One of the downsides of not working in an organization is losing sense of dates and festivals. For some crazy reason, I was stuck with the notion that Diwali was on 4th November (counting 20 days from 14th to 4th, totally missing the 31st day in October) this year. So when I realized that the big festival was actually on Sunday, I got down to some serious and frenzied cleaning on Saturday after completing a baking delivery. Discovering nooks and crannies in the house that we hardly ever use, is such a painful realization of what you have taken on. I was pooped after the exercise. If I had the chance to move to an apartment now, I’d do it in a heartbeat!
The husband was instructed to buy a steel pan with a lid (that I had been coveting since a week, and now found the perfect excuse for ) as the purchase for Dhanteras (the day before Diwali, when it is auspicious to buy gold, jewellery, silver or kitchenware) on his way back home. The next day we put up Marigold flowers over the doors. Retrieved Diyas from the store.
After the morning Puja, I got down to making that one sweet that was haunting me for the last few days. Narkel Naru – The Bengali variant of the Coconut Laddoo. Unlike last year when I had made these ready in a jiffy Coconut Ladoos, this time I was hell-bent on putting in some effort into the process. It was also because I had seen pictures of pristine white Narkel Narus on the SpiceRoots FB page and I HAD TO have them. The milky white color of the Laddoos just drew me in. Even though the recipe wasn’t shared on the blog yet, I decided to make those white Narkel Narus anyway.
If it’s Bengali cuisine, you will invariably land up at this immensely popular and beautifully written blog. I had discovered this blog while researching Bengali Food for our branding and interiors project for a Bengali restaurant in Hyderabad. It had helped me understand a lot of dishes on the menu and write descriptions for them. I’d loved the writing too. Although the Narkel Narus here didn’t look white like those ones I had seen, I decided to go with them. Some friends dropped in, in the afternoon and helped me roll the Laddoos along with their 3-year old, who was very fascinated with the process . After the evening Puja and lighting of lamps I got down to making the dinner. Once on the Bengali blog, you can’t help getting drawn in to Bengali cuisine, so I gave in and decided on making Luchis and Chole for dinner. The dinner was delightful and comforting. The deep-fried Luchi, in my opinion, were enough to qualify it for a festive feast.
Here’s the recipe I adapted from Bong Mom’s Cookbook
Caveat: This recipe needs a great deal of patience so gear up for it. However, if patience isn’t you strength or you are hard-pressed for time, you can use this recipe to to make Coconut Laddoos in under 30 minutes.
Narkel Narus (Makes 20-25 medium sized Laddoos)
What You will Need:
- Fresh Grated Coconut – 1.5 cups
- Whole Milk – 1 litre
- Fresh Cream – 200 ml (optional)
- Condensed Milk – 2 tablespoons
- Cardamom – 5-6 pods
- Sugar – 11/4 cups
- Dessicated Coconut – 3/4 cup (to roll the Laddoos in)
- Chopped Pistachios – 2 tablespoons (to sprinkle on Laddoos)
How You Make It:
1. In a large vessel, boil the milk on high flame and reduce it medium and let it simmer. Stir intermittently, scraping the sides of vessel to release fat that might be sticking to the sides.
2. Add the cream and let the milk reduce to half the quantity from what you started with. This will take anywhere between 1.14-1.30 hours.
3. In a wide non-stick pan, add the grated coconut and sugar and let them heat on slow heat on the stove for 10 minutes. Add the reduced milk and condensed milk and let cook on medium heat, stirring constantly.
4. Add crushed or hand-pounded cardamom seeds (you could use a mortar and pestle for this or simply crush with a rolling-pin).
5. When all the water from the mixture has evaporated, turn off the stove and let the mixture cool.
6. Roll into medium-sized balls and roll them in dessicated coconut, spread on a plate. Top with chopped Pistachios and serve them. These are moist and decadent and totally worth the time you spend on them.