As the leaves of summer wither and die on the farm, along with all the plans unfulfilled, Summer and the highs of the Willowbrook Festival seem but a distant memory. Songhoy Blues have left the stage and returned, dancing, to Mali and the Sheep have re-occupied the barn. Momentum caries us inexorably towards winter, through a wet, soggy but mild autumn. Frantically we ensure the essentials of dry wood and fodder are in place. The wood burning boiler is lit and the nights draw in. Summers time may have passed but its fruits (and nuts) are still with us.
On the last summer open day of the year, we welcomed families and groups to our farm, many of whom joined us in the late afternoon, harvesting our hazelnuts. It was a race against time to beat the squirrels which, on balance, I believe the Squirrels won. However our portion was considerable, probably the most we have ever harvested, with the promise of more each year as the orchard matures.
Eating ones own produce, particularly the fruit, veg and nuts, is one of the most satisfying features of farming life. Marking the seasons in your recipes and savouring the gifts of the land. One such delight which I enjoyed today was homemade ‘Gond ke laddu’, made from crushed nuts and powdered gum Arabic, sweetened with raw sugar
Gum Arabic always brings back memories of the many years I spent working in Northern Senegal. In the 90’s I was fortunate enough to have managed a reforestation programme, planting literally millions of Acacia trees, across a broad swathe of the Sahel towards the border with Mali. Working with Fulani nomads, we established village based, plant nurseries and an ambitious planting programme. We also provided assistance in the collection, storage and marketing of the Gum Arabic resin, an important by-product and local income from growing the Acacia trees.
A few bags of the powdered Gum Arabic have remained at the bottom of a draw in my study, looking like bags of cocaine. Used in food in such small quantities, we probably have a few lifetimes supply. So I was pleased to see Ruby had a recipe and even more pleased to taste the results. The result was so rich and so Moorish that you definitely need to ration it. And it is best enjoyed with a cup of chai.
Gond Ke Ladoo are round or sphere shaped, wholesome and nutritious snacks, made with whole chick pea flour, ground coconut, Arabic gum (gond), any types of nuts and seeds and ghee (clarified butter). mainly prepared during winter seasons after fruit and nut harvests. Increasingly popular in the west and known as ‘energy balls’. They are a traditional ‘warming’ food given to mothers after pregnancy.
100g chick pea flour
100g salted butter
200g of jaggery/gur
100gm ground arabic gum
100 g Hazelnuts (or any other nuts)
100 g sunflower seeds
100g dry coconut
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/4 tsp Black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tablespoon cardamon powder
5 ground cloves
Roast nuts and then grind and put to one side
Dissolve jaggery/gur in small amount of water and put to one side
Fry chick pea flour in ghee/butter on medium heat
Add nuts, seeds and keep stirring
Add spices and keep stirring
Add arabic gum and keep stirring
Add the jaggery/gur and keep stirring
Once a well mixed lump, remove and allow to cool a little, then firm into balls, or lay flat in a tray like flapjacks and leave to fully cool.