Soft, flavorful and melt-in Coconut balls without condensed milk or khoya is a sweet dish from West Bengal part of India and is made from coconut, milk, and sugar or jaggery. Traditionally, this sweet is prepared during festive occasions like Kojagiri Lakshmi Puja , Poila Baisakh( new year for Bengalis).
There are many ways to make coconut balls like Instant coconut balls using condensed milk or coconut balls made with jaggery. In this recipe, simple ingredients like milk , sugar and cardamom powder have been used as in the traditional recipe. However, the secret ingredient that enhances the flavor of this soft and delicious coconut ball is Star Anise ( also known as Chakra Phool in Hindi).
Star Anise is a fruit of an evergreen tree native to southern China (where most of it still is produced) and is shaped like an eight pointed star. Star anise has a sweet-licorice-peppery flavor and can be used both as whole or ground in both savory and sweet dishes. As whole , it can be used in simmering, braising or poaching . The spice is removed usually before serving the dish. Ground star anise is more versatile and should be added with care. Almost like all other whole spices, it must be ground just before using. When used with other spices, ground star anise imparts a warm, aromatic flavor that works well in dessert recipes.
Following are some of the tips you may like to read before trying out the recipe :
- Though the taste of freshly grated coconut is best, but this recipe works well even with ready made coconut powder.
- Sometimes people complain that the coconut ladoos become hard on cooling. The reason is that the mixture was overcooked. The coconut mixture should be taken off the heat once it starts to come together, becomes sticky and a mass pulls away from the pan without leaving any liquid drops.
- The coconut balls should be shaped while they are still warm. It is difficult to shape the coconut ladoos, if they cool completely.
- Lastly, but not the least, though the recipe is very simple and easy to make, it does require a bit of patience and concentration in every step of the process. A simple mistake like slight burning of coconut mixture or overcooking the mixture, or adding the cardamom and star anise very early in cooking, makes a world of difference in the texture and taste of the final coconut ladoos.
- 2 cups grated coconut ( fresh or use coconut powder)
- 2 cups milk (whole or skim)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 8-10 green cardamom pods(crushed and ground)
- ½ star anise ( crushed and ground) or use ¼ tsp of nutmeg powder
- 2.5 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
- 20 walnuts or cashews and raisins( as desired)
- Add milk into a saucepan. Bring milk to boil and let it simmer till it reduces to half.
- In the meantime, heat a teaspoon of ghee in another frying pan. Add nuts(walnuts or cashews) and roast on low heat till golden.Set them aside.
- To the same pan, heat 2 tablespoons ghee. When the ghee is hot,add the grated coconut. Stir and saute on low medium heat for 3-4 minutes.
- Now add sugar into the coconut mixture.Stir and mix well. Saute on low to medium heat for another 10-15 minutes. The purpose is that the coconut loses its moisture.
- Take care not to burn the coconut. To avoid this, stir and mix the ingredients frequently.
- Now add the milk into the coconut mixture. Cook in low medium heat, stirring constantly until all the moisture evaporates completely. When the mixture thickens, add cardamom powder, star anise powder and chopped nuts. Mix well.
- It is important not to overcook the mixture. As soon as the coconut mixture becomes sticky and a mass pulls away from the pan,remove the pan from the heat and let it cool slightly(around 10 minutes) at room temperature.
- When still warm to touch, make small balls by rolling the mixture between your palms.The ladoos will dry up and become firm once completely cooled.
- Serve the ladoos immediately or you can store them in a refrigerator for 4-5 days.