xmlns:fb='http://www.facebook.com/2008/fbml' My Mother-in-Law's (Grace) Kurma Recipe

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

My Mother-in-Law's (Grace) Kurma Recipe

Sadly all good things come to an end-with the exception of my blogging of course. The activity and action packed days of summer are now a refreshing memory. My annual fourth of July BBQ, a family vacation in exquisite Turks and Caicos, elaborate birthday parties, graduation parties, potlucks, concerts, road trips, camping trips, family visits. Some of us visited every park, beach and museum within a 10 mile radius. We kept going and going and going, all in an eager attempt to maximize the few warm months of summer. Now that it's over, I am enjoying the calmer, colorful days of fall and looking forward to a peaceful (but not dreadfully cold) winter. I am grateful that living in a temperate zone allows us to break, restore and renew for a few months. 

Some of you have noticed my long quiescent. I personally don't have one specific reason but I know it's all part of the spiritual metamorphosis I have been experiencing. There are times when I eliminate all distractions to focus on whatever I am dealing with at the moment. I've also missed blogging but it wasn't happening. I had the good intentions but I could never see a post to fruition. Just sitting at my computer at this moment feels triumphant, like I've broken a curse or restraint barring my creativity. Even at this victorious moment, in the background, is the Dah calling out to me to go to the gym with him. He must be insane. Who goes to the gym at 3:00 pm on a Saturday? Ok, don't answer that. I certainly prefer sitting here at my computer with a bowl(very small) of freshly made, crunchy kurma, sharing the recipe and a kurma story (or two) with you. 

This recipe was graciously given to me by my mother-in-law Grace, a humble, unpretentious, woman with a beautiful smile and a heart of gold. She is occasionally called upon to make as much as 25 pounds of kurma for weddings and prayers. During my last visit to Trinidad, around Diwali, I had the pleasure of accompanying her to a neighbor's house to make kurma. You see, in that house lives a 10 year old little girl who promised a teacher she would bring five pounds of kurma for him for his pooja the next day, not taking into consideration that her mother does not know how. That unsettling circumstance prompted the girl's mother to race out the door in her housework-stained clothes and disheveled hair to my mother-in-law's house to plead for assistance.

What is the significance of that story? Thirty years ago (and a little more) I was that little girl, with an excessively generous countenance, always volunteering to bring something to school despite knowing my mother worked and never had the time nor the patience. "Two huge tubs of ice cream", "barfi", "parsad", "fried rice", "bbq chicken". You name it, I volunteered to bring it. Lots of buff up (Trini for: act of being "screamed at") and licks (aka reprimanding) later, I still didn't learn my lesson, until one day Mummy said NO! Her friend Aunty Shudaye said NO! Everyone said NO! I cried, panicked and cried some more. The memory of that horrible night has haunted me over the years. My uncle Bhola, daddy's younger brother, in his early 20's at the time, offered to rescue me from my potential demise. One little problem, he never made kurma before, probably never cooked before, as I've never seen him near the stove. 

With instructions and advice from anyone who would volunteer it and a few notes scratched on a crumpled paper from an old "copy book",  we headed to the kitchen. There in Grandma's kitchen, I watched on with bated breath and a rapidly beating heart as Uncle Bhola carefully put the ingredients in a large bowl and kneaded it to form a dough. Fear monopolized my thoughts, "What if it don't come out good"? "What if nobody like it?" "Everybody going to laugh at me!" "I not going to school tomorrow nah!" {Trini Slang} We rolled it out, cut it, fried it, boiled some sugar and water until thick and we poured it over the kurma to coat. Since there were no phones back then, I recall speeding back and forth, in my already worn out rubber slippers, from the kitchen to my mother/anybody/somebody asking for clarifications and to appease any doubts on the process. He continuously reassured me in a gentle, encouraging, confident tone, "doh worry nah man, we got this, no problem". Three decades later, his voice in my head is still a beacon of hope. That night we finished making it way past my bedtime, about 1 or 2 a.m. I remember all the details of the kurma making process but honestly, I have no recollection of the taste, outcome or feedback received. A dire result of  PTSD(post traumatic stress disorder).

After that day/night/hour, I never (ever, ever) volunteered to make or bring anything to school without consulting my mom first. That experience proved to be one of the earliest, most difficult lessons I've learned. Three decades later, whenever I see Uncle Bhola during any of my visits home, we still have a few laughs about that interesting night.

For those of you who don't know,  kurma is a sweet, addicting anytime dessert or snack. A crunchy, flavorful, fried pastry dough covered with a thin coating of sugar. It is served in a bag of parsad given out at the end of Hindu religious ceremonies, during Hindu festivals such as Diwali, or sold in small bags. Whenever I visit Trinidad I always return to the US with an abundant supply of this legit drug, all homemade - prepared only by the best, Aunty Shudaye or my mother in law. Today I am sharing Grace's (my mother in law's) secret recipe with you. This is much tastier than the kurma you would buy in the restaurants in NY and much tastier than most of the commercially made ones I've had in Trinidad, so let's get to work.

In case you are curious, 5 pounds (flour) is sufficient for a small prayer function,10 pounds for a medium sized one, 20-25 pounds for a large wedding. This recipe can be easily and successfully doubled or tripled.

Grace's Kurma Recipe 

2.5 lbs all-purpose flour
½ tablespoon ground cinnamon (15 grams)
1 teaspoon ground elaichi (cardamom) (5 g)
2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 lb butter (2 x 227 grams), cold
¾ cup evaporated milk (250ml), cold
1 can condensed milk (395 grams), cold
Vegetable oil, for deep frying

For Sugar syrup (phaag)
2 cups water
2 cups white granulated sugar (1 pound) ( I used raw organic cane sugar which is darker)
1 teaspoon grated ginger, or more if you like it "gingery"

1.      In a large bowl combine flour, cinnamon, elaichi and ginger. Cut butter into cubes and, using your fingers, rub it into the flour, until it resembles fine crumbs(like a pastry dough).

2.      Add the evaporated milk and condensed milk and knead for 10-15 minutes to form a smooth, firm dough.(I always start with ½ cup evaporated milk and add more if required).

3.      Divide the dough  into 3 pieces and form into balls (loyahs). Place on a tray or bowl  and refrigerate for 10 minutes. (I made two but highly suggest three as it is more manageable.)

4.      In a large iron pot over medium heat and add enough oil to deep fry (a little less than half pot). Line a large bowl or sheet tray with brown paper or parchment paper.
5.      While the oil is coming to temperature(hot), remove one ball(loyah)from the refrigerator, place on a counter or chowki(board), and using a rolling pin(belnah), roll the dough to a thinness of  1/8 inch, like a roti dough, (do not use dry flour because when you are frying, the oil will brown very quickly).
6.      Then, using a pastry cutter or dull knife, cut out the dough, vertically (top to bottom), into strips 1-1 ½ inch wide. Lift each strip and roll between the palm of your hands to resemble a rope. Place back on the counter and cut into 1 inch pieces, or to your preferred length. Alternately, without rolling, cut into thin diagonal strips. Place on an oiled tray. Repeat with the remaining strips. (The latter is my preferred method as I like my kurma thin, dark and long.)

7.      When the oil is very hot, place all the pieces immediately (and carefully) into the hot oil and fry until dark golden brown (do not try to separate the pieces in the oil as it will separate itself). Once separated, turn frequently. Using a spider strainer, remove kurma from the oil and place on the lined sheet trays to drain and cool completely. Repeat with the remaining loyahs.
8.      Separate kurma into 2 large bowls or one very large bowl.

Make Phaag(sugar syrup):
1.      While the kurma is frying, in a saucepan over medium heat, bring water, sugar and ginger to a gentle boil. Boil for 30-45 minutes or until it starts to get frothy/bubbly/syrupy and/or starts to form sugar crystals on the sides(230 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer). Then, keep on the lowest heat.

2.      Pour sugar syrup one cup at a time over kurma and turn quickly and gently to coat completely(Warning--if you don't put enough, it will not be as crunchy!). Using a clean spoon(no oil), mix quickly but gently until kurma is evenly coated.  Continue turning until sugar hardens/dries and the kurma is coated with a white layer. If at any point it's very sticky, keep turning, it will eventually dry.  Don't give up!
3.      Dust with powdered milk(optional).

Please like, share, post a comment or question below or tell me your kurma story. I would love to hear from you!

With Love,

Other Diwali (Traditional East Indian) Recipes(using recipes already on the blog):
Aloo Pie (Potato)

Vegetarian Diwali Main Course:
Channa and Aloo
Buss Up Shot (Paratha Roti)
Fry Bodi (Sauteed Long Green Beans)
Baigan and Tomato Choka

Sweet Rice
Kurma (above)

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