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Khobryachi vadi – the god of fudgy things

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Thursdays in my maternal great grandparents’ home in Bengaluru were for the family deity. The prasad was always the same — khobryachi vadi — which has spoilt me for life

The first time I took my husband to visit Sushi Atya, my grandmother’s paternal aunt, she was in her 90s. A tall and broad-framed woman with the most beautiful features even at that age, Sushi Atya was confined to a four-poster bed as close to the dining room and kitchen as she could possibly have it placed. I imagine her worst nightmare would have been to not know the goings-on in those departments, never mind the mini jungle of overgrown jasmine and oleanders that had practically covered the once palatial mansion she called home.

Sushi Atya lived alone with a nurse-cum-domestic help for company in that large two-storeyed house, most of which had been locked away; she occupied the ground floor, which comprised a few rooms, at the centre of which was the kitchen, adjacent to a dining room. I don’t remember ever seeing the main door shut; people traipsed in and out all day; family from across the courtyard, friends from across town, and unexpected relatives like us.

Hidden delight

Miheer sat as awkward as a new son-in-law in this enchanting forest of sorts as the rest of us dug up old memories and caught up. A few minutes later, Sushi Atya asked her caretaker to finally bring out what I was expecting the moment we planned the visit — khobryachi vadi or, for lack of a better translation, coconut fudge squares. Even in that near-immobile state, Sushi Atya always had a box of vadi ready to serve; she would instruct the help and make sure that the dented old steel box was always full. Hers was a firm vadi that could be stored for a week at least at room temperature. This was achieved by adding a little extra sugar to candy the coconut and, hold your breath, grated potato for starch! Like all things forbidden, it had a certain lure. My adult taste buds couldn’t bear to eat even one whole vadi that day but I remember sneaking a handful of them as a child, while Sushi Atya rested and the other adults of the household busied themselves in gossip. A devoted fan of coconut himself, Miheer was smitten at first bite. Come back to eat more vadi; I’ll make it for you myself, she told him as we left. Alas, that was not to be.

There is another khobryachi vadi that I am partial to — one that has stayed with me for more reasons than one. This was from my maternal great grandparents’ home in Bengaluru. Thursdays in this house were for the family deity, Dutta. The prasad was always the same — khobryachi vadi. It is this vadi that has spoilt me for life.

On the morning of the aarti, one of us children would be asked to bring two coconuts from the back of the house, where the homegrown coconuts would be stored. These were still in their husks, so the first order of day was to dehusk them.

The naked coconuts would be brought in and broken; the water would be distributed among the children of the house, and the flesh inspected for any yellowness or unpleasant smell. Once considered fit for vadi (the flesh must be white, sweet smelling and moist), the coconut would be scraped over a vili; we watched as ethereal white laces of coconut fell to the plate below. The scraping had to be careful; you couldn’t let any of the scraping close to the brown shell get in, for that would ruin the flavour and colour of the vadi.

No flavourings

A mini mountain of coconut would then be measured into a pan and mixed with whole fat milk (milked right at the doorstep that very morning), fresh cream (straight off the top of the milk pot) and sugar, and cooked over the gentlest of heat to achieve a fudgy consistency. No flavourings were necessary — the sweet coconut and lactose from the milk were valiant enough. The fudge would then be patted into a lightly greased and much-used oval-shaped tray and left in the devghar, the puja room, where it was out of bounds for everyone until evening.

Sneaking in

When the adults were napping in the afternoon, I would sometimes sneak in to enjoy the collective smells of the freshly made sandalwood paste, incense, and the cooling vadi all blending with the aromas of aartis and prasads from decades and decades, all permeated into the walls, establishing ever so gently why maternal homes are so special.

Come evening, my grandmother’s brother would drape his purple silk dhoti and all of us would assemble for the aarti, spilling out of the puja room like an overfilled popcorn box — the adults seemed to pray more truthfully than us younger lot, who were sincerely more interested in the vadi. Mothi Aai would lovingly place a square on each of our hands after we had done our namaskars. After hours of cooling, the squares would have acquired a thin, sugary crust and the insides would be soft. The vadi would be gone in mere seconds but the anticipation and now the memory of it helps the flavour linger much longer.

Khobryachi vadi

Ingredients:

1 whole fresh coconut, scraped

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons fresh cream

2 tablespoons milk powder (optional)

1/2 teaspoon green cardamom powder (optional)

Method:

1. Place the coconut and the sugar in a blender and pulse to have a slightly homogenised but not completely blended mixture.

2. Pour this mixture into a non-stick pan along with the sugar and cream. Cook on medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring constantly.

3. Continue to cook for a further 10-12 minutes or until the mixture is thick and fudgy.

4. Add the milk powder and green cardamom powder and mix well. By now the mixture will have come together into a soft ball.

5. Spread the mixure onto a lightly greased metal tray and allow to cool for 5-6 hours.

6. Cut into squares and serve.

The writer is a Mumbai-based food writer and culinary consultant. Her latest book is Pangat, a Feast: Food and Lore from Marathi Kitchens.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 7:11:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/the-god-of-fudgy-things/article30534800.ece

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