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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Narali bhaat - Sweet Coconut Rice

This dish is special and close to my heart as it transports me instantly to my childhood. This a sweet delicacy which was made at least once a year in the house on the occasion of Narali Purnima which coincided with Rakshabandhan. On Narali Purnima, coconut based dishes are prepared to celebrate the day. Usually this coincides with the occasion of Rakshabandhan, when sisters tie a decorative thread on their brother’s hand and getting a gift in return. Of course there is a deeper meaning to this tradition but this is a food blog, so lets get back to the rice.

The main reason why this was a rarely prepared dish was because of the effort involved in scraping fresh coconut and that used to be tiring. But now with the availability of frozen packets of fresh coconut, it has become easier to make this once elaborate dish. In fact, if you don’t have access to a frozen packet, on a day when you do have the time and energy, scrape the coconut and freeze it. Use it within the next couple of months.



Ingredients
1 cup rice (basmati preferably)
2 cups water
2 tbsp ghee/clarified butter
4-5 cloves
2 cups grated/scrapped fresh coconut
2 cups sugar
½-3/4 cup water
1 cup milk
1-2 pinch saffron
1/8 tsp green cardamom powder
1-2 tbsp raisins
2 tsp sliced almonds (optional)
1 tbsp cashews (optional)
1 tbsp ghee, after cooking


Method
Wash the rice a couple of times and keep aside. Heat ghee in the vessel/cooker that you cook your regular rice in. Once you can smell the aroma of ghee, add the cloves and let them cook till fragrant. Then add the rice and stir it in the ghee till the grains are coated with ghee. Add water and let the rice cook. Once cooked, spread it out on a plate or tray and let it cool down completely.

Heat a saucepan which is of such size that it will easily accommodate the cooked rice and coconut mixture.  To this add the grated coconut and roast it a little. Then add the water and heat till the sugar dissolves completely. Then add the milk and keep stirring and let the mixture thicken. Once it starts to thicken, add the saffron, cardamom powder, raisins and nuts (if using). Let this all cook together. Once the mixture starts to get to a nice thick syrup consistency, add the cooled rice and mix it in to the coconut sugar mixture gently. Continue to cook, till the water evaporated and a sticky rice texture is achieved. Add the ghee to this. Serve hot.



Tips
The roasting of the coconut a little helps to increase the shelf life of the cooked rice. Always store this in the fridge. Heat the saffron a little in a tsp of water or milk. The golden color of the rice is achieved using the saffron. It will be a deep golden if you use two pinches instead of one. I used two and got a lovely golden color as seen in the pictures.

This helps release the color of the saffron. Always roast the coconut a little if you plan to store it in the fridge or freezer to help increase its shelf life, else the coconut will become rancid in a couple of days.

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