I love food. I love to cook and am always trying out new recipes. I’m constantly hungry and munching on things.
But I’ve also learnt the hard way that I need to watch over my health and fitness. As a result, I’m always looking for healthier, non-junk stuff to snack on. While snacking on nuts, I usually always mix walnuts and almonds with raisins, just for a dash of sweet. So while thinking what else I could add to nuts, without loading it with calories and sweetening it with refined sugar, I came up with the idea of using jaggery with nuts 😀 This is great when added to salads, or when eaten as a snack. Use it to top plain chilled yoghurt with a dash of honey for a simple dessert, or add it to your oatmeal to make it more fancy!
A quick search on Wiki will tell you that the word “jaggery” comes from Portuguese jágara, from Malayalam cakkarā, ultimately from the Sanskrit word शर्करा (śarkarā), which is also said to be the origin of the English word “sugar“. Jaggery is unrefined sugar (with molasses) produced from sugarcane or dates, and is an excellent substitute for refined sugar; it is rich in iron, and said to have natural cleansing properties which help in purification of blood. It is always commonly available in bricks, or blocks, which are square or round in shape, with colours ranging from deep brown to golden yellow. It is, of late, also available in powder form. It has a rich, treacle-y, brown-sugar like flavor, with the texture being sticky, buttery, crumbly and soft. 😀
Jaggery is well-loved and extensively used in Indian cuisine, as well as Ayurvedic medicine. We tend to use jaggery a LOT in our traditional South Indian cuisine, so I am quite comfortable with the taste, and with cooking it. I add jaggery not only to make sweet dishes, but to also balance the flavors in savoury dishes like sambar, rasam, vathakuzhambu, etc. In our cuisine, we mix roasted peanuts with jaggery, to make a candy-type dish called ‘chikki‘. So I basically applied the same process here to the walnuts and almonds. If you’re not used to this taste, I assure you this is sweet, very molasses-ey, and you will like it 🙂
- Jaggery – crushed, 1 cup
- Walnuts and Almonds – 2 cups, mixed in equal proportion
- Water – 1 tbsp
- Heat a wide bottomed pan on medium flame.
- Dry roast almonds and walnuts until slightly aromatic, about 3-4 minutes on medium flame. Remove to a plate and let it cool.
- Meanwhile, heat the same wide bottomed pan on medium flame.
- Add the jaggery and water to this.
- Stir well until all jaggery is melted into a syrup without lumps. Switch off stove.
- Filter this syrup to remove all impurities. Do NOT skip this step (see notes)
- Put filtered syrup back on medium heat. Keep stirring
- You will see mixture start to froth and bubble.
- Allow syrup to boil.
- Keep stirring further. Mixture will start getting thicker after about 5-6 mins.
- Keep a dry plate on the side. Take some of the syrup (with a spoon) on the plate.
- Test mixture with fingers (give it a few seconds to cool, it will be hot). It should form a single string as shown. If not, keep going for another minute or two and test at 30-second intervals for single-string stage.
Add the roasted nuts to this syrup and mix well.
Using two spoons, spread the nuts one by one on a parchment paper or foil. (Don’t worry if they stick together here and there, they can be separated after they dry completely). Work quickly, as the mixture will set fast.
Allow to cool naturally for about an hour. You will see that the exterior has hardened and developed a matt-finish type coating.
Once cool and dry, you can easily break them into bits and store in an airtight jar.
TIPS & TWEAKS
- Jaggery by nature is an unrefined sugar with the molasses left in. This means there might be impurities in the jaggery and that is why it is important to strain the mixture, to remove any residual stuff.
- Roasting the nuts is an optional step and you can leave it out if you’re pressed for time – but I’d highly recommend it. Especially for walnuts, it helps with the very raw, slightly bitter taste.
- If the nuts don’t dry completely, you probably used excess water in your jaggery syrup. Chuck them in the freezer for an hour, then try removing them. It might help them set better.
- You can also do an entire batch of just almonds alone, or walnuts alone.
- Feel free to try this recipe with peanuts as well, tastes great!