Besan Laddhu

This is a simple and delicious fudge-like Indian sweet made from chickpea flour. Tirupati, a huge Krishna temple in southern India famously makes up to 300,000 laddhu sweet balls per day to be sold to visitors and pilgrims. This however is my mum’s recipe, which she makes in large batches at the temple she lives near in France. One summer we sat and packed the 1200 laddhu she had made into 300 little plastic bags for the visitors who would come to the temple for a big festival in August. She used 12.5kg of chickpea flour, 12.5kg of butter and 10kg of icing sugar to make twenty five trays’ worth. Not quite Tirupati quantities, but still a lot of laddhu…

This sweet is gluten free and can easily be made vegan. It also works really well with coconut sugar, which has a lovely rich, caramel-like flavour, Just blitz the coconut sugar up in a coffee grinder and use in place of icing sugar. If you want to adjust the recipe to make larger or smaller quantities, use equal parts of chickpea flour and butter with 4/5ths of this quantity of icing sugar. You can also add toasted walnuts or hazelnuts although the Tirupati laddhu is made with cardamom and dried fruit.

Makes fifteen squares of laddhu

250g chickpea flour

250g ghee, butter or vegan margarine

200g icing sugar

  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan or frying pan. It should be deep enough for you to stir the mixture without flicking it everywhere.
  2. Add the chickpea flour and stir over a medium heat. It should have a loose, sand-like consistency. I stirred the mixture over the heat for about fifteen minutes until I got impatient and turned up the heat. You want the mixture to turn a nice shade of brown – just keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn.
  3. Once nicely brown, add the icing sugar to the frying pan and stir the mixture, making sure to work out any lumps of icing sugar. You can leave the mixture to cool until you can comfortably handle it and then roll it into balls, as is traditional.
  4. Alternatively, you can go for the quicker option of cutting it into squares, or diamond shapes which invariably look more attractive. (They also look nicer if you make them thicker but I made mine relatively thin to make them go further to feed more people.) Line a standard baking sheet with baking paper and pour the laddhu out towards one end of the tray, taking care with the hot mix. Spread the mixture out over half the tray, making sure to create a tidy edge before leaving to cool.
  1. Once it has firmed up a little, divide it into fifteen squares with a knife – this will make it much easier to cut once completely cool. It will keep well in an airtight container, but is best kept cool to prevent the butter from melting.