‘Taratari gol kor, thanda hoe gele pakate asubidha hobe’ (Roll the balls quickly while it's still hot, otherwise they'll be difficult to mold when they are cold), my grandmother would say whenever I assisted her in making ‘Narkel Naru’ (coconut laddoos or sweet coconut balls). No matter how hot the mix was, no matter how red my palms were (from rolling the hot coconut sugar/jaggery mix), I tried rolling them faster and gulp down 1 or 2 'Narus' (Coconut laddos) in the process.
Though, 'Bijoya Dashami' marking the end of Durga Puja, made me feel sad after the days of festivities, it also brought in new excitement of preparing and eating delicious treats which were majorly reserved for 'Bijoya Dashami'. Nimkis (diamond shaped crackers), narus and ghugni (veg peas curry without onion) were prepared beforehand to be served to guests visiting on the occasion of Bijoya Dashami. In addition to that, our father would bring rasogollas, bonde (sweet boondi), pantua from nearby sweet shops. And once the Dashami was over, there would be a constant stream of guests (our neighbours, friends, father's colleagues) which would extend till Kalipuja or Diwali - and so would there be a constant supply of the delicacies.
After bidding a symbolic adieu to Goddess Durga by offering our prayers, sweets and 'sindoor' (vermillion) by married women, we (us siblings) couldn't wait to gorge on the delicacies viz., narus, nimkis, bonde, rasogollas, ghugni, after returning from the pandals and seeking the blessings of elders by touching their feet. More varieties of narus (laddoos) (viz., tiler naru (Sesame laddoo), chinir narkel er naru (coconut laddoo made with sugar), gurer narkel er naru (coconut laddoo made with jaggery) would be prepared during Lakshmi Puja which is held five days after Bijoya Dashami. And thus, would start our sweet and savoury treats which would last till Kalipuja/Diwali.
While I wish I could return to those childhood days of fun, fervor, foods, light, and enjoyment without a care in the world, where interactions were physical rather than digital, where major part of our days were not engrossed in the digital world, the aromas of certain foods make me relive those childhood memories. 'Gurer narkel naru' (Coconut laddoos made with Jaggery) is one such food which I've always loved. Also, I do not restrict myself to prepare this delicacy only at Dashami. While the gurer naru (jaggery laddoos) made on the occasion of Bijoya Dashami are made with Akhi Gur/Akher Gur (Sugarcane Jaggery), the flavour of khejurer gur (Date Palm Jaggery), which is available with the onset of winter, adds a sweeter aroma to the laddoos. The only difference is now I have to prepare it alone from start to end without the cautionary notes from my grandmother.
So here's enjoying the winter onset with Khejur gurer narkel naru (coconut balls made with date palm jaggery).
**Recipe for Khejur Gurer Narkel Naru (Coconut balls/laddoos made from Date Palm Jaggery)**
1 medium-sized coconut - grated (While my grandmother used to grate the coconut with a kuruni, I grate it with a hand grater)
Khejurer Gur/Patali (Date Palm Jaggery) broken or cut into small pieces (as per desired sweetness)
Powdered Cardamom (1/2 tsp)
Dry roast the grated coconut in a wok in low flame to reduce the moisture from the coconut. However, do not allow the coconut to turn brown.
Then add the jaggery and cardamom powder to the roasted coconut and mix it thoroughly stirring non-stop as the jaggery melts. Stir and cook this mixture until the mixture slightly thickens. You can take a small portion of the thickened mix and try to roll it into a ball to understand whether it has attained the right consistency. If it can be molded into a ball, then the mix is ready.
Turn off the flame and roll them into balls when the mix reaches an agreeable temperature to touch.
Store them in an airtight container and enjoy it whenever you want...