Just a nip in the air and we start craving winter foods. Yes, it gets cold here in Delhi. We have already touched 6 C, and it will get colder. I must remember to bring the plants that are not frost-hardy inside because the mornings will get frosty soon.
Just like the seasonal winter bounty of vegetables, there are other foods that make an appearance only in the winters. As the body craves warmth we gravitate to the foods that are considered ‘warming’. Peanuts, sesame seeds (til), and jaggery are just made for this numbing weather. On cue appears the moongphali-wala (peanut seller) with his heap of roasted peanuts-in-their-shells topped with the small terracotta pot with a bit of coal or upla (dung cake) in it to warm the peanuts. Snacking on the warmed peanuts while endlessly waiting for the DTC buses is a memory etched in the minds of many Delhi-walas.
However heavy a meal, you can never pass on a piece of crunchy moongphali-ki-patti (peanut brittle) made from plump roasted peanuts and jaggery, or gajjak made from sesame seeds mixed with jaggery and ghee, pounded and then stretched and pulled till it cooled and hardened to a flaky, crunchy glob of gold. The til patti (sesame brittle) and rewdi (sesame drops), both made from sesame and sugar or jaggery, hold their own with the made-in-Meerut being the most sought after. You have to have eaten the unbelievable sesame-seed-thin til-patti to understand the joy of what I am talking about.
And one of the things that marks the arrival of winter in our household is the jar of til chutney at the table. The chutney can be as hot or as mild as you like. A little garlic adds to the ‘warmth’. This time I was using the Himalayan Red Chillies I bought at the Nature Bazaar at Dilli Haat. These gave my chutney a paler colour but packed in quite a punch. I usually make a small batch for myself with extra red chillies and some garlic as well. Yum.
This chutney is a great accompaniment to any Indian meal and can perk up plain dal-chawal. It is also good sprinkled on sandwiches, toast or paranthas. As the sesame and peanuts are barely crushed they add a nutty crunch to the meal.
2 C sesame seeds
½ C peanuts
7 hot dry red chilli peppers (or to taste)
a few garlic cloves (optional)
Roast the peanuts in a pan or in the microwave (2 min). Cool and skin. Roast the sesame (with the red chillies) in a pan till popping and aromatic (2 min or so). If using garlic, grind it first in the jar of your dry grinder. Add the red chillies and blitz till you see flakes. Add the peanuts and pulse till coarsely powdered. Remove. Pulse the roasted sesame seeds for just a few seconds – the sesame seeds must remain mostly whole. Mix everything and season with salt. Store in a clean dry jar.
I would think it has a shelf life of at least a few weeks but this quantity lasts just about a week in our house. Go on, get into winter! Happy Holidays!