‘Nallachi Kapa’ is a popular burfi made with fresh coconut scrapings. There are two versions of this recipe- one type of kapa is made with sugar while the other type, that we’ve described here, is made with jaggery. The recipe made with jaggery, given to us by our mom Kamakshi, yields delicious golden-brown squares that are made even more special with the addition of chopped, toasted cashew nuts. This recipe uses just a few ingredients and is an easy, delicious sweet to prepare.
“Could we please have some more, Urvi kaki (aunt)?” asked Prakash, trying to lean closer to the wide plate in front of him. The large metal plate held a white mound of fresh coconut scrapings. Urvashi, the young girl who’d just married into the illustrious Nayak family, sat across the adoli, grating fresh coconuts against its sharp, serrated blade. “You’ve already had nearly half of the coconut I’ve been trying to grate!” she said sternly. Then, looking upon the pleading faces of her husband’s younger cousins, she smiled and handed them some more pieces of fresh, sweet coconut to relish.
“Can we help you to make the Kapa too, Urvi kaki (aunt)?” asked Leela, the youngest of the little band of cousins. “Why don’t you hand me some god (jaggery)?” said Urvi, pausing to hug the little girl. Another large metal plate nearby held a mound of golden-brown god. With a deep, rich flavour this jaggery was perfect for the Nallachi Kapa. The last time Urvi had relished squares of the caramel-coloured sweet, had been at her own family’s home, a couple of months ago. Her favourite sweet had been lovingly stirred together for her by her maushi (aunt) a few weeks before her wedding day.
Today, Urvi had promised to replicate her maushi’s recipe as a special treat for her husband’s family. She usually preferred to cook on her own, being able to ensure that the entire process flowed more smoothly. However today, her husband’s little band of cousins seemed determined to help her. The boys, making their greed endearingly obvious, had offered to help only so they’d be able to sneakily snack on the coconut and god. But Leela seemed genuinely interested in helping her young kaki to make the kapa.
“Alright, that’s enough! You boys had better run along and play before you finish all the coconut! I haven’t even started to cook the kapa yet!” said Urvi, swatting Prakash’s hands away as he tried to sneak in a last handful of the sweet, white coconut scrapings. “Let’s go catch tadpoles from the stream!” said Prakash’s younger brother, Pradeep. The boys hurried out the aangan (courtyard) in a noisy scramble, pushing and pulling and trying to race one another to the fields by the side of the house.
But Leela lingered, sitting cross-legged on the shendri (mat) next to Urvi and waiting for instructions. Urvi smiled at the sweet, three-year old girl. Scraping one last coconut vati (half a coconut shell), she gathered the white scrapings and placed them on the metal plate. Then, she drew the other plate closer and showed Leela how to break the soft jaggery into small pieces. Now and then, she and Leela would snack on tiny pieces of god. Next, Urvi drew the khalbatto (mortar and pestle) closer and holding Leela’s hand, began to grind fresh, black cardamom seeds into a powder. Leela giggled, feeling very happy that she’d been included in this important task.
Once the cardamom had been powdered, Urvi walked into the kitchen, balancing the plates of coconut and jaggery. Susparsha, who’d served the Nayak family for many years, placed the khalbatto next to the chul (fireplace). Urvi kept a large, deep aidan (vessel) on the hot chul and poured in some fresh ghee (clarified butter). Using a daulo (ladle), she stirred the ghee and drew Leela close so that the little girl could watch the process. Into the golden pool of melted ghee went a plateful of finely chopped kaju (cashew nuts). The kaju pieces sizzled in the warm ghee and soon turned reddish-brown, filling the kitchen with their aroma. Urvi drained the kaju out onto a plate and added the god into the ghee. Leela watched attentively, with an enchanted smile on her face, as the god melted into the ghee and began to bubble. Urvi stirred the sweet mixture, drawing Leela closer to herself so the little girl wasn’t too close to the hot chul. Adding in the coconut scrapings, she stirred the mixture, coating the white strands of fragrant coconut with the melted jaggery.
“Is it ready kaki? Is it ready now? May I taste some?” asked Leela impatiently but Urvi continued to cook the kapa, stirring all the while. Leela ‘helped’ her now and again, sprinkling the elaichi powder into the aidan, placing her tiny hands over Urvi’s and pretending to give the mixture a good stir. Finally, once the mixture had turned golden-brown and slicked with ghee, Urvi carefully poured it out onto a large metal plate and used her fingers to flatten its surface.
Leela was given the important task of scattering pieces of chopped kaju all over the top of the warm kapa mixture. Urvi then pushed the kaju down with her fingers, making sure the surface of the kapa was even. After an hour of “Is it cool now? Is it ready? May I taste some now?” from the little girl, Urvi finally used a suri (knife) to cut the cooled kapa mixture into squares. Placing a plate of the delicious sweet in the Devachikud (Prayer Room), she offered a square of the warm kapa to Leela. The little girl held the square with both hands, enjoying its taste and smiling with glee.
Once the evening meal had been served, squares of the sweet were offered to all the family members. Everyone loved the Nallachi Kapa, complimenting Urvi on the first sweet she’d made especially for them. However, another ‘star’ received compliments that evening. All the family members claimed that the kapa was sweeter still, all thanks to the youngest cook in the family- Leela, their own adorable, little girl who was as sweet as the kapa she had helped to make.
Nallachi Kapa Recipe
(Makes 16 squares)
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Coconut
- 1 cup Jaggery
- 2 tablespoons Ghee (Clarified Butter)
- 2 teaspoons Cardamom Seeds (Elaichi)
- 1/4 cup Cashew nuts
Chop the cashew nuts into small pieces and dry roast in a wide, deep pan. When the cashew nuts are golden-brown and fragrant, take them off the heat and keep aside. In the same pan, melt the ghee and add in the pieces of jaggery. As the jaggery melts into the warm ghee, stir the mixture frequently to prevent the jaggery from burning. When small bubbles appear on the surface of the jaggery, add in the coconut scrapings and cardamom seeds (lightly crushed). Stir the mixture well to combine all the ingredients and cook on low to medium heat. Add in the toasted cashew nut pieces (reserve a few pieces for granishing) and mix well. Keep stirring the kapa mixture frequently so that it does not burn.
While the kapa mixture is cooking, lightly grease a wooden board with a spoonful of ghee. Once the kapa mixture has turned golden-brown and leaves the sides of the pan, turn it out onto the greased board. Use a spatula or flat spoon (lightly greased with a little ghee) to gently pat the kapa mixture into a square of even thickness. While the kapa mixture is still warm, sprinkle the rest of the cashew nut pieces over the top and use the spatula to gently press them into the kapa. Once the kapa mixture cools further, cut it into small squares using a sharp knife. The knife may be lightly greased with a little ghee to prevent the sweet mixture from sticking to it. Separate the squares of kapa and leave to cool completely. The kapa can be stored in an airtight box in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. We’ve wrapped individual squares in cling film and frozen them to extend the shelf life of the sweets. They’re a great, sweet snack for whenever we’re hungry!
Story Notes: Our stories, set in the early 1900s, are entirely fictional & inspired by childhood tales, local legends and books.