Mama’s Punjabi Recipes – Besan di Pinniya (Gram Flour Sweet Balls)


Pinniya are extremely popular in the Punjab during the cold weather months. It is very common to see people having one or two with their hot tea on a cold morning, or again with late afternoon tea. The ingredients in the pinniyas – sugar, oil, flour and nuts – provide a quick boost of energy in the cold weather.
Pinniya are also known as laddus in other parts of India, but the main difference is that pinnis are made of coarse flour, are harder and are much bigger in size than besan laddus which are usually soft to touch since they often have condensed milk added to them. Laddus are often sold outside temples as an offering to the Gods. Pinnis are considered as a snack and a quick desert.
When I was growing up in pre-Partitioned Pakistan, in the town of Lyallpur, it was quite common for the womenfolk to get together and make whole pipas (tall, square tin boxes) full of pinniyas to last through the whole winter. It is still a custom in many rural areas and among the middle class in the cities, but more and more are buying ready-made pinnis from the sweet confectioners. Some, like the Amritsari pinnis, are famous all across northwest India.
Pinnis usually have some dried fruit in them – almonds, pistachios or cantaloupe seeds – all after being roasted so as to keep their crunchiness. The almonds can be whole or in pieces; blanched or with the skin on, depending on the desired taste. It is much better to use powdered sugar than granular type so that it does not grate on the teeth while chewing. Avoid using any water while making the pinniyas as it will make them spoil quickly while in storage. For long life, store the pinnis in a dry place but not the fridge as they lose some of their original taste.

4 cups besan (coarse gram flour)
2 cup peessi hui chinni (powdered sugar)
1 cup tael (vegetable or olive oil) Ghee (clarified butter) may also be used
½ cup badam (almond) and piste (pistachios) whole or pieces. If desired, use blanched almonds.

1. Pour the oil in a wok or kadai and warm for a few minutes over low heat.

2. Pour the besan in and stir continuously for about 10 minutes so that it does not start to burn.

3. Add the almonds and pistachios, mix well and continue to stir over low heat to roast the mixture. When it is turns slightly brown, turn the heat off.

4. When the mixture has cooled down for 10 minutes, then add the powdered sugar and mix well. If possible, knead the sugar in with your hands so that the powder does not form little balls.

5. Take a small handful of the mixture and roll on the palms into a ball about the 2 inches round. Place on a wax sheet in a large can and let it cool down.

6. The pinnis can be stored for a long time in the can. If placed in a fridge, they lose some of their original taste.

mamas recipe inside3

Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur, India before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her mid-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share some of her delectable Punjabi recipes.