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.