Each year on 13th January, Sindhis celebrate Laal Loi, or Lohri, as known in Punjabi, also famous as a ‘Festival of Bonfire’ ! Laal Loi is celebrated to express the feeling of gratitude to the natural and supernatural forces for the bounty of Rabi (Winter) crops.So it is a harvest festival of Hindus and is celebrated with fun and folklore, while gathering around a bonfire, singing, dancing, performing rituals and gearing up for the upcoming harvest of Rabi crops.
Sindhis celebrate Lal loi in the same way as Punjabis do! Young folks gather loads of dry wood/ logs/ sticks/old furniture and place these inside a circle marked by the boundary of bricks. In the evening all the members of families staying around, gather around the bonfire, doing the parikramas (circling around the bonfire) and offer Ber (Zizyphus jujuba), red carrots (Delhi carrots), sesame seeds, rewri (crunchy sugar based sesame candy), basically the fruits/vegetables/seeds that are locally available in winters. The bon fire remain lit till past midnight and friends and neighbors catch up with each other lives while enjoying the warmth provided by the bonfire, on one of the coldest might of the year, the 13th of January!
The most common Prasad (Religious offering) distributed during Laal Loi are Borinda~ The sugar syrup/ Jaggery /Honey based sesame balls, similar to that of Maharashtrian ‘ Til gud ladoo‘.
Sesame seeds could be easily nicknamed as wonder seeds, because of the nutritional and medicinal quality of these oil seeds. The nutty seeds when roasted, turn crunchy and could be used in variety of dishes; to make sweets, snacks, salad dressings, Tahini, hummus etc. Sesame seeds are great sources of vitamins, minerals, Folic acid, Oleic acid (reduces ‘bad cholesterol’) , Sesamol (anti-oxidant), Niacin ( B complex vitamin ), calcium, iron, magnesium etc etc. These amazingly healthy seeds when combined with jaggery or honey provides warmth to the body during winters, and raise the immunity levels of our body !
The famous Til gud ladoo (Til = sesame seeds, gud= jaggery, ladoo=balls ) vary in their avatars, flavors and textures depending upon the base sweet used and the degree of caramelization of the sugar/jaggery/honey. Read more about rules of caramelization here !
The following recipe is of Honey based sesame balls and as the name suggests, I have used honey to make these Greek Style Sesame Honey Pasteli, known as ‘ Maakhiyah Waara Borinda‘ (Maakhi= Honey in Sindhi, Borinda= balls in general, made using either puffed rice or sesame seeds) or Honey and sesame seeds balls.
The sugar syrup based Sesame balls are rocky hard in general, the jaggery based are softer, while honey based ones are most chewy. But then, it all depends upon the degree of caramelization. The darker the caramel (which means the more you cook/boil the sugar , honey or jaggery) the chewier shall be our Borinda. The colour of borinda varies from pale white to amber coloured ones, and so does the texture!
- Sesame seeds 1 cup
- Honey 1cup (The seeds to honey proportion should be 1:1)
- Salt, less than ¼ tsp
- Dried nuts like unsalted pistachios or dried Tutti frutti- the assorted candied fruits (Optional)
- In a small pan, pour 1 cup of honey and heat the pan. Within 2 minutes the consistency of honey will turn thinner. Put off the flame and set aside.
- In a thick bottomed and preferably a wide pan, dry roast (toast) sesame seeds on low flame, tossing frequently with a spatula. Soon the seeds will turn bit crisp.(Nicely toasted seeds when crushed between fingers will easily turn into powder).Be careful as not to burn the seeds or else the end product will be bitter in taste.
- If using pistachios, slightly toast them separately and set aside.
- Now in the toasted seeds, carefully add the warm honey, some salt and give it a gentle stir, so as to mix the ingredients.
- Now let the mixture cook till the honey changes the colour, to few shades darker and is almost completely absorbed by the seeds. Do not mix the ingredients or else the sheen (shine) might be lost.
- Towards the end, you can add roasted pistachios or tutti frutti by sprinkling these over the mixture, without stirring in with spatula.
- Switch off the flame and pour this hot mixture on either a greased plate or on parchment paper- laced plate.
- Let the mixture stand for a while, and then roll a spoonful of this mixture in between your greased palms to make a small rolled Borinda (ball). If the mixture is too hot , it will scald your palms and if cold, it will harden and you wont be able to roll these. In such case, just let the mixture cool down and just cut into rectangles/ squares or uneven shaped brittle.
- Pack these in airtight containers after letting these cool down till the core.