Ganesh Chaturthi instantly brings to mind the large murtis of Lord Ganesh in our neighborhoods and delicious modaks. The Lord is believed to be partial to this particular naivedyam and is therefore offered it on Ganesh Chaturthi. There is a story behind His love for modaks. Once when Lord Shiva and Parvati had taken a young Ganesha to visit the famed sage Atri on the Earth, his wife Anusuya offered him a platterful of goodies to eat, but it was not enough to satiate his hunger. Only when she offered him a modak did Ganesha feel full and happy. Hence the offering of modak to Ganesha on Chaturthi!
Modaks are made in two ways – steamed and fried. The former is the preferred form of naivedyam, though the fried modak is equally good, with the added advantage of a longer shelf life. http://everydayvegcooking.com/ganesh-chaturthi-fried-modak/ We also make kaara kozhukkattai – a savory version of the modak, which are given a karanji-shape to distinguish them from the sweet kozhukkattai! It will share the recipe for this in the next post.
We make the steamed modak both in my parental and married homes for the festival. The outer covering is made in different ways. My mother washed the rice, drained and pounded it. This was then sifted to get a fine powder, which was made into a thick paste. My mother-in-law soaked the rice, ground it very fine and then cooked it into a thick dough-like paste. While both are traditional methods, they are also very cumbersome, and unless one got the right consistency, the dough had small lumps that were most difficult to handle.
However, we get readymade modak flour in the market, which can be very easy to shape into modaks. The idiyappam powder that is available in the market can also be used to make modaks. If you can’t find either in your city, you can lightly fry the rice (just enough to heat it through) and cook it into a dough. It will come out fine.
Modak moulds are available in the market which can be used to shape them. The art of shaking the perfectly scalloped modak is a fine art indeed. The Maharashtrian modaks are the most aesthetically crafted ones. However, don’t let it scare you away from making this deliciously sweet, which is both tasty and healthy!
Ingredients for the outer covering of modak:
• Modak flour/toasted rice flour 1 cup
• Salt A pinch
• Ghee or oil 1 tsp
• Water 11/2 cup
Ingredients for the filling:
• Grated coconut 2 cups
• Jaggery ¾ cup (powdered)
• Ghee 1tsp
• Cardamom powder ½ tsp
• Cashew nuts (broken into bits) 1 tbsp
• Raisin (kishmish) 20-25
To make the outer covering:
• Boil water in a heavy bottomed vessel or kadhai.
• Add salt and oil.
• When it comes to a rolling boil, add the rice flour slowly, stirring continuously.
• Switch off the flame once the flour comes together in a ball and doesn’t stick to the sides. It takes a maximum of five mins.
• Cover and let it cool.
To make the filling:
• Take a heavy-bottomed pan or kadhai and add a tbsp of water and the jaggery.
• Let the jaggery melt completely and then strain it for impurities.
• Put the melted jaggery back in the pan and add the coconut and ghee to it. Cook stirring it till the coconut mixture looks dry. At this stage,
it begins leaving the sides of the pan and comes together. Switch off the flame. Don’t overcook, as the filling will become too hard when it cools down.
• Add the cardamom powder and dry fruits.
• Shape them into small balls and keep aside.
Making the modak:
• Knead dough into a smooth consistency while still warm.
• Dip your fingers into the mixture of milk and oil to prevent the dough from sticking.
• Take a gooseberry-sized ball of dough and shape into a small katori. Alternately, take a slightly larger ball of dough and shape it into a flat round, the size of your palm.
• Place the coconut ball in the centre of the katori/round and bring pinch the edges to form scallops. Bring the scallops together and pinch off the excess dough.
• Your modak is ready for steaming.
• Arrange it on an idli mould or steamer plate and steam for about 5-7 mins. The outer layer would have sweated a little and turned translucent. That is the doneness test.
• Don’t stress if the shape has not come out perfectly. The taste would more than make up for the lack of perfect shape! Some people shape it in the form of a karanji too, the idea being that it is still a modak in content. So go ahead and try it out for this Ganesh Chaturthi!
• Adding dry fruits is optional. My mother never added them but I sometimes do.