Oct 15, 2009

Instant coconut barfi (naralachi vadi)

Diwali is to Hindus what Christmas is to Christians. And though I have been a big fan of Diwali, it lost its charm when I came to US about eight years ago. It is just not the same without friendly neighbors who visit each other and exchange snacks and pleasantries. The neighborhood brightly lit with diyas (clay lamps) and electric lights on the rooftops; the ubiquitous rangoli adorning every threshold and front yard; cousins and friends bursting firecrackers and little children lighting sparklers.

Growing up, I never liked to get involved with making sweets of any kind, especially ladoos. I found the process of making ball after ball of sugary dough tiresome. I enjoyed eating them, nevertheless. But it was after the Diwali was over that I looked forward to my mom’s naralyachi vadi or coconut barfi (fudge). She would receive a lot of coconuts as she went for haldi kunku and after all the Diwali sweets were over, she would make the barfi.

I didn’t mind grating the coconut or watching over the milk as it boiled in the heavy copper vessel for hours. When the milk had reduced to almost one third, mom would toast the coconut and add it to the milk along with sugar. The whole mixture would then be boiled down to the consistency of mawa, and then set in plates greased with ghee. The delicious diamonds of goodness tasted like biting into a kalakand/ milk cake/ mava cake laced with coconut and lightly flavored with cardamom.

I am tempted to make it every year but chicken out thinking about all the stirring and cooking it involves. This year Google, an encyclopedia of brilliant ideas and shortcut recipes for lazy cooks like me, came to the rescue. I found this quick recipe for kalakand at Bong Mom’s Cookbook and a light bulb went off somewhere in the lazy front of my mind. Coconut plus kalakand equals coconut barfi. So here’s my instant version of my mom’s coconut barfi.

14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
15 oz tub of ricotta cheese
1 cup sweetened flake coconut
4-5 cardamoms (elaichi), crushed into powder
1 tsp of ghee (optional)
1 microwave proof shallow baking pan or casserole dish

Notice how crumbly my vadi is. That is because I did not wait for it to cool down before taking the knife to it.

Combine the condensed milk and ricotta cheese in the casserole dish. Zap it in the microwave for five minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a heavy bottom kadhai or a non stick pan and add the coconut to it. Turn the heat to low and roast it till the coconut turns golden brown in color. Keep a close watch on it or the coconut will burn in two seconds.
Take the casserole dish out after five minutes, stir the c.milk and ricotta and zap again for five minutes. By now, the aromas in the house are that of boiling milk. The ricotta and c. milk should be changing color to a pale white and homogenizing. As this cycle ends, mix in the coconut and cardamom powder. Zap for another five minutes.
The vadi is almost there with ricotta turning a grainy texture and getting darker in color. Now, keep zapping every minute for another three to four minutes and checking in between for a not too dry and not too wet consistency. Add the ghee at this point if you so desire.
Once you are satisfied with the consistency (I prefer it on the dry side) spread the mixture evenly in the dish and smooth it down with the back of a spoon. Wait for it to cool down before cutting it into squares or diamonds. If not, you risk getting a crumbly vadi.
Garnish with almonds, pistachios or in my case with dried cranberries.

While not exactly rich in taste like my mom’s vadi, these tasted pretty good for about 20 minutes of intermittent zapping in the microwave.

T’s comment, “This tastes like milk cake with coconut.” Mission accomplished.


  1. I'm with you. Back in Singapore, be it Chinese New Year, Eid or Deepavali, friendly neighbors visit each other and also exchange food and goodies.. But it is not the same here. :(
    I love eating the Indian food n the sweets.. YUMMY!!! I miss eating at my favorite Indian restaurant in Singapore... and your coconut barfi looks yum yum!!!

  2. NEAT! I am going to pass this to a friend of mine who loves this kind of barfi.

    Happy Diwali to you and your family.

  3. I've not made a coconut barfi before and never with ricotta....that I can recall. This sounds good and 'doable' if that is a word! Thanks for sharing it with me. I'll never forget the first time my dear MIL sent barfi across the seas in a parcel to our little home in the middle of the prairies....I was so clueless as to what to do with this green 'fudge'. The hubby not being home...I turfed it...thinking that the green stuff was something gone moldy. Did not realize it was a pistachio barfi. I am now much the wiser, visiting shop after shop in 'little India' here where I live and picking out many different kinds of beautiful sweets....now even making my own. I love your descriptive prolouge Jaya...I can almost imagine you there, watching it all being cooked by your mother.

  4. My mom made amazing narlachi vadi and sometimes she would add colors to make them even prettier. I have to find a way to veganize this treat because I remember how delicious it is.

  5. Wow Barfi is looking tempting!!!!! Wish U a very Happy Diwali!!!!

  6. I agree-Its not the same without Rangoli, crackers or visitors visiting!
    This recipe is new, never tasted or tried to make it but it is very decadent and rich!

  7. Oooh! Thank you very much! I think I will try to make it your way but on the stove rather than the microwave

    Happy Diwali to you and your family!

  8. Jaya, the Burfi looks good and this version of adding the ricotta is completely new to me.I will try with paneer and see how it comes but may be later, right now just tired making all the faral.I want to make the karanji, lets see if I can get some stamina...

  9. Happy Diwali everyone and thank you for the lovely comments.

    Vaishali, the only way I can think of to veganize the barfu is to use a sugar syrup and cook coconut in it, maybe with some crushed cashews and almonds.

    Manisha, cooking on the stove is a great idea. I shld try it next time.

    Pari, it would be interesting to see how it comes out with paneer. Let me know.

  10. Shri, it is decadent and rich but my mom's is even better. :)

  11. LOL, Trish, I can imagine your husband's mood when he found out you threw away his mom's mithai.

  12. I made and blogged about coconut burfi many months ago, but didn't have such an easy recipe as this to follow. Looks tempting and more nutritious with the addition of ricotta.

  13. Hey Jaya, I pretty much make coconut laaddos like this ( without the Ricotta cheese) and we love it. Your idea of adding ricotta seems pretty good and I am trying to imagine the taste with it.
    Wishing you all a very happy Diwali.

  14. I just had this yesterday at my mama's place :-)
    Happy diwali Jaya :-)

  15. hey i missed it...this version of burfis n pedas with ricotta i have seen at many bloggers...and it will come good with paneer too as i have tried it but the taste is different surely...i am giving you a link to make an instant burfi which i found recently..http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/simplytrinicooking/QXeR/~3/AEXQypflG54/barfi.html
    it is a wonderful blog by a trini guy...you'd be surprised to see that.

  16. delicious burfi and nice pictures too. you can visit my blog and give ur comments.

  17. I love these instant recipes. I guess we do not have the patience of our mothers and if there is an easy way, why not?

  18. Hi Jaya:)
    I was suddenly hungry, here i am writing my Philosophy paper:)
    Have a good day, SoulPrincess

  19. Jaya, the idea of adding ricotta cheese to coconut stuck in my head :-). So this weekend I tried something with ricotta, coconut and mango pulp :-) thanks for the idea, I will post mine soon.

    Hope you are all doing well. The little one must be waiting for his birthday right?


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