Sweet Coconut Rice (Narali Bhaat)

I like to contradict myself. I love an ingredient in one recipe (ie cannot do without it) and will not eat something else because it has that ingredient. And this is especially true for spices. Same with Coconut. Or rather some dishes with coconut milk in them. I don't know why. Its really odd. I mean nothing is more refreshing then coconut water on a hot summer day, but you put that in curry, and I just can't eat it. So much so that I don't think I'll enjoy Pina Colada as much as say if it had just cream - won't do good for my (supposed) diet, but a cocktail with cream? Sounds mouth-watering good.

But then I like all things sweet, and anything with coconut is just a beautiful variety I add to my never ending list.  This rice is  traditional Maharashtrian festival fare. It's a sweet rice - so I wondered for a long time whether this can get classified as dessert, but the beauty of food sometimes lies in leaving it mysterious. There is never a need to constantly categorize everything. Make it and eat it for lunch, or for dinner, or as the rice accompaniment to your meal. I don't think you can eat it like dessert - the sweet something after a full meal. It is a full meal in itself.

In the month of Shravan (Hindu Calendar Month that falls somewhere in August/September) on the full moon day is the Maharashtrian Festival - Narali Purnima (नारळी पूर्णिमा). The festival marks the end of monsoon, and fishermen traditionally offer coconuts to the sea to begin their new fishing season. The day also coincides with Raksha Bandhan - the festival for Brothers & Sisters. This rice described below, is traditional for the festival. There are many other coconut sweets, and it's usually a family preference.
Narali Bhaat ( नारळी भात)
From a family recipe
You need
2 cups of fresh grated Coconut
3 cups cooked rice (preferably Basamati)
3 cups Sugar*
2 tbs Clarified Butter (or Ghee)*
1/2 tsp Cloves
1/2 tsp Cardamom powder
1 tsp Saffron
2 tsp Milk
1/4 cup chopped cashews
1/4 cup golden raisins

To Make the Rice -

1. Cook the rice with 5 cups of water and a pinch of turmeric powder (for additional colour)  and set aside.

2. In a deep bottom pan (non stick or aluminium) add the ghee and let it melt. To this add the cloves, cashews and raisins and saute them till golden brown.

3. Add the cooked rice to this and mix it gently. To this add the sugar, and cover the pan. Cook until the sugar dissolves. Remember to stir the rice from time to time.

4. While this is cooking, on a smaller pan, add the saffron and heat it. Be very careful here, you only need to heat the saffron slightly - it shouldn't start smoking. Keep an eye on it, it takes just about a minute. Add the saffron to the milk.

5. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the saffron milk mixture and sprinkle the cardamom powder. Stir gently until the rice is a uniform colour.

6. Serve this with a garnish of halved cashews.

*you can also use Jaggery instead of sugar and  oil instead of ghee. It depends on what flavours you prefer.


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