Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Narali Bhaat for Narali Poornima (Sweet Coconut Rice)

'Narali Poornima' marks the end of the monsoon season in Maharashtra, India. It is celebrated on the full moon day in the month of 'Shravan'.
Fishermen and fishing community (koli) in Maharashtra celebrate 'Narali Poornima' or the Coconut Festival in a jubilant manner. Singing and dancing are the main attractions of this festival. They worship and offer coconuts to the Sea God 'Samudra' and the Rain God 'Varuna'.
This festival marks the beginning of the new fishing season.
A special sweet rice made with coconut - 'Narali Bhaat' is prepared at most homes on this day.

'Rakhi Poornima' or 'Raksha Bandhan' is also celebrated on this day. This festival celebrates the special bond and the sacred relation between brothers and sisters. The word 'Raksha Bandhan' means the bond of protection. On this day sisters tie a sacred thread which comes in many colors and designs, on their brother's wrist and in return the brothers offer gifts, presents and promise to protect them against all harms and troubles. Well...almost all!

At our homes we celebrate this day by exchanging rakhis and indulging in 'Narali Bhaat'. Every Maharashtrian home prepares 'Narali Bhaat' differently. The main difference is the use of sugar v/s jaggery. Personally I prefer jaggery as I love the mild flavor and the beautiful golden color it gives this rice. Also, that is how my Ajji made it.
I have tried my best to simplify my grandmom's recipe. Hope it does invite you to try this dish out and enjoy an almost forgotten Maharashtrian tradition.

Level: Easy
Serves: 5 - 6 people
Source: Mamata Wagh (Mamata mami)

1 cup rice (uncooked, any variety)
2 cups water, boiling
1.5 cups jaggery, grated
3/4 cups fresh coconut (I used frozen)
1/3 cup ghee
5 - 6 cloves
2 - 3 green cardamoms
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
2 pinches saffron (optional)
1/4 cup milk
2 tblsp cashwenuts, chopped
1 tblsp almonds, chopped
1 tblsp raisins
2 pinches salt

Step 1 - Wash and soak rice in water for 10 mins. Drain out the rice in a strainer and keep aside.

Step 2 - Warm the milk in the microwave for 20 seconds. Add the saffron strands. Mix lightly and let this rest for at least 20 mins.

Step 3 - In a rice cooker or a regular pressure pan, heat 1 tblsp ghee. When the ghee heats up, add the cloves and green cardamoms. Saute for a few seconds. Add the strained rice and saute well on medium heat for 4 - 5 mins. Add boiling water and pressure cook the rice for 2 whistles or till done. Once cooled, fluff up the rice with a fork, taking care not to break down the grains and leave aside to cool. Do not get rid of the pressure pan here. We are going to cook the rice in it again.

Step 4 - While the rice is cooking, take a flat pan and heat 2 tblsp ghee. Saute the cashewnuts and almonds till they are light brown in color. Drain onto a paper towel. In the same ghee, saute raisins till they plump up and drain them onto a paper towel. Keep the nuts and raisins aside to cool.

Step  5 - In the same pan, add another tblsp ghee, coconut and jaggery. Saute for 2 - 3 mins till the jaggery melts. Pour the mixture onto a plate. Add the cardamom powder and mix well. Let this mixture warm down a little.

Step 6 - Once your rice and coconut jaggery mixture is ready, take a large pot, add the cooked, fluffed rice, the nuts, saffron along with the milk it is soaked in and coconut jaggery mixture. Gently mix everything together.

Step 7 - Grease the rice cooker/pressure pan with ghee so the rice does not stick to it's bottom. Put the rice mixture from Step 6 into the rice cooker. Pour in the remaining ghee on top. Cook covered for 20 mins on low heat. If your pressure pan is too thin or you plan to use a regular pot, keep it over a pan so the rice gets cooked with indirect heat. You do not want it all burnt up at the bottom.

And we are done!
Serve warm.

This preparation is not supposed to be too sweet. So if you have a very sweet tooth, do add more jaggery.

You can use any dried fruit of your choice and in any quantity as per your preference. I have used raisins, almonds and cashews as I generally have them on hand at home.

Using saffron is optional, but it does give a great aroma and flavor to this dish. Also the dark golden bits in the rice look very appetizing.

In step 6 after you have mixed everything together, the mixture if tasted, will be very sweet. While you cook the rice, all the sweetness in the jaggery gets soaked up and a mild sweet flavor remains.

If you have leftovers, reheating the rice in your microwave will dry out the dish. So sprinkle a little water on the rice and then heat it up. Other option would be to steam this rice in a pressure pan, but that is too labor intensive if you have too little remaining.

Narali Poornima source: here and here!