Diwali means time to shop till you drop, to dress up to the hilt, to meet friends and family, to exchange gifts, to light lamps and celebrate. It also means time to gorge on a huge variety of sweets and savouries, not just at your own place but also at your relatives’. The festive season is a time of indulgences and excesses. Bloated tummies and indigestion are common ailments around Diwali season, thanks to consuming a whole lot of oily, rich foods. To counter this, households in Tamil Nadu resort to preparing Diwali Marundhu or Diwali Legiyam, a common home-made herbal concoction.
Making Diwali Marundhu (which literally means ‘Diwali medicine’ in Tamil) is an age-old practice in Tamil Nadu. It is typically made the day before Diwali, using a horde of herbs and roots, cooked with jaggery and ghee. On Diwali day, a little of this herbal ‘medicine’ is consumed on an empty stomach, before the feasting begins. Some households continue to consume spoonfuls of the Diwali Marundhu till the festival season ends. It is also offered to lactating mothers, to keep minor ailments at bay and give them strength.
These days, ready-to-consume Diwali legiyam is available in Tamil Nadu stores, but to me, nothing matches the charm of making it at home. Different families make the legiyam with minor variations of their own, the basic ingredients and technique of cooking remaining more or less the same. Today, I present to you my family recipe for Diwali Marundhu or Diwali Legiyam, the way it has always been prepared by our ancestors.
Ingredients (makes about 1 cup):
For the spice powder:
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds (dhania)
- 1-1/2 tablespoons carom seeds (omam or ajwain)
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds (sombu or saunf)
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns (milagu or kali mirch)
- 1 tablespoon long pepper (rice pepper, arisi thippili or pippali)
- 1 tablespoon long pepper root (kanda thippili or pippali mool)
- A small piece of nutmeg (jathikkai or jayphal)
- A 1-inch piece of greater galangal (alpinia galanga, sittharatthai or kulanjan)
- 2-3 cardamom (elakkai or elaichi)
- 2-3 cloves (krambu or laung)
- 2 teaspoons of poppy seeds (gasa gasa or khus khus)
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder (manjal podi or haldi)
- 2 teaspoons dry ginger powder (sukku podi or saunth)
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds (jeeragam or jeera)
- A 1/2-inch fat piece of cinnamon (pattai or dalchini)
- 2-3 tablespoons of ghee
- 2 cups powdered jaggery
- 2 tablespoons honey
1. Crush the nutmeg, long pepper, long pepper root, cinnamon and greater galangal roughly, using a mortar and pestle. Place these in a pan, along with all other ingredients listed under ‘For the spice powder’. Dry roast all these ingredients on medium heat, till they begin to emit a lovely aroma. Ensure that they do not burn. Transfer the roasted ingredients to a plate and keep aside.
2. Take the jaggery in the same pan, and add in about 2 cups of water. Place on high flame, and cook till the jaggery is entirely dissolved in the water. Stir intermittently. Switch off gas when the jaggery syrup comes to a rolling boil. Keep aside.
3. When all the roasted ingredients have cooled down completely, grind to a powder in a mixer.
4. Strain the jaggery syrup through a fine sieve, to remove any impurities. Add the filtered jaggery syrup back to the same pan, and place on high heat. Allow the syrup to heat up a bit, about a minute.
5. When the jaggery syrup heats up, lower the flame to medium. Add the spice powder we prepared earlier to the pan, stirring constantly, ensuring that no lumps are formed.
6. Cook the mixture on medium flame till it begins to thicken, stirring intermittently. This should take 2-3 minutes.
7. At this stage, add the ghee to the pan. Continue to cook on medium flame, stirring intermittently, till the mixture comes together well and begins to separate from the sides of the pan. This should take another 2 minutes. Switch off the gas when the mixture is still runny, otherwise it will become hard.
8. Mix in the honey at this stage.
9. Allow the mixture to cool down completely before transferring it to a clean, dry, air-tight container. Store at room temperature.
- Obtaining some of these ingredients might be an issue in certain parts of the world. They are easily available in most ‘naatu marundhu‘ (local medicine) shops in Tamilnadu, though, which is where I pick up my stash from. You may even be able to find a few of these ingredients online. I have tried to include the common Tamil and Hindi names of all of the ingredients used here.
- Some families add gingelly oil (nalla ennai) to the Diwali Legiyam, at the time of adding the ghee. We don’t.
- Dried turmeric root can be used in place of turmeric powder.
- Dried ginger can be used in place of dried ginger powder. Here, I have used dried ginger powder from Kitchen D’Lite, of which I was sent a sample to test and review. I loved the freshness and good quality of the product, an honest opinion of mine, not influenced by anything or anyone. For those of you who are interested, Kitchen D’Lite ginger powder is available on Amazon, as are other products by the brand.
- We add honey to the Diwali Legiyam or Diwali Marundhu, because we love the flavour it adds. You may even skip it if you don’t want to.
- If you are not able to procure all of the ingredients this recipe requires, you can make a basic version that skips the exotic ones – nutmeg, long pepper, long pepper root and greater galangal.
- Adjust the quantity of jaggery powder you use, depending upon how sweet you want the Diwali Marundhu to be. The amount of jaggery you will need also depend upon the brand and quality you use. The above measurements work out just perfect for us.
- I add in 2 cups of water in the above recipe because I like my Diwali Marundhu to be runny and not too thick. You may decrease the quantity of water you use, if you would prefer the final product to be thicker in consistency.
- Make sure you do not overcook the Diwali Marundhu. Switch off the gas when it is still runny, as it hardens further on cooling.
- Store the Diwali Marundhu at room temperature. Refrigeration might cause it to crystallise or harden. Use only a clean, air-tight, dry container to store it, and a clean, dry spoon to remove it.
- This Diwali Legiyam is meant to be consumed in small quantities only, say, 1 tablespoon every 2 days or so. Over-consumption is not recommended.
- The consumption of Diwali Marundhu or Diwali Legiyam is not advisable for children below 5 years of age.
This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Detox Recipes’. I couldn’t think of anything that would fit the theme better than this Diwali Marundhu, so here I am! 🙂