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Foxtail Millet Adhirasam dessert

A traditional Deepavali sweet.

This traditional sweet that would make its way joyously from hand to hand and from household to household on the festival of Deepavali was originally made from Thinai (Foxtail Millet) flour.As millets were grown on a small scale, in villages throughout Tamil Nadu, foxtail millet was a staple and readily available and so was traditionally used to make these sweets.

Foxtail Millet Adhirasam dessert

Nowadays it is a general belief that Adhirasam must be made with rice flour – this misconception exemplifies how culture has been eroded by industrialization and as such by the “Green Revolution”. It also harks at the loss of crucial elements of a deep nutritional heritage, in the manner in which some plants have all but disappeared from our diets. And if one would ask how such losses have occurred? The answer may be apparent in the incongruence between the natural evolution of biological diversity and the rigid standardisation of modern machinery – dehusking millets in general with machinery has often been a technological challenge.

Foxtail Millet Adhirasam dessert

The industrialization of agriculture and food production has also led to a disengagement of people from the stories behind their foods. We become dependent on commerce for our food, and on subsistence that can be purchased en masse. And in this manner the stories of where our foods come from gradually disappear from our consciousness.

Foxtail Millet Adhirasam dessert

Here is how it is made:

  • Wash, then soak for 2 hours 1 cup of whole Thinai. Drain and spread on a cloth to dry. When still slightly damp, grind along with 1 pod of Cardamom (freshly ground, slightly coarse flour is preferred for this preparation). Transfer the flour to a bowl and press down tightly, then cover with a cloth.
  • Put ¾ cup of chopped Jaggery in a thick-bottomed saucepan (dark coloured block Jaggery is preferred). Add ¼ cup of water, mix well and boil till syrupy in consistency (it will initially appear watery and foamy, boil it until it is thick and stringy when ladelled). Turn the heat off, mix in 1 teaspoon of Gingelly oil well.
  • To the warm Jaggery syrup, spoon in the prepped Thinai flour gradually while mixing all along. Transfer the dough to a bowl, divide into equal lemon sized balls. Grease a banana leaf with oil, place a dough ball on it and pat into a flat disc about ½ – ¾ centimeter thick.
  • Heat oil for frying in a wok. When hot, take a tiny piece of dough, squeeze between your fingers and drop it in the oil. The oil temperature is correct if it slowly rises to the top. Reduce heat completely and slip in the Adhirasam, when it rises again to the top, flip to cook the other side.
  • Drain and place on a plate, then press down with the bottom of a bowl to release the excess oil which can be poured back into the wok.
  • Thinai Adhirasam can keep for up to two weeks at room temperature.
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