Recipe for Okkarai
This is a jaggery-based, low-fat sweet made from chana dal / kadalai paruppu, does not require much ghee - perfect for health conscious folks.
1 cup chana dal
1 cup jaggery
1/2 cup freshly grated coconut
2 tbsp gingelly oil / you can use ghee if you dont have this oil
1-2 tbsp ghee for frying cashews
10-12 cashews, halved
2-3 tbsp of raisins
Dry roast the chana dal till golden brown and aromatic. This will take 7-8 minutes on medium heat. Soak this roasted dal in lots of water for 3 hours or so.
Dry roast the coconut flakes till golden and aromatic. This will take around 5 minutes on low flame. Keep aside.
Remove the skin, grind the seeds along with a tsp of coarsely granulated sugar in mortar-pestle till you get a fairly fine powder. Keep aside.
Cashews and raisins
Heat 1-2 tbsp ghee and fry them till cashews are golden. Keep aside.
- Grind the soaked chana dal to a fine paste, adding as little water as possible, to get a fairly thick doughy paste.
- Place 3 cups of water in a big pressure cooker (5L+) / steamer. Make loose dumplings of the ground dal and place in a deep, big vessel that fits in the cooker.
- Close the lid of the cooker MINUS the weight- so you use it as a steamer.
- Steam the ground dal for 20-25 minutes on medium flame. Open the cooker after a few minutes and let these steamed dumplings cool.
- Now, you can either grate these cooled dumplings or crumble them with your fingers. The former gives a more uniform look to the sweet.
- In a large wok, hear 2-3 tbsp of gingelly oil (Nalla yennai) and fry the crumbled / grated dal mix on a low flame for 5-7 minutes. Keep aside.
- Instructions for the Vella-paagu (Jaggery-pak)
Add 1 cup of crushed jaggery to this and let it melt on a high flame, with constant stirring.
Once the jaggery has melted thoroughly, lower flame and keep stirring.
In 7-8 minutes the mixture will get a deep colour and start thickening.
Keep a small plate handy, and pour a drop or so of this onto it, every 2-3 minutes.
Try rolling this drop between your thumb and index finger. If it turns into a ball and makes a sound when you drop it on the plate, your jaggery-pak (vella-paagu) is ready for the okkarai.
- As soon as your paagu reaches this stage, turn off the flame. Remove the wok from the stove and start adding the ready dal crumble in batches, giving it a good mix to coat evenly. Once the crumble is all evenly mixed with the jaggery paagu - it will be soft, sweet and not sticky, but like perfectly cooked basmati rice - fluffy, dry and separate.
- To this, add the roasted coconut, cardamom powder and fried cashews and raisins and mix gently.
Your Okkarai is ready for Diwali. If you like a richer taste, you can use more ghee to fry the cashews, but 1 tbsp is more than enough.
It is a labourious recipe, but with just two main ingredients - to get such a flavoursome and healthy festival sweet, it is totally worth it.
The recipe has been given to me by my maternal grandmother, who has been making this for every Diwali as far as I can remember.
I am so glad I made it this year and it is going to part of my Diwali cooking every year, now on.
Hope you find this recipe useful to recreate your family tradition :)