Thahmina Haseen loves cooking Bengali food. “I was raised by a very traditional Bengali grandmother whose affection was usually demonstrated by coaxing me to have a second helping of hilsha and jhol (fish stew),” says Haseen.
Cooking is about more than just satisfying her hunger. “It is a way to stay connected to a past I’m afraid I”ll loose when my grandparents are no longer here,” says Haseen.
Weekend visits with her grandma led her to a world of learning about the dishes she enjoyed as a child. “It is nice to to cook and eat something where the smells and tastes are familiar.”
Haseen describes Bengali food as lush, rich and full of earthy flavours and shares her recipe for Narkel Naru a coconut ladoo handed out at religious festivals. “This no cook ladoo is perfect for quick and cute desserts,” says Haseen.
Preparation and cooking time: 15 minutes and two hours to chill
Servings: Makes 15 to 20 ladoo
200g desiccated coconut
200g condensed milk
100g ground almonds
A pinch of saffron strands
Five to six tablespoons of warm milk
Five to six crushed cardamom pods
Crushed pistachios for garnishing
1. Soak the saffron strands and cardamom in warm milk so that the fragrance infuses. Leave to one side for five minutes.
2. In a pan over low heat, pour in equal amounts of condensed milk and coconut until you get a thick fudge-like consistency. Pour in the tempered saffron and cardamom milk. If the mixture is too soft to hold its shape, add ground almonds to help give it some stick.
3. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Prepare your surface. Have two trays ready. One for rolling the balls in pistachios and one for the Narkel Naru to cool.
4. Once the mix has cooled, you want to create ping pong sized balls with your hands. If you are handing them out as gifts, it is better to make them small enough to fit into truffle cases.
5. Roll in pistachios (or any other nutty topping of your choice), place on a tray, cover with cling film and chill for at least two hours or overnight.