Microwave the milk for 20 to 30 seconds, add the saffron strands and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
Pulse the cashews into the blender and prepare the cashew powder. We need ½ cup of cashew powder and set it aside.
Take a heavy bottom pan. I used my indolium uruli. Add the sieved besan and sugar.
Add the saffron milk as well. Using a hand whisk, mix well without any lumps like below.
Thirupagam recipe with step-wise pictures
Over medium-low heat , cook the besan-sugar-milk mixture. It will become frothy, and the besan mixture will be thin consistency, and that's normal. The besan mix will froth up, and make sure to mix it continuously. After about 6 minutes, it will start to thicken. (Refer notes for the timing) Check these four pictures below for the different stages.
When it starts to thicken, start adding ghee. I added 1 tbsp of ghee every two minutes. Do not leave the thirupagam unattended. While adding the ghee for the second time, add the ground cardamom as well. Overall I added 3 tbsp from the ¼ cup of ghee.
Here is how the thirupagam looks after 8 minutes. (We have cooked thirupagam now for 14 minutes in total). The besan mixture will bubble up.
After about 8 to 10 minutes, add the cashew powder when the besan mixture further thickens and bubbles up. (In Tamil, we say porinchu varum bodu or poothu varum bodu) Add the remaining ghee.
Mix well and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Finally, add the edible camphor, mix well and turn off the heat. Do not overcook, as the sweet becomes hard when it cools down.
Grease a bowl with ghee, transfer the thirupagam to the bowl, and sprinkle some nuts and saffron strands. As it cools, the sweet will thicken.
I have given the approx timing as to when to start adding the ghee. But depending upon the heat setting and vessel you use, it might be different. Start adding the ghee when the besan mixture thickens. And add the cashew powder when the besan mixture bubbles up and thickens further.
You can't leave the thirupagam unattended. You need to stir the sweet regularly.
I have used a reduced amount of sugar and ghee, and this measure works perfectly fine. I have been using this measure for quite some time now. But you can increase the ghee measure to ⅓ cup and also sugar measure to 1 cup.
Make sure to melt the ghee for this recipe.
While cashew powder is a key ingredient in thirubagam, you can experiment with the same sweet with almond flour.
Do not grind the cashews in one go as they clump up. Pulse them at regular intervals.
I used pasteurized whole milk. I did not boil it separately. I microwaved it to a lukewarm temperature and added the saffron strands, and let it cool for a bit.