The 7-day cook-off: Day 5 & Day 6

There will be two recipes today as part of my mishap from yesterday. I was making a six-item recipe on a seven-item day, and although the dish was really good, I had a teeny-weeny feeling of guilt.

So I had two things today, well actually one of them was already prepared by my mother – sweet coconut treats and a cup of spiced tea to go with that. These delightful little spheres are perfect everywhere – a get-together, family parties, reunions or breaking the ice at a new place. They are easy to make, as are all of my recipes, and come pretty handy when you have those ghastly sugar cravings in the middle of the night.

We make these laddoos mostly during the three Bihus, or whenever there are excess coconuts in the house. A traditional Assamese home in the suburbs, smaller towns and villages will have at least one coconut tree on their lawn or backyard. It will be accompanied by at least two areca nut trees with betel leaf creepers around them.

The coconut trees are planted as soon as people buy land to build a house in Assam, landmarks to gauge distance and time. When the house is complete in two-three years, the trees would have been ready for their first harvest. It is a matter of pride here when people make these desserts using coconuts from the trees in their homes, and those laddoos are stacked away for something or someone special.

We have two adolescent trees in our backyard, still too young to bear fruit. A relative visiting from my maternal uncle’s hometown dropped a few coconuts off.

So here they are – recipes for Day 5 and Day 6 of my 10-day cook-off.

Spiced Tea – 5 ingredients

DSC_0105Making tea is a precise science. It has to be the right balance of milk and water, of sugar and tea leaves. Anything amiss by even a fraction can change the taste by a mile.

Having said that, I got my initial batches of tea wrong loads of times. One recipe had a different type of milk than the last, or the sugar was too sweet. But I finally learnt from my mistakes and found a fail-safe recipe I turn to all the time.

Makes 2 cups of tea

Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 5 mins

Ingredients:

  1. Whole milk – 1 cup at room temperature (go for the full-fat milk, not the skim or toned ones)
  2. Water – 1 cup at room temperature
  3. Sugar – 1 and a half teaspoons (or add as much as you like!)
  4. Spices:
    1. Cardamom pods – 2 (split them open with the back of spoon)
    2. Star anise – 1
  5. Tea leaves – 2 teaspoons (add an additional teaspoon if not using Assam tea)

Method:

In a saucepan (stainless steel works the best), heat the water and add the cardamom pods and star anise. It’s very important to have the milk at room temperature. Chilled milk has the tendency to split.

As soon as you see bubbles accumulating around the edges of the pan and on the sides of the spices, add the milk. Please do not bring the water to a boil, else the milk can split.

Keep heating till you see some vapours emerge from the water-milk mixture, just before it starts boiling. Time to add the chai patti (tea leaves) and sugar.

Bring the mix to a boil and let simmer for about a minute and a half or till the chai attains the colour of moist sand. Pour into a cup and enjoy!

Sweet coconut laddoos – 4 ingredients

_DSC0296Makes around 50 laddoos

Cooking time 30-35 minutes | Time taken to make the spheres: 1-2 hours

Ingredients:

  1. Freshly grated coconut – 5 cups
  2. Desiccated coconut – 1 cup (the dry variety)
  3. Granulated sugar – 2 cups
  4. Cocoa powder – 1 cup

Method:

In a large frying pan, add the freshly grated coconut, dry coconut and the sugar. On a high heat, cook till you hear the coconut starting to sizzle, then reduce the heat to low.

Cook till the sugar dissolves in the coconut mix, which generally takes 20-25 minutes. Keep stirring the pan otherwise the coconut may burn. Remove off heat and let the mix rest till it’s completely cool.

Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add the cocoa powder, combine everything together. Keep a small bowl of water beside you to wet your hands. Take some of the coconut-cocoa mix and make spheres the size of golf balls.

This will be tedious if you do it alone. My mother generally cooks the coconut overnight and then calls my grandmother and our help to make the laddoos together. They talk about many things in the process – life, food, family, the weather, the children or the shape of the deformed balls.

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