This year’s Ganesh Chaturthi was very special for many reasons. It was special because it was the first one we celebrated after our wedding, hereby beginning a tradition we intend to carry on for years to come. We also made our own idol for the occasion and most importantly, we celebrated the occasion with our friends and neighbors. For my husband, this festival holds a special place in his heart because it was a tradition to invite family and friends for a yearly get-together, and he still cherishes those memories. So this year we ushered in Lord Ganesh to our abode. Truly, what better occasion than Ganesh Chaturthi, dedicated to the Vignaharta (destroyer of obstacles) to herald this entire season of festivities.

Plate of modaks

Plate of modaks

Our little adventure while making the idol was an exhilarating experience. With very modest expectations, we started the project by mixing clay and molding shapes. The urge to make it look realistic pushed me to keep at it till I got the result I wanted. It took me close to an hour to get the janwa (the string around Lord Ganesha’s torso) right! A day to dry and then we painted the idol with bright colors. Now with our homemade Ganesh idol all ready for his big day, it was only fitting to welcome him home with equal pomp and show. So apart from the typical Maharastrian puja delicacies (varan, bhaat, puri, kala chana chi usal, batatya chi bhaji, koshimbir, chutney, ukdiche modak and shrikhand), I wanted to make something special for the occasion and decided to try my hand at making pedas shaped in the form of modaks.

Kesar Malai Modaks
Soft, rich & creamy milky dessert made of fresh cottage cheese and kesar sweetened with condensed milk and reduced milk powder. With a generous helping of slivered almonds, this dessert attains its exquisite aroma from that elusive hint of saffron.
Ingredients
15 oz. tin of ricotta cheese
(whole milk)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon rose water
Pinch of saffron

Procedure:
1. Heat a tablespoon of ghee in a pan and sauté the ricotta cheese. First it will start to melt and then eventually it will start forming like a dough. This takes around 15 minutes on medium heat.
2. In a separate bowl, mix 1 teaspoon rose water and the pinch of saffron and stir. Then add the sugar and ricotta cheese and heat again adding 1/4 cup milk when it starts to form a ball of dough. Also add kesar/saffron when you add sugar.
3. Stir continuously over medium low heat till it forms like a dough ball. The dough should stick to the spoon altogether.
4. Cool for some time and then when you are able to handle the dough, form the peda. It can be shaped in any form you prefer, but modaks being Lord Ganesha’s favorite, I shaped them in the form of modaks.

Gulakand Coconut Modak
A rich, decadent and traditional offering made of sweetened coconut is taken up a notch with a filling of gulkand or rose jam. The stuffing comes as a sweet surprise to the guest and makes this dessert all the more special.
Ingredients:
1 teaspoon ghee
1/2 cup condensed milk
1 tablespoon milk
1 cup desiccated coconut
Cardamom powder
For stuffing
1 tablespoon gulkand
1 tablespoon sliced and chopped almonds and pistachios.
Toasted dessicated coconut-rolling (optional)

Procedure
1. Heat ghee in pan and add condensed milk along with one tablespoon milk and boil for two minutes then add desiccated coconut and mix everything well. Stir for a few more minutes till it comes together and let the mixture cool down. Add cardamom powder and keep aside.
2. Then, mix the ingredients for the stuffing and keep ready.
3. Once it is cool enough to handle, make a small ball and fill the stuffing in the center. Roll again for a smooth texture.
4. Finally, roll the ladoos in some toasted dessicated coconut so that there is a crunch and texture on the outside. This step is completely optional and can be excluded if need be.
Note: Both sweets stay fresh in the refrigerator for about 1 week.
Making these sweets at home was another satisfying experience that made this celebration all the more special. It is a recipe that I cherish because it melded in traditions and happy memories from both of our childhoods. Isn’t this the way where family occasions feel special? A little bit of nostalgia mixed with the right amount of adventure!

Jagruti Vedamati is a post-doctoral student at Stanford University.

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