Every Thursday, when the family would fast for the family deity, my great grandma would make naralachi vadi or coconut fudge squares for prasad or the offering to god. She would labor over a panful of freshly grated coconuts, often plucked from the tree in the backyard, stirring in clotted cream, milk and sugar and waiting patiently for it to condense to a fudgey, sticky, mellow sweetness, a pale pink from the lightly toasted coconut. Then, she’d sprinkle a little freshly ground cardamom, and pat everything into a thali, letting it cool off all afternoon. Then, later in the evening, after the aarti, she would cut distribute the baby pink squares to everyone present, smiling her motherly smile. That was the highlight of my holidays in Bangalore. It has been years since she passed away, and the naralachi vadi ritual somehow died soon after her.
I’ve eaten a whole lot of coconut fudges after that–from stores, at people’s homes–and I’ve realized that I have never liked any. They’re too sweet. Or too dry. Or there’s too much cardamom. It is never the vadi from my childhood. I have never even attempted making it–I am sure it won’t be up to the mark. But the other day, in the middle of dealing with my own and my daughter’s sickness, I was craving the familiar brush of her cotton white nine-yard saree pallu, softened with repeated washing, the smoothness of her wrinkled fingers as she distributed the coconut fudge, her reassuring smile. I often wonder how a woman like her would manage taking care of children, a house full of constant house guests, cooking, keeping house, and shouldering the responsibility of being a municipal corporator. She didn’t have access to fancy gadgets or home delivery options. And yet, she did such a fab job–the house was always impeccable, a fresh bunch of flowers arranged beautifully in corners and on tables, fresh chutneys and pickles and other fun things to eat in the pantry, and always a handmade gift tucked away in some cupboard to give a sudden guest. I am not one-fourth of what my great grandma was.
Anyway. I was craving a mouthful of comfort, and I had some good dessicated coconut in the kitchen. I decided to make a coconut tart–this is how it turned out.
Buttery and short pastry slathered with homemade strawberry jam and filled with fudgey coconut. It sliced well–clean edges, even when it was warm. When set, it got even better! It would be a lovely teatime treat–or with a scoop of ice cream, an indulgent dessert. Try it!
Coconut Fudge and Jam Tart
Ingredients for the shortcrust pastry:
- 100 gms. cold, salted butter, cubed
- 200 gms. flour, cold
- 2 tsp. icing sugar
- 2 small eggs (or 1 medium egg and 1 egg yolk)
- 1/2 cup dried beans (for blind baking)
- 3 tbsp. strawberry jam (Any berry jam or apricot/peach jam would work here)
Ingredients for the Coconut Fudge:
- 1 cup dessicated coconut
- 3 tbsp. ground almonds
- 5 tbsp. caster sugar
- 2 tbsp. condensed milk (or 3 tbsp. milk powder)
- 200 ml. (1 carton) double cream
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, scraped
- Place the cold butter, icing sugar, and flour in a food processor with the cutting blade on. Pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Now add the eggs, one at a time and pulse again until just combined. The mixture will still look dry but will be ready.
- Tip the mixture onto a sheet of cling wrap and bind using the cling film. Wrap into the cling, flatten into a disk and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.
- Roll the shortcrust pastry between sheets of cling to a 1/2 cm. thickness. Line a 9-inch tart tin with the pastry using the help of the cling. Press down and trim the excess.
- Prick the base of the tart with a fork. Line teh base with the leftover cling wrap and pour the beans over. Wrap loosely into a parcel. This will weigh down the pastry when it bakes.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees centigrade for 15 mins.; then, remove the cling wrap and beans and bake for another 7-8 mins. until pinkish golden.
- Meanwhile, make the filling by simply whisking all the ingredients together in a bowl.
- Remove the tart case from the oven. Brush a liberal layer of jam while the case is still hot. This will help the jam layer to set well.
- Pour the coconut mixture in, right to the top. (You will be left with a little extra mixture; just add 1/2 tsp. baking powder to that and bake alongside the tart in a separate pan for a little coconut cake!)
- Return to the oven and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the coconut mixture appears set.
- Remove, cool for 10-15 mins. and cut into wedges. Serve warm or cold.