My love for nutty jaggery Brittles – 2. Kadalai Mittai/Peanut Brittles 3. Dry Fruit Brittles


Smitten by the brittle bug, I continue my jaggery journey with peanuts and dry fruits. If anyone tells you – Kadalai Mittai and Ellu Mittai are one of his or her favourite snacks, waste no time in guessing their age. They must surely be in their late thirties or beyond…. Rarely early thirties…. More certainly, they grew up in a traditional environment with no space for the likes of popular fast food Giants.

Before our children look at us as bizarre creatures from an alien world – who say no to burgers or croissants for snacks, it’s high time we train them to accept the goodness of healthy traditional stuff. If you are already an alien, waste no time. Start immediately. Make them feel comfortable with their snack boxes with no junk. Now, before defining what is junk to our children, I think WE should understand JUNK.

One can’t actually make out what is junk and what is not. Correct me if am wrong…….

Junk can just be that which is craft fully made, temptingly displayed, yet made with UNHEALTHY ingredients.

A good snack or food can be equally craft fully made, temptingly displayed, yet not accepted as it is what your mother served you at home.

This acceptance of home made or even store bought traditional foods, would develop only if we change as a community of parents. Peer pressure seems to be the most common and simple reason for falling into certain traps… especially into the trap laid by fast food Giants . Peer pressure contributes to what children prefer packing to school for snacks and lunch.

With no more thoughts to elaborate, let us start making Kadalai Mittai (peanut brittles) and dry fruit brittle… Anytime healthier than snacks that constitute white flour, white sugar white butter. Brittles are called Chikkies in the northern part of India.

I didn’t want to do separate posts for both brittles… The method being the same and just alteration of nuts, this is a post with dual recipes.

Kadalai Mittai (Peanut Brittles)

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Ingredients

  • kadalai/peanuts – 2 cups
  • vellam/jaggery – 1 1/2 cups
  • water – 1/2 cup
  • chukku podi/dry ginger powder – 2 tsp
  • elakkai podi/cardamom powder- 2 tsp

Dry fruit Mittai (Dry fruit brittles)

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Ingredients

  • combination of almonds, walnuts, cashewnuts, peanuts (one may also include pecan nuts, hazelnuts) – coarsely chopped – 2 cups
  • vellam/jaggery – 1 1/2 cups
  • water – 1/2 cup
  • chukku podi/dry ginger powder – 2 tsp
  • elakkai podi/cardamom powder- 2 tsp

Method of Preparation

  1. Dry roast peanuts and keep aside / Coarsely chop mixed nuts, dry roast them and keep aside.
  2. The procedure is the same for any brittle…
  3. Grease a flat tray
  4. Heat up jaggery and water until jaggery dissolves
  5. Strain the liquid
  6. Boil the jaggery water along with cardamom and dry ginger powder until it reaches hard ball consistency – place a bowl with water and drop the syrup into it. If the syrup doesn’t melt and turns to a harder ball, that’s right for making brittles
  7. Switch off stove, mix the roasted peanuts and spread on greased tray.
  8. Make slices while hot with a greased sharp knife
  9. Break the pieces when cold.
  10. Store in air tight containers.

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Note:

  1. If one is unable to cut perfect bars, just break the brittles into random pieces… The crispy bars are what you want.
  2. If one hasn’t got the right consistency, if the brittles are chewy…no worries they are equally good while sticky
  3. If they turned out harder…. they taste like toffees, first suck the jaggery juice and then eat the peanuts.

Come along, Life is all about positivity.

My love for nutty jaggery brittles- 1. Ellu Mittai/Sesame Seed Brittles

Brittle is a type of confection consisting of flat broken pieces of hard sugar candy embedded with nuts such as pecans, almonds, or peanuts.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brittle_(food)

 As per the above definition, normal brittles are made with sugar and water, mostly white sugar. 

Traditional indian brittles are made with jaggery. Hence, are a combination of health and taste. Kadalai urundai (peanut jaggery balls)/ ellu urundai (sesame jaggery balls)/ pori urundai (puffed rice balls)/ pottukadalai urundai (roasted bengalgram balls) are common combinations made with  jaggery syrup brought down to hard ball consistency.

Urundais are sweet balls, but the less time consuming version is the Mittai – Brittles. Kadalai Mittai and Ellu Mittai are squared brittles. When was the word ‘Mittai’ included in Tamil vocabulary is a matter for research.  Before the concept of urundais or sweet balls came into making, the kitchen guardians must have powdered the nut and jaggery in the ural -mortar and enjoyed the marriage of sweet-nutty flavour.

Making sweet balls or bars involve perfect string consistency of jaggery syrup. After continuous efforts, off-late my nut brittles are almost good. Before I got the right consistency to harden the syrup to be perfectly crispy , we used to munch chewy candies. The sticky  chewy candies were equally a joyous endeavour in the mouth…. reluctant to leave the teeth. 

I shall be ever grateful to my daughter and husband, who never hesitated to pull the chewy candy from teeth to tongue. It is because of their patience, that I have reached this stage, making crispy brittles.

For the recipe, as usual, chukku podi/dry ginger powder for easy digestion and elakkai podi/cardamom powder for flavour have been added.

These are a few brittles that I’ve tried …

  • Ellu Mittai/Sesame Brittle
  • Kadalai Mittai/Peanut Brittle
  • Dry fruit Mittai/Brittle

Let’s handle them one by one.

Ellu Mittai/Sesame Seed Brittle

Ingredients

  • ellu/sesame Seeds – 1 cup
  • vellam/jaggery – 3/4 cup
  • thanneer/water – 1/4 cup
  • chukku podi/dry ginger powder – 1 tsp
  • elakkai podi/cardamom powder – 1 tsp

Method of Preparation

  1. I used white sesame seeds. Dry roast sesame seeds until golden brown and crispy
  2. Grease a plate for spreading the done mixture later
  3. Heat a pan, and let jaggery melt in water
  4. Strain the jaggery water in a clean hard bottomed pan.
  5. Add dry ginger powder and cardamom powder. Let it boil
  6. When the syrup reaches hard ball consistency – when you drop a little syrup in cold water, it should form a hard ball – switch off stove and add the roasted sesame seeds
  7. Mix well and immediately spread on the greased plate
  8. Level the presently sticky mixture and cut into squares with a sharp knife. 
  9. Remove pieces once it is cooled.
  10. Store in air tight container and relish the goodness of ths healthy brittle.

The Good Fat Black Ball

Whatever the title makes you comprehend, I am here to clarify. 

Nowadays we hear people say – ’40 is the new 20′. Times are changing and we seem to ‘age’ slower with advanced medical facilities, anti-aging feel-good slogans and social media messages.  In contrast, children less than 15 are falling prey to life style diseases, which used to be post-middle age illnesses.

The classification as middle age illness or old age disease doesn’t hold good anymore. Anyone gets it anytime. While 40 seems to look like the new 20…. is 20 the new 40?? Kind of role reversal here? The reasons for this contrast may be varied. But, as a food blogger and believer in providing healthy food to the family, my focus is on a few factors- primary being  ‘Choice of Foods and Ingredients’.

We all seem to be living in ‘DANGER ZONE’ amidst junk food outlets and super markets  with evil jaws inviting us into the harsh and tragic world of dangerous health hazards.  Making better choices is something written and preached about for a long time. It is not enough if we just understood better choices – but its high time  ‘making right choices’ an important part of our life style.

With ‘making right choices’ comes the most important ingredient of our culinary indulgences – ‘FAT’. Everyone is talking about Good Fat and Bad Fat – understanding FAT has become an essential element in averting several health related disasters.

While our diet needs to be balanced with all necessary components, why say NO to Fats? 

A few of the noticeable consequences of ‘Say No to Fats’ theory, according to me are-

  • Margarine replaced Butter
  • Refined oils that boast to protect your heart replaced Cold pressed Oils 
  • Low fat fruit yoghurts (the added sugar went unnoticed) replaced Plain Natural home made Yoghurt 
  • Canned/bottled Fresh juices most of which hide the added sugar replaced Fresh fruits
  • Diet drinks with added Aspartame and Aerated drinks replaced freshly squeezed juices
  • Brown bread in varied Avatars (whole meal, multi grain etc. ) with very little reduction of white flour replaced white bread which itself substituted indigenous grains decades ago

These are only a few to be named… the list is longer.

Unknowingly, we as a whole generation have fallen prey to many misconceptions and unclear theories. While I am neither a dietician nor a physician to guide my readers, I only know for sure that Not all Fats are Bad. It is quintessesntial to understand the differences between Good Fat and Bad Fat. 

I am not attempting to write a post of Good Fats and Bad Fats… internet is bloated up with information on this. Please read those carefully. Nor am I trying to justify indulging in sweets. This is a humble post to encourage using better ingredients for indulgence too.

Now, understanding Good Fats and Bad Fats would let us make Right Choices. Making Right Choices is the Core.  This by itself would bring in a huge Positive Life Style Change.

As sweets/desserts are major contributors to Fat, I chose to introduce this Urundai/Sweet Ball with better choice of ingredients.

When it comes to desserts, I have realised, traditional sweets of any culture with the choicest of unrefined ingredients, eaten in moderation cannot be hazardous.  If your physician has adviced you to stop any kinds of sugar, then this recipe is not for you, but the post is for everyone aiming at a healthy life style.

So, for the benefit of all sweet toothed members of the household, in consideration of the FAT intake of my family, I say NO to these –

  • white sugar
  • white flour
  • margarine

and replace with unrefined cane sugar, jaggery, mollases or palm sugar;  substitute white flour with milled wheat flour and use clarified butter, which is medicinal instead of margarine.

I cut down my Bad Fats  and  include Good Fats such as nuts and oily seeds. These are simple changes made to bring out different nutritious combinations. 

Atlast, I have arrived at the reason for naming the Sweet Ball that I made for Deepavali. The GOOD FAT BLACK BALL has ingredients with Poly unsaturated Fats – Sesame seeds and Flax Seeds – which are Good Fats. White sugar has been replaced with unrefined cane sugar.  Very little clarified butter has been used for binding them into urundai. Cardamom powder for flavour and dry ginger powder for digestion. 

Benefits of the ingredients

Aalli Vidhai/Flax Seeds

Omega-3 essential fatty acids, “good” fats that have been shown to have heart-healthy effects. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s. Lignans, which have both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities. Flaxseed contains 75 to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods. https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/benefits-of-flaxseed#1

Ellu/Sesame Seeds

Not only are sesame seeds an excellent source of copper and a very good source of manganese, but they are also a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, molybdenum, selenium, and dietary fiber. In addition to these important nutrients, sesame seeds contain two unique substances: sesamin and sesamolin. Both of these substances belong to a group of special beneficial fibers called lignans, and have been shown to have a cholesterol-lowering effect in humans, and to prevent high blood pressure and increase vitamin E supplies in animals. Sesamin has also been found to protect the liver from oxidative damage. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=84

Naattu Sarkkarai/ unrefined cane sugar/powdered jaggery

It activates the digestive enzymes in our body, thus helps in proper digestion of food.  It acts as a detox, as it helps cleanse the liver by flushing out nasty toxins from the body. Jaggery is loaded with antioxidants and minerals like zinc and selenium, which help prevent free-radicals (responsible for early ageing). It helps boost resistance against infections, hence building stronger immunity.  
www.indiatoday.in/benefits-of-eating-jaggery


This is certainly a guilt free sweet. Please have in moderation.

THE GOOD FAT BLACK BALL

Ingredients (makes 22-25 urundais)

  • ellu/sesame seeds – 100 gms – 1 cup
  • aalli vidhai/flax seeds – 100 gms – 1cup
  • naattu sarkkarai/unrefined cane sugar – 50 gms
  • nei/clarified butter – 2 tsp
  • elakkai podi/cardamom powder – 1 tsp
  • chukka podi/dry ginger powder –  1 tsp

Method of Preparation

  1. Dry roast sesame seeds and flax seeds separately till crispy

2. Cool both and blend well  with cane sugar, cardamom and dry ginger powder into a fine powder

3. Transfer into a bowl

4. The oil in both the seeds would make the powder greasy. That is why, very little clarified butter is used to bind

5. Heat clarified butter and pour inside the blended powder

6. Make medium sized balls 

7. Store in air tight container. It lasted well for over two weeks.

8. I preferred using black sesame seeds, but white sesame was available at home. Use as per preference. 

 

Karumbu Chaaru/Sugarcane Juice in a Trendy Outlet in Chennai


  

On a hot summer day, quenching the thirst with colas in different colours and flavours, or go for sugar filled so-called fruit juices may be the choice of sophistication. Whether that’s really a healthy option seems to be incomprehensible for most of us. The shops filled with bottles and television channels clogged with cool drink advertisements are not enough proofs. But the sale of packed juices and hands of citizens of all ages with these cool stuff, stand proof to our degenerating health ambitions.

Why don’t we stop being carried away by false advertisements? Why don’t we monitor our food choices more strictly? The magnetic pull of the beautifully arranged cans/bottles/tins is so hard to resist… that our shelves and refrigerators are storehouses of junk bombs.

It is no doubt, eating fresh fruits or drinking fresh fruit juices are better options than storing canned juices. So, during my stay in Chennai, when I came across this trendy little outlet called CANE4U with catchy captions on natural sugarcane juice, I couldn’t resist peeping in.

Who wouldn’t like Karumbu Chaaru – Sugarcane Juice…. one of nature’s best juices and a source of world’s favourite sugar??
  

  

Come along .. let me take you in.

The shop had enough space to seat 12 people. The interiors were filled with information on health benefits of sugarcane. And the list of sugarcane juice combinations with other fresh juices was an innovative option.
  

various combinations with sugarcane offered

  

and mocktails

  

The juice extracting machine is almost as huge as a room .

stored sugarcane is stored in a corner-

  

Now, to clean, fresh juice- step by step…

  1. fresh cane is sent in-


  

2. squeezed fresh juice is dispensed-


  
3. and after extraction-


  

4. ready for take away.   You can also take your own container and fill your favourite combination.


  

They have several branches in Tamilnadu-

Cool isn’t it!!

Kariveppilai Yennai/Traditional Hair Oil with Curry Leaves

 

Kariveppilai is the Tamil name for Curry leaves. It roughly translates as neem leaf used in curries –  Kari+Veppilai – Veppilai is Neem Leaf. It looks almost like neem leaf, but doesn’t carry the bitterness of neem. The wonderful aroma of the curry leaf when fried, makes it a great agent for seasoning in many dishes. Having known the medicinal effects and health benefits this exceptional tree possesses, the Tamils have been including the curry leaf in varied usages.

  

    

They are considered to have anti-diabetic, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and hepatoprotective (capability to protect the liver from damage) properties. The roots are used for treating body aches and the bark is used for snake bite relief.

The main nutrients found in curry leaves are carbohydrates, energy, fiber, calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, copper, and minerals. [1] It also contains various vitamins like nicotinic acid and vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin E, antioxidants, plant sterols, amino acids, glycosides, and flavonoids. Also, nearly zero fat (0.1 g per 100 g) is found in them.

https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/herbs-and-spices/health-benefits-of-curry-leaves.html

    

Apart from these scientific facts, the main benefits that home makers for generations have been telling their off springs are-

kariveppilai/curry leaf is-

  •  good for eyes
  • good for digestion
  • important in maintaining darker hair colour
  • a natural coolant

  
When we used to leave aside the fried curry leaf from the chutney, from the sambar, from the kuzhambu/curries on our plates, amma would scold us to chew and finish it off. We would reluctantly do it or sometimes quarrel and throw it away. Then she would secretly add the leaves -powdered- in many dishes… we would unknowingly consume it.  Now, as a mother, I am scolding my daughter to wipe the plate clean chewing all extra curry leaves, and am also trying to inculcate the valued curry leaves in many dishes, without my child’s attention. No fault here with the curry leaf, but some genetic disorder of setting aside chewable things from blended dips.

    

Curry leaves are herbs that are known to have essential nutrients that help in conditions like weight loss, blood pressure, indigestion, anaemia, diabetes, acne, hair loss, et al. These aromatic leaves, also known as kadi patta, have nutrients like copper, calcium, phosphorus, fibre, carbohydrates, energy, magnesium and iron. They also possess many types of vitamins like vitamins A, B, C and E and amino acids beneficial for health. 

https://www.ndtv.com/food/curry-leaves-benefits-use-kadi-patta-for-your-health-beauty-and-hair-1861407

    

  
The specific usage of the curry leaf in preparing Hair Oil is the topic of this post. Curry Leaf Oil is a great coolant for the hot climate of the southern part of India, especially Tamilnadu. It also tackles early greying of hair and aids in hair growth – whether applied as oil or consumed in various dishes. 

I have used kariveppilai yennai when young and still see appa (father) use it. We also make fun of his moustache having turned grey sooner than his hair, thanks to the kariveppilai yennai/ curry leaf oil. The aroma of curry leaves slowly cooked in coconut oil for the purpose of black, thick hair, takes me to my childhood.

  

fresh and dried leaves

  
Original curry leaf oil is made in a more refined/step-by-step process-

Curry leaves are blended with very little water – in those days made into a paste with ammi – roller stone

  1. They are then flattened into thin round cookies – approximately 1 1/2 to 2 inches diameter, on a muslin cloth or plastic sheet
  2. These are sun-dried for days until the ground curry leaf sheets come out of the cloth, completely dried
  3. These dried thins are slow cooked in coconut oil, until the colour and aroma of the curry leaf is completely extracted
  4. This is done when the oil stops to splutter or approximately 30 minutes of slow cooking
  5. Extra curry leaf thins/sheets are stored for next oil preparation
  6. The same is done with marudhani/henna while making henna oil.

  
Here, I have not followed the same procedure. I took the short cut method of sun drying kariveppilai directly and slow cooked in oil. There is no compromise in the quality of oil, in comparison to the previous traditional technique – the aroma and colour seems to be the same.  While using the curry leaf thins/sheets, they would settle down in the bottom of the bottle and leave a clear residue on top, but here- the dried curry leaves occupy more space in the bottle and yet, the oil on top is a clear residue. Later, when the oil is mixed too much with the leaves, one can filter and use.
  

Kariveppilaii Yennai/ Hair Oil with Curry Leaves


  

Ingredients

  • good quality pure coconut oil – 1 litre
  • dried curry leaves – appr. 6 cups

  
Method of Preparation
  

Sun dried curry leaves

  1. Pluck curry leaves from tree/plant or buy enough from the vendor
  2. De-stem leaves and wash very well
  3. Spread on a clean cloth and pat dry

  


  

4. Place the cloth in a sunny area and dry well in the sun – might take  few days to completely dry without moisture



  
5. Once the leaves are dried, they are ready to be used in the oil.

  
Making the Oil

  1. In a wide pan, pour pure coconut oil – see label for aromatic ingredients, other oils which might have been mixed with coconut oil. We need only 100% coconut oil – preferably cold-pressed. Most branded coconut oils are refined, can’t help.. proceed.
  2. Measure 6 cups dried curry leaves and mix in the oil, before it turns hot. If dried leaves are added after oil is heated up, the leaves would be fried and  would give out a burnt smell. Hence, drop the leaves in, while the temperature of oil is normal.

  

  

3. Once the oil starts to heat up, simmer the stove and let the leaves cook in oil for about 30 minutes, till the colour of oil starts to darken.

  

a little later – darker oil

  
4. Switch off and let the oil cool.
  

5. Store oil with curry leaves in a bottle and use everyday.


  

Cool Summer Drink – Pudhina Paanagam : Lemon and Mint with Jaggery

  
Pudhina Paanagam is a subtle variant to Paanagam – lemon jaggery juice and Pudhina Kulir chaaru – Mint Cooler.

Paanagam is a combination of lemon and jaggery water and is an acidity regulator. Hence, it is a preferred drink during fasts. It soothes the stomach and cools the system.

Pudhina Kulir Chaaru or Mint Cooler is basically extracting the flavor of mint in boiling hot water, not blending in a mixer. The previous recipe has sugar in it.

Here, in Pudhina Paanagam, I blended fresh mint leaves in lemon-jaggery juice. This has the soothing effect of lime and jaggery, packed with freshness of blended mint leaves. The colour is pleasingly green and the strong flavour of mint hits your palate to travel in and cool the tummy.

I avoided the usual cardamom in Paanagam as it might clash with the mint flavour. Chukku Podi/Dry ginger powder is added for easy digestion.

  

Pudhina Paanagam/Fresh Mint-Lemon-Jaggery Coolant

  
Ingredients (serves approximately three)

  • juice of 5 lemons (medium sized)
  • filtered jaggery water – preferred sweetness
  • fresh mint leaves – destemmed – (1/2 cup for each glass of juice) – appr. 1 1/2 cups
  • chukku podi/dry ginger powder – 3/4 tsp
  • additional water – as required

  
Method of Preparation

  

Jaggery Syrup

  1. I would recommend making jaggery syrup at home, filter and store for various purposes. This is one way, we might avoid depending upon crystal sugar for immediate usages.
  2. Heat jaggery in water in sim flame until it completely dissolves. Strain and then boil for 5 minutes… it would be neither syrupy nor watery.
  3. Cool and store in fridge.

  
Paanagam

  1. Mix juice of lemons and mix the jaggery syrup. The quantity of syrup is per one’s sweet preference
  2. Add dry ginger powder

  
Pudhina Paanagam

  1. Clean and de-stem mint leaves
  2. Wash well and blend together with lemon, jaggery syrup and dry ginger powder
  3. Add enough water to make 3 glasses of juice
  4. Strain and drink. If one prefers without straining , that’s perfect too.

  

Say ‘NO’ to refined – white sugar! – Candied Walnuts with Jaggery

  

Caramel seems to be omnipresent…. be it chocolates, ice creams, milk shakes, macchiatos, puddings, cappuccinos, cakes, frostings and the list is endless. If not a weight watcher, I am certainly a health watcher. When craving (especially to indulge in sweets) takes a huge leap, I try to substitute with my favourite unrefined forms of sugar. My immediate choice is palm or sugarcane jaggery which involves dissolving and filtering from scratch. The next in line to make Urundai/Sweet Balls, I prefer raw unrefined palm or cane sugar for direct usage.

When we went to dine in this beautiful restaurant, the dessert served was vanilla ice cream with caramelized/candied walnuts. The hot, gooey, a touch of bittery sweetness in the caramel that coated crispy walnuts was truly awesome. After a while when the caramel coat hardened a bit, it was a wonderful crispy cracker. Though I relished the taste of it, the guilt of having something with white sugar hit me hard, as usual.

Hence came this recipe. I substituted jaggery with sugar. The kadalai mittai- peanut crackers, ellu mittai- sesame crackers, pori urundai- puffed rice crackers…. all native sweets of Tamilnadu, made with jaggery syrup caramelized to perfection – for the crunchy bite came to my mind. When we could make caramel popcorn with jaggery syrup, why not caramel walnuts? Yes we can. There is no butter or clarified butter to add extra calories.

  

Candied Walnuts (with jaggery syrup)
 

coated well


  

Ingredients

  • walnuts – 2 cups
  • vellam/jaggery – 1 cup grated
  • water – 1/2 cup
  • elakkai podi/cardamom powder – 1 tsp
  • chukka podi/dry ginger powder – 1 tsp

  
Method of Preparation

  

  

  1. Dry roast walnuts until crisp –
  • Preheat oven at 350°F. Place walnuts on butter paper/cookie sheet.
  • Bake for appr. 10 minutes- couple of minutes more or less . Do keep checking frequently.

  

2. to caramelize jaggery

  • On a stove, dissolve 1 cup jaggery in 1/2 cup water
  • After jaggery has dissolved completely, strain for impurities
  • Take a hard bottomed chatti/pan, pour the filtered jaggery water
  • Add cardamom powder and dry ginger powder- cardamom for flavour and dry ginger for quick digestion
  • Let it boil until syrup consistency is reached
  • Once the liquid becomes syrupy, simmer the stove and wait for the required three string consistency or hard ball stage.

  

3. Hard Ball stage in syrup

(courtesy: http://www.sanjeevkapoor.com)
  

4. Next step is a quick and swift one – otherwise the syrup consistency would turn disastrous.

5. When the syrup is perfect hard ball consistency, drop quickly the roasted walnuts and mix well until every walnut is coated perfectly.

6. Spread on a greased plate.

7. When the walnuts are cool, they would be crisp. Store in an air tight container. They taste awesome when hot too.
  

bird’s nest with caramelized jaggery