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As winter sets in, people in north India turn to savoury dishes and sweets that can keep them warm. The market at this time is flooded with sweets made from jaggery and sesame
Food: Open sesame
Author(s): D J Narain
The til can enhance the nutritional value and flavour of many dishes
Sesame seeds, known as til in North India, come from Sesamum indicum -- a plant belonging to pedaliaceae (the unicorn plant family). Sesame seeds are thought to be one of the oldest condiments known to humans, and S indicum is most likely the first crop grown for edible oil. Its first written record dates back to 3000 bc. As per Assyrian mythology, sesame's origin goes back even further: the gods imbibed sesame seed wine the night before they created the Earth. What's more, sesame played an important role in the famous tale Ali Baba and forty thieves: the phrase "open sesame" was the password to open the thieves' cave. This reference is perhaps attributable to the fact that ripe sesame seeds burst from their pods with a sharp pop.
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Jaggery made using time-tested method is more wholesome
THE temptation to pick up one of the golden clumps of gur (jaggery) seemed overwhelming as we walked around Asia's largest gur market. But Pramod Kumar Jain, our companion, urged restraint. "Do not pick this up. I will get you the real thing," he said. Jain is a gur dealer at Naveen Mandi Sthal in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh. We were at his work area trying to find out the traditional method of making gur--the real thing. The light golden clumps lying enticingly in the shops were not actually the ones we had come seeking, Jain told us. However, it's this variety which does brisk business at Asia's largest wholesale gur market. Chemicals are added to it to make it more attractive. This gur can also be stored for long periods.
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