Today, laddus are mostly associated with festive or auspicious occasions, but if one delves deeper into Indian culinary history, the case is otherwise. According to one of the legends in Eastern folklore, laddus were an accidental invention when a medicine man's (vaid) assistant poured extra ghee into a concoction. To cover this up, he made small roundels of the mix which later came to be known as laddus. Another interesting story is that Sushruta, also known as the father of Indian surgery and medicine, created laddus to feed bitter healing herbs to his patients. Origins aside, the idea of medicinal laddus has been a part of Indian culture for generations. In fact, time, availability of ingredients, invasion and food habits have led to innovations in the treat. LF lists 5 Indian laddus that are a must-have during winter to keep one warm and energised.
Til (sesame seed) is one of the healthiest foods one can find today. “It lowers bad cholesterol levels, normalises blood pressure, is a good source of iron and calcium, and provides warmth to the body,” says Amreen Sheikh, head of Dietetics at Wockhardt Hospital in Mumbai Central (Mumbai). During winter, most Indian homes roast sesame seeds (black or white) and mix it with jaggery to prepare til ke laddu. This sweetmeat is also an important element in Makar Sankranti celebrations.
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Methi (fenugreek) seeds may not be an ingredient usually associated with laddus but methi laddus are extremely helpful during cold weather. These laddus are made with fenugreek seeds, ginger, fennel (saunf) seeds and jaggery. Sheikh says, “Starting your day with a methi laddu will ensure a warm body and controlled blood sugar levels. These seeds provide resistance against common cold and influenza, which is common during winters.” Apart from that, methi laddus are also known to help people stay energised throughout the day. These laddus are also beneficial for nursing mothers since its ingredients help in the production of breast milk.
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Gondh means gum in Hindi. The gondh laddus are made using edible gum, desi ghee, sugar, dry fruits, nutmeg, cardamom and raisins. These bite-sized balls are known to provide heat and nourishment to the body hence have been part of winter treats for generations. These laddus are usually eaten with warm milk. Just like methi laddus, gondh laddus are also beneficial for lactating mothers. It is believed to speed up a new mother’s recovery and help in the production of breast milk. In parts of north India like Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, they are called gondh laddus, while in Maharashtra they are known as dinkache laddu and in Gujarat, gundar laddu. The recipe for these laddus is mostly the same across the country, however, the Maharashtrian version contains dry coconut and poppy seeds too.
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A powerhouse of energy, pinni is an integral part of Punjabi cuisine, especially during the bitter cold weather. It is made using roasted wheat flour, jaggery, ghee and dry fruits (finely sliced or powdered). While most use jaggery to sweeten this laddu recipe, a few go for shakkar ka bhoora, which acts as a preservative. Shakkar ka bhoora is also an important ingredient in the making of the famous Sandila laddu.
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Dates are the key ingredient of this laddu along with a mix of dry fruits and desiccated coconut. The natural sugars present in khajoor (dates) are great for an instant energy boost and providing heat to the body – a major reason, they are highly recommended during winters. This is also why dates are favoured during Ramzan. In addition, they are rich in fibre, which keeps the heart healthy. Meanwhile, the dry fruits in khajoor laddu provide much-needed warmth.
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