xmlns:fb='http://www.facebook.com/2008/fbml' Trinidad Parsad

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Trinidad Parsad

Summer has bid us farewell. School is back in session. I have no vivid recollection of activities that occurred between the start of summer and the beginning of the school session. I know I worked maybe just a little too much and I'm getting used to my new commute to Midtown. It's always been a dream of mine to hike the Great Wall of China. Two weeks commuting in the NYC subways, squeezing into sardine packed cars, waiting for delayed trains, climbing stairs and more stairs, I no longer desire to visit or view first hand that aforementioned Wall, stairs included. 

Fulton Street subway station is a wonder of the world in itself, no need to visit a very far land in search of physically challenging stairs to conquer. More challenging is sprinting up the many stairs to catch a train when one is late for work. It's not uncommon to see older folks huddled over the handrails trying to catch their breath. I shall not confess whether I'm included in that statistic.  I am in dire need of a vacation. Diwali is later this month and I may hop on a plane to experience again the wonders of the festival of lights, after two decades in exile, and violate every law of moderation and indulge in excess parsad consumption to soothe my troubled, weary soul. Amen.

Parsad, for those of you who are not familiar with the word, is a traditional sweet served at Hindu religious ceremonies in Trinidad and other countries in the Caribbean. Flour and/or cream of wheat are cooked in ghee until golden brown, after which raisins, ginger and ground cardamom(elaichi) are added. It’s all brought together with a syrup made with milk, sugar and water, which results in a fluffy, pillowy soft, indulgent dessert.

I grew up in a Hindu household and it was quite challenging waiting for the almost three hour long  prayer service (also referred to as prayers or pooja) to end to receive the little plastic or brown paper bags filled with parsad and other sweet delicacies, including kurma, ladoo, roat, barfi, pera, lapsi and suhari. It was (and still is) against all rules to eat or taste any of the food or delicacies until after the prayer service had ended. Torture for a young foodie. Torture.

Because of the length of these devotions, the young rebel in me opted to hang out and chat with the cooks who were busy preparing huge iron pots of vegetarian dishes and paratha roti, which were to be served at the end of the pooja to the prayer devotees and non devotees(those who came only for the food and sweets). This meant that I had to perform dish washing, bell girl and sous chef duties, but those responsibilities were so much more bearable and exciting than sitting still waiting for the prayers to end.

I believe that this is one of the reasons I could now easily prepare a feast for a hundred people. I gained priceless experience and knowledge observing the older generation of cooks. Nowadays, I am much better behaved, obedient and spiritual, and on an occasional Sunday, you will find me sitting for several hours in church, even though there are no sweet treats or food served at the end of service. I bring my own. 

There are several versions of parsad, one is made solely with flour and another made with just cream of wheat. Then there is this recipe which combines both. Some folks enjoy their parsad warm and soft, others like it cold and hard straight out of the refrigerator. I don’t discriminate. I eat it any which way I get it, well except if it’s too white which means that the flour was not parched sufficiently in the ghee, which results in a bland, raw flour taste. The color of the parsad varies with the length of time the flour is cooked, aka parched...

Around Diwali time, when all my family and friends in Trinidad are enjoying an abundance of parsad (and prayer’s food), because of the frequency of pooja’s everywhere, I usually prepare a small batch to satisfy my craving, console myself and reminisce about my childhood.  Actually, that is all I seem to do these days, cook, eat, reminisce. Repeat. Hopefully, this year will be different.

Cook's "managing my weight" Tip---If you plan to make parsad as often as I do for your own personal satisfaction, you may decrease the ghee and sugar to half cup each. Just a suggestion. Calm down. 

Use this recipe if you want consistent results EVERY TIME! No more calling Aunties, Tanties or grandmas to ask them how to make parsad ...I did all the work for you....Three years of investigating, interrogating and testing to bring you the authentic taste of parsad. I hope you enjoy..:-)

Ria's Trinidad Parsad
Serves 8-10

1 can “Carnation” evaporated milk (12 oz)
1 cup organic whole milk
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup ghee (clarified butter) ( I prefer Cow Brand Ghee)
cup all purpose flour
1 cup instant cream of wheat (farina)
½ cup golden raisins (Optional) 
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground elaichi (cardamom)

Peel and grate ginger (I always give this task to my husband) and measure ingredients.

Make Syrup:

In a small saucepan with a long handle, add evaporated milk, whole milk, one cup of water and sugar and place over a low flame. Stir until sugar has melted. Keep on low flame.  

[A few times I added the ginger to the milk and it curdled, so I no longer bother. You may continue to use the milk if it curdled, I didn't notice a difference to the final product]

To cook:

Meanwhile, in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, add ghee. 

When it melts, gradually sprinkle in flour and stir, using a wooden spoon in a rapid back and forth motion, scraping the flour from the bottom of the pot so it doesn't burn.

[If the flour is becoming brown too quickly, lower the heat.] 

Cook (parch), stirring continuously, scraping the bottom of the pot, until the flour is golden brown, like the color of tea with milk(or a little lighter if that's your preference), and light in weight, about 5-7 minutes. 

Add cream of wheat and continue to stir continuously, about 3 minutes. 

Add raisins, grated ginger and elaichi and cook 3 more minutes...

...until raisins are plump... 

Start pouring the hot milk mixture gradually (one cup or ladle at a time) into the pot, (and carefully since the syrup will splatter). 

[Feel free to ask your significant other or other trustworthy person to assist you in pouring the hot milk mixture into the pot. I pour one cup at a time--but quickly--because I find that it's easier to turn that way...]

Turn vigorously and rapidly in a back and forth motion, until the cream of wheat is cooked and all the liquid is absorbed, about 5-7 minutes--depending on your pot or the heat. It make look "pasty" for a little while, don't lose courage or confidence, success is just around the corner--just keep those arms moving....

The parsad is finished when it starts to clump together, your arms are dead tired and sweat is pouring from your forehead. No exaggeration.....and most importantly, the parsad is fluffy, pillowy soft, light...the aroma heavenly...

[It may seem a little greasy, but as it cools the grease will be absorbed to keep it at the right "parsad" texture.] 

With love,
prayerful wishes and
indulgent dishes,


(Using recipes already posted)

Appetizer: Pholourie or Aloo Pie and Mango Chutney
Dessert: Sweet Rice and Parsad



1 comment:

Cooking with Ria said...

Thanks for taking the time ... to sharing your recipes and love of Trini food.

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