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Reliving old family traditons and not so new Panfusine recipes - Lehiyam truffles




Seems like like just yesterday, when I was on the phone with my cousin Uma from Ohio and this seemingly scatterbrained idea came to my head of making a 'different' set of Diwali goodies. and just as a semi tipsy individual is bound to let loose a string of nonsensical ideas, there I was, doing something similar, thanks to the giddy euphoria that only a newbie blogger can possess. 'Lavender Badam Halwa, Lehiyam, no wait, Let me make that Lehiyam truffles' shot off my motor mouthed brain,  with little thought given to whether it was even possible.. But then, those very random thoughts are the kernels of what have turned out to be some of my favorite recipes that have become a part of my annual Diwali Tradition.

Diwali is the jewel in the crown of all Indian Festivals, literally, the festival of lights, It signifies the return of Ram, the Prince of Ayodhya to claim his rightful place as king after defeating the demon King of Lanka, Ravana, who had abducted Sita, Rama's wife. Homes are scrubbed clean, (as mine was today), illuminated with Candles and strings of lights. The Goddess of wealth Lakshmi is welcomed into homes (which is why there is a tradition of gambling in Northern India, a way of winning over lady luck).

When the rest of the population was living it up at all night Diwali parties, we'd wake up @ 4.30 a.m, dutifully have the traditional oil bath, wear new clothes & march off to the temple as the first rays of the sun hit!. And upon returning with the Lords blessing, (or if you were a borderline heretic like me, 'scope out' & 'roll eyes' @ the prevailing sartorial trend amongst the faithful), tuck into a cornucopia of indulgent, decadent treats, made at home. (the store bought stuff was for those who did not have the 'culinary skills'!). 

No South Indian Tam Brahm Diwali is complete without the quintessential Lehiyam or 'Marundhu' (literally translates as medicine). A thick pasty tonic whipped up with essential spices powdered and cooked down to a paste with Jaggery (Panela) and a touch of ghee. The spices themselves are of the healing variety, Ginger, known for its tummy calming characteristics is the key ingredient. Families have their own recipes. My mother's recipe was one of the simpler ones, with just four spices, Cumin, Coriander, Pepper and its antiquated cousin, the long pepper (Thippili). 


AS much as it was meant to be an antidote for all those deep fried Diwali goodies, in reality, the Lehiyam was the first item to get polished off. Maybe because it was made in smaller quantities compared to the rest of the other goodies, the chaklies. murukku, Mixture / chivda and the sweets -  the halwas and burfees and Gulab Jamuns. These were made in industrial amounts to be shared with all the neighbors, friends & family.

My first attempt at making these lehiyam truffles was such a spot on hit, that I knew it would be a part of my Diwali traditions from that year onward. But even as it cemented its position on the cornucopia of Diwali treats, the composition gradually evolved. In 2010, I was content to pick up a bar of Ghirardelli and melt it down to dip the lehiyam, but now, 4 years later, I find myself poring over the shelves of specialty groceries to pick out chocolate with just the right percentage of cocoa. and none of that fake vanillin flavor and palm/coconut oil added. And yes, the effort is well worth it.

Here's wishing you, all my precious readers a wonderful festival of lights, and best wishes for a prosperous year ahead. May Lady Luck follow the lights at your front door and come home to roost.




Sinfully Divine Lehiyam Truffles:

You need:

For the Lehiyam:

  • 1 tablespoon Coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 4-5 long pepper (piper longum)
  • 4-5 black peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup tender fresh ginger root, ground to a fine paste
  • 1/3 cup jaggery or sticky muscovado sugar
  • 1 tablespoon clarified butter (ghee)

For the truffles:
  • 2 bar 64 % Guittard's semisweet chocolate (A full pack has 3 bars, I used 2)
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Guittards cocoa powder for dusting
  • crystals of sea salt  for decorating





Using a coffee grinder, make a fine powder of the coriander, cumin & the 2 varieties of pepper. Sift using a fine strainer to remove any gritty pieces of spice.


Add the spice powder to the ginger root paste & combine well. I'll emphasize the 'tender' part here. Mature ginger stems have a much sharper and stronger flavor and tend to be fibrous which does not work well with the texture needed for a truffle.

Crush the Jaggery into a powder, or into really tiny bits. (if the jaggery is soft enough, you could even grate it using a box grater). In a skillet, heat the jaggery or sugar over medium heat till it melts and forms a brown color syrup. Alternatively place in a pyrex measuring cup & 'nuke' in the microwave for ~ 30 s and then transfer into a pan. Heat it until it begins to bubble. Add the spice paste & the ghee. mix well.



Cook over low to medium heat till the moisture has evaporated & the mixture resembles a thick paste. ( the ghee begins to start oozing out of the paste). Just take care to ensure that the sugar or jaggery does not start caramelizing, which results in a toffee like consistency. Remove from stove & set aside to cool completely. Refrigerate till ready to use. (Of course ,you could just eat it all up at this point!). The 'lehiyam' keeps well for upto a month in a covered container.


Using a 1/2 tsp measuring spoon, scoop out the lehiyam and roll into smooth little marbles. Freeze to harden these.


Melt the chocolate & heavy cream in a double boiler till it forms a smooth mixture.


Keeping the chocolate mixture warm & flowing, dip the 'lehiyam' spheres into the chocolate to coat them evenly. Place on a piece of parchment paper to firm up (you could refrigerate them for about 15 minutes).

In a bowl sift in the cocoa powder, making sure that there are no lumps. 


Drop the chocolate covered lehiyam truffles into the cocoa and swirl around to coat evenly. remove and gently place into paper cups.



Place a pinch of a finishing salt on the top of the truffle, I find a  mild chili or citrus salt best complements the flavor of the ginger in the lehiyam. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days (They tend to disappear fast, so I've no long term data on their shelf life!)





Again, here's wishing every one of my readers a wonderful, prosperous year ahead.
Bon Appetit!




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