Chana Magaj (Besan burfi) is a gram flour fudge. It is sweet and crumby from the addition of ground almonds, milk powder and sugar, and fragrantly spiced with cardamom and nutmeg. It is commonly decorated with edible gold or silver foil and almonds. In my childhood, it was a famed Diwali treat. These days they have increasing popularity as a gluten-free sweet treat. Growing up, it was one of Amma‘s most dreaded Diwali sweets to make, it almost always flopped! Over the years, I have perfected this recipe, using ingredients at hand, but keeping the method of preparing the same. I am very pleased with the result and can safely say it is a flop proof chana magaj recipe.
South African Chana Magaj vs Besan Burfi
The South African version varies from its east Indian counterpart in ingredients and cooking methods. Featured in the book Indian Sweet Cookery, the latter is made like fudge by boiling a sugar and water syrup then adding gram flour and milk powder. South African chana magaj differ in cooking technique. The gram flour is first combined with ghee and milk to form a bread crumb like texture, then fried in butter until slightly brown. This accounts for the characteristic colour of chana magaj. Once the mixture is cool, ground almonds, milk powder and icing sugar is added to the mixture, then set in the fridge. Family recipes vary, some use Nestle cream and other condensed milk. This recipe uses basic ingredients available in any supermarket world wide.
How to Make South African Chana Magaj
South African Gram flour fudge is made by forming a bread crumb like texture with the gram flour, ghee and milk. This results in a thick soji like texture when fried in ghee.
It is essential to make fine crumbs otherwise the mixture will contain lumps. To refine the crumbs, you can use a food processor. I prefer using a large sieve. This hands-on approach not only gives you a good arm work out but also even texture of crumbs.
Once the desired crumb texture is achieved it is fried in butter. The crumbs should be added little at a time to avoid lumps. This mixture should cook at least 45 minutes on low heat. In this recipe, a watched pot is best. Mix regularly to avoid burning. If the mixture burns it will affect the colour of your chana magaj.
After 30 minutes or so you will notice a distinct change in colour from yellow to light brown. At the end of cooking add the ground almonds. The result is a thick light brown mixture.
South African recipes often list Klim as the main ingredient, if you are abroad and without a SA Food shop in town then simply use any brand of powdered milk, it works just as well. Other variations to the recipe are the butter content. I used ghee to form the crumbs and butter for frying.
Once cool, add all the remaining ingredients then set in the fridge overnight,
This fudge is commonly decorated with edible foil. I am not a fan of foils so opted for brightly coloured red almonds and brown ones with the peel intact. Common decorations from the ’80s and ’90s were brightly coloured almonds.
New ways of shaping this old favourite sweetmeat is to pipe or place in moulds. I tired a chocolate praline mould.
I recommend setting in the fridge overnight. Use a sharp knife to cut clean cubes. The chana magaj can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to two weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months.