This Wednesday is 'Krishna Janmashtami' or the birthday of Lord Krishna. It is probably the biggest celebration of the year for my family. I remember my mother starting to make flours for making different savory fried dishes 2 weeks before the day. Then, one week before the festival day, she would start making sweet dishes. It used to be fun for me to count how many dishes she made and then brag about it in the neighborhood. My mother used to make enough to give to everyone. The next day of the festival, we would invite the neighborhood ladies to come for Aarti for Krishna. We used to have a Phala Vastra or a hanging hash of wooden sticks from which all the sweets and fried items would hang along with fruits and vegetables. In the center would be Krishna's cradle in which a small statue of the lord would be placed. There would be his favorite butter with some sugar in a small silver bowl hanging as well. After Aarti, the phala vastra would be shaken by the youngest baby around and then all the goodies would be given to the ladies along with fruits.
After I moved to this county, I have always celebrated this in a grand way sans the Phala vastra. This year, I have been really busy with too many things going on around me. But, I didn't want to break the tradition so I did make some of the goodies that I can whip up easily. This is one of them.
Coconut - grated 3 cups
Sugar - 3 cups
Cardamom - 5 -6 powdered
Ghee - a little to grease the plate
In a heavy bottomed pan, take coconut, sugar. Add about 1/2 cup of water to moisten the mixture. Keep stirring and let it cook. Smear some ghee to a plate that is big enough to hold the end product. Set aside. It will spit out a lot of water and slowly get thick. When it comes together like a ball and leaves the side of the pan, Add the cardamom powder and if desired, you can roast some cashews and raisins in ghee and add it at this stage. I don't do that since it is easier to slice it without them. Pour on to the prepared plate. Try to smooth the top either by pressing down using a parchment paper or by wetting the hand and pressing firmly. Beware that the mixture will be scorching hot. Even when I have done this many times, I tend to like to use the parchment paper more often. Let it cool and when it is slightly warm, make the perforations with a knife. When completely cool, run the knife through the marks you made earlier and separate into pieces. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Even though you can store it out side for longer than this, I don't recommend it since the weather in all places is not like in India at this time of the year.
I use a square or a rectangular cake pan or a jelly roll pan (when making large quantities) for pouring this. This ensures that you get all square pieces and don't waste any of those half circular pieces if you used a round plate. Some people think you have to use a metal plate only, but I have used glass dishes which are square and they work just fine.
Another note to people who are interested in following all these traditions but, can't do this. No God asked us to make all these things. These custom and tradition of food were based on the weather and the nutritional requirements of the human beings. Why do we make all these super fatty food during this festival? Mainly because it is the starting of cold season in India and this extra fat will help in winter months. Why is Rama Navami celebrated with buttermilk, panaka / juice, and fruit salads? To beat the heat of summer (it comes during Summer in India) and to hydrate the body in summer heat. So, if you can't do this, don't be hard on yourself. God is not going to bless those who did and he definitely is not going to curse the ones who didn't.
To Veganize this sweet:
Since the only place where I have used ghee is to smear the plate, you can line a plate with parchment paper and pour the mixture to get a vegan coconut burfi.