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Grind the saffron strands using a pestle and mortar, then transfer to a small bowl and leave to soak in 2 tbsp warm water for 1 hr.
Meanwhile, using the same pestle and mortar, pound the cardamom seeds to a powder with the 1 tsp sugar.
Sieve the gram flour into a large bowl and whisk in enough water to make a batter the consistency of double cream.
Half-fill a wok or karahi with oil and heat it to 180C. It's ready when a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds.
For the gram flour droplets, you will need a slotted spoon, or use a coarse metal sieve, although the gram flour droplets won’t have a round shape when fried. Hold the spoon or metal sieve 2cm over the hot oil. Using a ladle, carefully pour a ladleful of batter onto the spoon, gently pushing the batter through the holes in the spoon or sieve in a circular motion with the rounded base of the ladle.
If the batter is too thin, the droplets will flatten, so add a little more sieved gram flour if needed. If it's too thick, the droplets will be elongated and have wispy tails – a spoonful of water will loosen the batter.
Fry the flour droplets in batches for 30-40 seconds without browning, then drain on kitchen paper. If you're using a slotted spoon, wipe the spoon clean with kitchen paper between every batch.
Once the droplets have cooled, break up any clumps with your fingers and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the ground cardamom, pistachio nuts and pine nuts (or melon seeds) and set side.
For the syrup, dissolve the sugar in 225ml water and boil for about 10 mins over a medium heat, until it starts to thicken. The temperature should reach 110C on a sugar thermometer.
Stir in the saffron and its soaking water, and boil the syrup for a further 1 minute. Remove from the heat and pour the hot syrup over the gram flour droplets. Using the back of a wooden spoon, roughly crush one-third of the droplets into the syrup. Cover the bowl and leave to cool before chilling the mixture for 1-2 hrs. This will thicken the syrup and make it easier to shape the laddus.
Lightly oil your hands and firmly squeeze and shape portions of the mixture into 14-16 balls, about the size of a walnut. Arrange them on a parchment-lined tray and store the laddus in an airtight box in the fridge. Will keep chilled for up to one week. Serve at room temperature.