Friday, February 7, 2014

Chikki – A Cheeky Crunchy Sweet Bite of Chikki / Peanut Brittle Cooked with Jaggery

This is all about Chikki and nothing Cheeky about it. I am back traversing those childhood days as I prepare this in my kitchen.

Chikki was one of our favourites, I mean for us -- brothers and sisters. Chikki was sometimes cooked at home, that too when we requested our Thakur (cook) to make some. I remember how on holidays we would run from our house to the little shop, closeby, with coins in our fists tightly gripped so that it did not fall out. The little shop was more than 500 yards away from home but in running from here, our home to there, the shop, we would be panting as we reached our destination. It was also sort of running a race in the interest of buying. None of us ever felt tired from the run but got pleasure after buying the stuff and then biting away enjoying the taste of gur (jaggery) and cheena badam (peanuts) balls.

The man who ran the little shop was from Andhra. He was clad in a dhoti and a top like a Phatua (a simple top with short sleeves falling just below the waist line, a very traditional vest, with side pockets). He would be smoking Peenka (special leaves rolled like a cheroot) and talking to us. When we asked for chikki, he would, remove the peenka from his mouth, dip his hands into the water that was kept in a small earthen vessel, wipe it in his gamcha (traditional towel), open the lid of the jar and take out the chikki balls. We would hand over the coins and each one would buy two chikki balls. Once the buying was over, with the chikki’s tucked safely in the fist, we would run back home. It would take hardly 3-4 minutes to do the running, one way. Later on this shopkeeper started selling diamond shaped chikkis. Little did I know then how he made those attractive shapes that looked great.

Peanuts, and a Bangali will tell you, “Oh! You are talking about Cheena badam”, that’s the first expression from a Bengali. It is so nice that Bengalis love their language, their tradition, their style, their food and of course you can hear their loud voices and then you can judge, “Hah! This is a Bengali person or a family.” Being a Bengali I love everything that I have mentioned except speaking loudly in public.

Moving on, my childhood memories don’t stop here. As kids I remember breaking with the teeth the hard outer cover of the peanut, and then rub the nuts in-between the palms to remove the skin and then bite them. I remember masi (aunty) from whom we bought cheena badam. She used to sit a big earthen vessel on her firewood burnt chullah/oven. She put some sand in the vessel and let it absorb the heat for some time. Once the sand was hot she would put huge quantity of cheena badam/ groundnut/peanut. The nuts were with the outer hard cover. It was roasted for some time and she knew when it was done. She used some broomsticks (sticks from the coconut leaves tied together in the middle) and stir the contents continuously. Once it was roasted she pulled out the nuts with the help of the sticks and put them in the huge sieve she had, very traditional one…there was one a bit different in our house to sieve and clean the wheat…, shake the contents so that the sand dropped out of the holes and only the nuts remained. She would weigh and sell her peanuts.

Now-a-days the shells are cracked and only the nuts are available in packets. And it is easy to roast them. You can fry the peanuts in oil. But it is always good to dry roast them. Roast in a kadhai or use the microwave oven to do the work in minutes.

Roasting in microwave oven is easy. Place some in a container. Set the timing for 2 minutes. Then give the nuts a stir, again 2 minutes, another sir and then a minute will do. Work is over in five minutes. But you have to be watchful so that it is not over-roasted. It may take a minute less if the quantity is small.

Coming to my Chikki, all that is needed is Gur /Jaggery and roasted peanuts with their skins removed.

Gur/Jaggery: 250 gms

Peanuts: 200gms

Put the gur in a kadhai, better to use aluminium or iron kadhai. Place the gur and add about 2 tbsp of water.

Once the gur starts melting, stir it with the ladle to mix properly.

Cook the gur to two-thread consistency.

Now throw in the peanuts and mix well for a minute and then switch off the stove.

Pour it out on a plate covered with aluminium foil. It is easy to remove the chikki blocks from the aluminium foil as it does not stick to it.

Cut into diamond shapes when the chikki is still hot. It cools down very quickly and hardens so soon that it is impossible to cut them instead have to break the big block into tiny pieces for savouring.

Taste, eat, enjoy the crunchy bite, share, and in all this your effort is rewarding.

© gouri guha 2014

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