Rip van Winkle moment – it’s November already! *whips round ninja-style trying to figure out where 2015 went*. Plus it’s Diwali this week, the festival of lights and also of delicious sweetmeats that I look forward to all year, but am too intimidated to attempt. I’m not alone in my fear of all the fiddly prep-work involved in deliciousness such as (my favourites) naan khatai and murukku; many people rely on moms and grans to get down to bidniz in the kitchen before the big event. I’m not mentioning any names here. No fingers pointed. If you’re feeling victimized right now – go sort out a box of your mom’s homemade murukku for me, and you’ll perk right back up.
Anyway so here’s the kind of recipe for a sweetmeat that is so simple it’s kind of equivalent to posting a recipe for making toast. It’s for coconut ice, with a nod to the East.
Now I know two ways to make coconut ice – the one way is to start by cooking the milk and sugar together and you need to have your wits about you or you will end up with a plate of pink and white granite. I don’t know that “nostalgia” is quite the right word to describe that particular home-ec practical session in high school. Possibly “dental-integrity hazard” is more appropriate. I actually prefer coconut ice cooked in this fiddly manner; on the rare occasion that it’s done right the texture is firm and kind of crunchy and crystal-y. However, the other way is significantly easier and just as delicious. The squidgy richness makes a little go a long way, so best keep the portion sizes weeny. I find that if eaten “neat” it’s almost overwhelmingly sweet, so I give it a Bollywood kick with rose water, ground cardamom and nuts. This sweet must be a dentist’s dream, if eaten in large quantities.
To make between 30 and 40 pieces of coconut ice, ice, baby:
- 1 can (about 390g) of sweetened condensed milk
- 350g icing sugar
- 350g dessicated coconut, the fine type
- Food colouring – I stuck with traditional pink and white but feel free to Go Wild! Blue!
- Flavouring of your choice and to taste – I used rose-water in the pink layer and ground cardamom in the white layer.
- Embellishments of your choice – I’ve tried chopped cashews, pistachios, shiny cake sprinkles.
This is a no-brainer. Mix the condensed milk, coconut and the icing sugar until it forms a sweet stiff sugary dough. Divide it up if needed, colour it, flavour it, knead it all together well, and pat it down into an even layer on a cookie sheet. Or a plate. Or whatever. Roll it into balls even. If you’re making layers, pat each layer out separately before putting one on top of the other and giving it a gentle pat or a once-over with the rolling pin (I aim to make mine maximum 3cm thick regardless of the number of layers). Let it settle down for a few hours. It’s supposed to be left alone overnight but I don’t possess that kind of willpower.
For the flavouring, it’s really dependent on your own taste. I have a heavy hand with cardamom (lurrrve it, cardamomnomnom) but when it’s paired with the rosewater layer it’s not too intense.
Cut your coconut ice into neat squares. Given my love of all things geometric, I don’t know why I was not blessed with the ability to cut a straight line free-hand. I like to think that this allows people to select a square of a size that best suits their appetite, but really I am just cursed with squiff cutting technique. Let’s call it “artisanal” cutting and you’ll all want to do it too.
Alternately (and wastefully) you could get all fancy and cut out shapes. Normally I’d advocate the remainder to be considered “chef’s treat” but I’m guessing this would lead to early onset of dentures.
So. You’ve got a lovely bunch of coconut (ice) dee diddle de dee…
Happy Diwali! Don’t forget my murukku.
PS: You know how, when a shark or a pitbull nibbles on a human, all the shark- and pitbull-rights activists start quoting stats for other threats to human life? Sharks = 5, Pitbull = 60 lives per year. Well, coconuts kill 150 people a year! Consider this to be your way of helping to get that situation under control. Safety first.