Purim is around the corner, just days away, sneaking up on those of us who aren’t quite so prepared, ready to pounce. This is the holiday when we commemorate the courage of a brave woman – Queen Esther – who risked her life to save her people from the evil plans of an unscrupulous and power-hungry politician in long-ago Persia. To celebrate, we dress up in costume, hold parties, donate to the needy, and exchange gifts of food with friends. You can read more about Purim and the various traditions associated with it here.
The food most often associated with Purim is Hamantashen, those triangular pastries stuffed with an ever-expanding selection of fillings. Poppy seeds are a favourite, as are fruit and chocolate; some filings are even savoury, to be served as a snack rather than a sweet. Last year, I discovered a Persian delight called Nanbrangi.
This year, I wanted to find another less-common treat that still resonated with the holiday. I thought for a while about the story of Purim, and about what foods might be a good fit thematically while still being delicious – always my first requirement. I remembered that in the story, King Ahasuerus is said to reign from Hodu to Kush – from India to Ethiopia. I’ve been known to dabble in Indian food (alright, I’ve been known to make a complete glutton of myself around Indian food), and I sudden realized that I had the perfect recipe already.
We usually make this treat at Chanukah, since it is heavily oil-based, but it’s a treat at any time of the year, and will make a great addition to my baggies of treats that I’ll be giving to friends in a few days time. The name of this treat? Besan Burfee.
Besan WHAT? you ask. Never mind the name, in any language. This might sound like the sort of thing your well-meaning parent made to try to trick you into eating more veggies, but this is a genuine treat! Think rich and yummy and a bit nutty, with those tantalizing flavours of cardamom and pistachio hovering at the edges of your taste-buds, coaxing you, “have another piece, c’mon, just one more.” If you’re still not convinced, think of the mouth-watering temptation of peanut butter fudge, but without the allergy concerns.
This recipe is vegan and gluten-free, and can be made nut-free as well if you leave out the pistachios. But don’t, unless you have to, because they’re part of what makes it so delicious.
The main ingredient is chickpea flour, which used to be tricky to find. These days, in our multi-ethnic cities and with our large supermarkets, its much, much easier to come by. You might find it in the Asian or Indian food aisle, labelled Besan, or you can look for it in areas that cater to the Italian population, where it’s called Farina di Ceci.
A couple of notes:
- You don’t need a food thermometer for this recipe, but it makes it so much easier and prevents burned fingers. These thermometers aren’t expensive (I got mine for about $12 a couple of years ago), and are more useful than you’d imagine.
- I use a silicone cake dish for this recipe. The silicone bends so the squares don’t break when you cut them, and it’s non-stick so the little squares of fudge pop right out without sticking to the pan.
Besan Burfee (Indian Chickpea Fudge)
- 1 ½ cups chickpea flour
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup water
- ½ tsp ground cardamom seeds
- 2 – 3 TBSP unsalted pistachios, lightly crushed (I roast mine lightly, because I prefer the flavour. Your choice.)
Sift the chickpea flour. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and add the chickpea flour. Stir and fry 2 – 3 minutes until it turns a darker shade and tastes fried and not raw. Put into a large bowl, stir once and allow to cool.
Make a syrup with 1 cup water and 2 cups sugar by boiling these together for about 20 minutes, until the syrup reaches the one-thread consistency (put a bit between your finger and thumb and separate them slowly; the syrup should form a single thread between them). If you have a candy thermometer, this is about 230-234F. My preference is 232F, since a lower temperature makes for gooier fudge, and higher makes the fudge a bit crumbly.
Pour the hot syrup into the cooled chickpea mixture. Add the cardamom and nuts and mix well. Keep stirring until the mixture starts to set slightly. Pour into a 9-inch square cake pan, tilt so the mixture flows to the edges, and allow to cool. Cut into small cubes.
This is VERY sweet, so make the cubes small.