remember coming across her website online, some time ago, I immediately bookmarked it in hope that I will soon be able to find some of the ingredients she used to make Samosas. |While we lived in Riyadh I was able to find Asian produce quite easily but here in Zagreb I will be lucky to find a half decent curry mix. I would love to try this recipe! Do you thing it would work with anything other than gur? Maybe molasses?

    1. Thank you so much Maria!! I have learnt so much from her recipes...

      I can very well imagine how tough it is to get Indian ingredients in Zagreb!! so for this recipe.. rather than go with molasses, I would go for dark brown sugar and caramelise it on low heat till you come to the desired point!! according to mum, even regular sugar would do the trick. I found this on google, on substituting jaggery.. maybe this will help...

      Sorry am not much of a help.. jiggery is so easily available out here and so much healthier.. that I have never had to find a substitute!

  2. These are some of my favorite treats, could not stop at few, so addictive.
    Looks so nice.

    1. u telling me Asha... I have to put them out of my sight.. like you.. I cant stop at one!

  3. So true about Tarla Dalal. When I moved to US, i stole my mom's Hindi edition since it was the best one. I use it till date, its probably published in early 90's. I have bookmarked this recipe to try soon!

    1. Ma has her first book (from the early 90s too) and we still use it.. you should see its state... stained and the cover's a bit torn and there are little scribbles all over the book.. its really amazing!! I am crazy about til ladoos.. I have made second batch and I am the one who's eating most of them!! :)

  4. Get the best taste of Indian foods from It provides wide range of food items and spices to make your meal grand and delicious. Get a taste of the royal Indian cuisine.

  5. I had heard of Tarla Dalal but didn't quite know who she was as such or that she had such a standing in the food world. She indeed sounds like an inspirational woman, especially considering the time in which she started her career. These ladooooos look delicious! I loved, LOVED eating them as a kid. It was practically a penny for these, sold at all the local little grocery stores in Abu Dhabi and I would spend my pocket money on packets of these sesame balls or the flat peanut brittle types. Took me straight to my childhood. :D

    1. You know Carrie, she was a far cry from the cookbook authors we have these days... if anything she was like a neighbourhood aunty who you'd hop across to, for her know how on Indian food. And since all her recipes are tested, they really deliver!

      and strange but I have a similar memory from childhood about these ladoos..only in those days, the guy would across from housing society to locality carrying all this stuff on a thela.. and my older sis would buy a couple from him.. handed out on some newspaper.. and then the two of us would hide away somewhere (far away from ma's eyes) and eat them!! Precious memories!!


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