Burfi – India’s answer to western fudge. It’s sweet, it’s soft; melts in your mouth, and leaves you craving for more. Indian burfi is usually made with milk and sugar, laced with flavours of saffron, cardamom, fruits, and nuts. It’s basically a celebration of all things joyful. Now I usually make my coconut burfi with sugar syrup and fresh coconut (and ‘fresh’ is a word that I hold in very high regard when it comes to cooking). That’s a traditional recipe I learned by watching my mum cook it. But I’ll save that for another day.
For today, on the occasion of Narali Pournima and Raksha Bandhan, I wanted to give the humble coconut burfi a makeover. I wanted to make it unctuous with milk solids but without using tinned (or plastic packaged) condensed milk or cream. For me, the best way to enjoy any traditional delicacy is to keep it simple and traditional. So move over condensed milk, cream & desiccated coconut, and make way for fresh coconut and whole milk.
As I said, I am a fan of all things ‘fresh’ in cooking and so I broke open the fresh coconut, peeled its skin to keep the burfis looking dazzlingly white, and whizzed it up in a grinder to create an interesting texture.
This recipe uses only three main ingredients – freshly grated coconut, whole milk, and sugar.
Here are a few FAQs you may have with this recipe:
Q: Can I use desiccated coconut or dry coconut powder instead of fresh coconut?
A: Of course. Using desiccated coconut will give this burfi a firmer texture. The cooking method remains the same. However the taste may vary.
Q: Do I have to buy milk powder/khoya or mawa for this burfi?
A: This recipe involves slowly boiling the whole milk to make your own milk solids called ‘rabdi’ or ‘rabri’ so there’s no need for any of the shop-bought (and plastic-packaged) milk powder, khoya, or mawa.
Q: But isn’t slow-boiling milk to make ‘rabri’ too time consuming?
A: It isn’t super fast. However, in this recipe, I share a simple trick to speed up the process. Bring the milk to a rolling boil over a medium flame. Then, place a ladle in the milk pan so that it doesn’t boil over. Continue boiling over a medium to high flame whilst scraping milk solids off the sides of the pan into the boiling liquid. These milk solids along with the thickened milk give a distinctive milky flavour to this burfi that you don’t get with tinned milk products.
Here’s the recipe.
Fresh Coconut Burfi With Reduced Milk / Naralachi BurfiCourse: DessertCuisine: IndianDifficulty: Medium
400g (2.5 cups) grated or ground fresh coconut. I used 2 fresh coconuts and removed the brown skin before grinding.
1.25 liters whole milk
150g (¾ cup) caster sugar or to taste
2 tbsp slivered pistachios
1 tbsp slivered almonds
1 tsp cardamom powder
½ tsp grated nutmeg
1 tbsp ghee
extra ghee to grease the plate
a pinch of saffron for garnish
- Take two whole coconuts and break them open. Discard the shell. Remove the brown skin of the coconut using a potato peeler. Then either grate or grind the coconut pieces.
- Start boiling the milk in a heavy-bottomed pan. Bring it to a rolling boil over a medium to high flame ensuring the milk doesn’t spill over. Then place a ladle at the center of the pan and continue boiling over a medium flame. This will help prevent the milk spilling over. Scrape the cream that forms on the side of the pan into the milk and continue boiling and stirring until it has reduced by three-quarters (so only one quarter is left). This could take between 30-45 mins.
- Meanwhile, in another pan add the ghee followed by the grated coconut. The idea is to remove some of the moisture from the fresh coconut, by lightly roasting it. Do not let the coconut turn golden or light brown. Roast the coconut gently for upto 3-4 mins over a low flame. Transfer to a bowl or plate.
- Grease a deep plate or tray with ghee and leave it aside.
- By this time the ‘slow boiling’ milk (step 2) should have been reduced sufficiently. Add the sugar, followed by the cardamom powder and nutmeg to the milk. Give it a good stir.
- Tip the toasted coconut into the reduced milk and continue stirring for 10 minutes or until the mixture stops sticking to the sides of the pan. Transfer and spread the mixture evenly onto the greased plate with a spatula. Sprinkle and gently pat the slivered pistachios and almonds on the spread. Let the mixture set for 2-3 hours.
- Once set, make incisions with a butter knife and cut into square or diamond-shaped pieces.
- To save time, you can start by first putting the milk to boil whilst you’re breaking and grinding the coconut. So step 1 and step 2 can be swapped.
- You can replace fresh coconut with desiccated coconut or even dry coconut powder if you’re short of time. You won’t need to peel, grind or spend so much time drying the coconut in that case. Also, desiccated coconut will firm up the texture of this burfi sooner than fresh coconut. To further speed up the setting process, you can increase the quantity of the desiccated coconut a bit. For me, fresh coconut gives a better flavour.
- Instead of greasing the deep steel plate (in step 4), you can also line it with greaseproof paper to set the burfi.
- Use whole milk for the best results. Semi-skimmed or skimmed milk doesn’t have the fat content needed to produce the rich milk solids this burfi needs. Ideally, the milk should be unpasteurised to enjoy that truly unctuous flavour of reduced milk solids. However, you can still get decent results with pasteurised whole milk, as I’ve done here.
- You can swap the caster sugar with brown sugar though the burfis will of course turn out a little darker.
- This burfi is soft and moist in texture. It has a lovely taste of coconut and milk solids.