It is September already and it is almost time to welcome the elephant God home. Every year people bring home lovely idols of Lord Ganesha and worship it with a variety of prasad, flowers and do aarti at least once a day. This festival is celebrated across India, but the way it is celebrated in Mumbai is noteworthy. You can almost name it as the most celebrated festival in the city! In US, far away from all the festivities, we all celebrate this festival in our own small ways. A friend brings home the idol for ten days and we take turns to prepare sweets for the Lord.
This year, a group of us had a meetup to celebrate this festival. Everyone was invited to a place where we took sweets and savory dishes based on Ganesha theme. The attire was Saree and there was a demo on how to make the idol using air-dry clay. For this get together, I decided to make these cute modaks from ricotta cheese, condensed milk and saffron. On a recent trip to India, I had got the modak mold, so the process was fairly simple.
Modak(Marathi:मोदक) is a sweet dumpling popular in Western, Eastern as well as Southern India. It is called modak (मोदक) in Marathi, Oriya, Konkani and Gujarati language, Sughiyan (സുഖിയൻ) in Malayalam, modhaka or kadubu in Kannada, modhaka or kozhakkattai in Tamil, and kudumu in Telugu. Modaks have a special importance in the worship of the Hindu god Ganesh; modak is believed to be his favorite food, which begets him the moniker modakapriya (the one who likes modak) in Sanskrit. During the Ganesh worship ceremony, known in India as Ganesha Chaturthi the puja always concludes with an offering of twenty-one modaks to the deity and as prasad.
Modaks made with rice flour shell are preferred for the purpose of prasad, however, wheat shell version are also used. Innovative recipes for modaks have also been created. These include banana nachni modak, motichoor modak and chocolate modak. This recipe also falls into the category of non-traditional modak. Made from ricotta cheese, a natural substitute to Indian mawa, these modaks can be made with ease, just requiring some time and patience! Few ingredients, easy to follow recipe and a couple of hours can yield you about 30 pieces of modak when made from a medium size mold.
Ricotta cheese 1 tub (32 oz)
Sweetened Condensed Milk 1 can (14oz)
Milk 1/4 cup
Saffron strands 1 tsp
Cardamom Powder 2 tsp
Heat the milk to lukewarm and add the saffron strands to it. Mix and set aside for the saffron to stain the milk. In a heavy bottom pan add the ricotta cheese and set it on medium flame. Cook the cheese for at least 25-30 minutes, till all the water evaporates and you are left with a crumbly cheese similar to Indian Mawa. The same can be done in the microwave. Place a bowl of ricotta cheese in the microwave for 4 minutes. Remove, mix and repeat the process 3-4 more times till the water evaporates.
Now add the cardamom powder, condensed milk, milk and saffron to the cheese and mix well. Let the mixture cook on medium flame for about 30 minutes or until it becomes thick. Remove a tsp of the mixture on a plate and let it cool. If the mixture feels dry, it is cooked to the right consistency. Turn down the heat and let the mixture cool for an hour or so. If you are in a rush, refrigerate it for 15 minutes and it will be cool enough.
Once cool, knead it a little to remove any particulate matter. Now to shape, you can either make flat pedas or use a modak mold and make modaks out of the mixture. Make them and store in the refrigerator. They stay good for atleast 4-5 days when refrigerated.
Want to try more Modak recipes? Go to these cute Strawberry Coconut Modak or Sugar-free Dry Fruit Modak recipes.