I have lamented before that Indian festivals just don't seem the same here. It is simply not in the air, and not around you in a noticeable way. Makar Sankrant becomes just another day, something we see on our Kalnirnay, and then do nothing about it. I recall a time when 'sesame candies' used to appear in desi shops in January, and we would buy those for our token Sankrant celebration, but things have evolved now to a point where I can buy real marathi style tilgul ladoos, as well as revdis and gajak.
This year however, I had finally planned to make tiLAchyA waDyA at home, in part because of the festive spirit on the Indian blogs and in part because I had some time. I dug out the recipe that I had got from my mother years ago, but held back with trepidation because it involved making pakka pak, or sugar syrup that forms into a ball when dropped into water. Making syrups like this, with various 'string consistencies' attached to them, which is a staple of Indian sweets is something that has always daunted me, but these tiLwaDis were a huge favorite of mine, so I braced forth, and they turned out pretty good! While the Tilgul ladoos made of sesame seeds, peanuts, and jaggery were more traditional for exchanging with relatives and friends, and hence evoke more nostalgia, I always preferred the tiLwadis over them. They were also never made at our place at any time other than Makar Sankrant, making them even more precious and special. Another plus in their favor is that no one can make jokes about having to crack them with a hammer!
tiLAchyA vaDyA (tiLvaDyA)
Yields about 20-25 small squares
1 cup of regular (white) sesame seeds
1 teaspoon ghee
1 cup sugar
4 pods of green cardamom
Pick over the sesame seeds, and roast them in a deep skillet or kadhai over gentle heat for a few minutes minutes, just until they start to change color. Do not get them too brown.
Grease a small cookie sheet with ghee.
When the sesame seeds are cool enough to handle, powder these in a food processor or dry grinder.
In a saucepan, heat 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar and bring it to a boil. Let it thicken. Keep aside a small bowl of water.
While the syrup cooks, peel the cardamom and finely powder the seeds in a mortar and pestle.
To check if the sugar syrup is done, add a drop of it to the small bowl of water. If it holds itself into a shiny ball, it is done. Switch off the heat immediately, and add the powdered cardamom powder and sesame seeds to it, stir quickly to mix, and spread it into the prepared cookie sheet using a spatula, starting in the middle of the sheet.
Immediately, while the mixture is still hot, mark lines into it with a knife for the wadis, and separate the wadis when completely cooled.
Related: A primer on the concept of maharashtrian style wadis.