Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sinfully sweet: Shakkarpara for Dusshera

Oftentimes, my everyday life is accented by memories of past that flash out of nowhere. I am, where I was in a different avatar long ago, and I just want to turn the clock back and be what I was and do what I did then. At times, this happens because I'm missing those days. More often than not, I feel like I want my children to experience the little things in life that marked my childhood. And never does this desire hit me harder than during the traditional Indian Holidays, when I think about the celebrations as they used to be - the sights, the sounds and the smells that ushered in our Holidays. 

 The biggest challenge of bringing up children so far from home and family, I feel, is making them realize that they have an identity that doesn't blend in with being American. Over the 9 years of my first-born's life, I've attempted to answer questions ranging from "why do we eat weird food?" (a couple months ago) to "why does our God live in a home other than a Church?" While the latter was hurriedly brushed under a carpet (I had no idea how to answer that to a then 5yr old...), I am still struggling to have her  recognize Indian food as "not weird". Although she eats everyday Indian meals at home, she still prefers a sandwich for school and doesn't like to try new 'Indian' things.  Our festivals are the hardest to get through, since my children don't understand what we're celebrating; when we are the only house in the neighborhood doing it. 

I myself don't do much of traditional observing if the holidays fall during the week and am reduced to celebrating through food - that too on weekends. And for this, I exploit my family's sweet tooth to get them involved. Dusshera in my childhood, marked the countdown to Diwali and to us, that meant tons of home-made sweets. Making these Shakkarpara, for me, is a great way to have them anticipate that "something special is coming up." We always make these the weekend before any festival comes up to rev up our wheels of excitement......and this Shakkarpara has become our silent symbol of Indian Holidays.


For the para:
Maida/ all purpose flour 1 cup
Sooji/ semolina 1/4 cup
Oil 3Tbsp + more to deep fry
Water to knead dough

For the sugar syrup:
Sugar 1 cup
Water 1 cup
A few pods of crushed cardamom

  1. Mix the flours with 3Tbsp oil till it resembles wet sand. Taking a little water at a time, knead it into a hard dough. Cover with a wet towel and set it aside for 20 min. You should only need a few Tbsp of water to bring it all together. 
  2. Divide the dough into 4 balls. Roll each ball into a thick circle. Using a sharp knife, cut diagonally across to get diamond shaped squares. Using the knife again move the dough squares aside. Do this with all 4 balls of dough. Don't worry if the squares come together as a clump- they'll separate when you're frying them.
  3. Heat oil in a deep vessel, and deep fry these paras till golden brown. Remove on absorbent paper. Allow to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, make the sugar syrup. Put all the ingredients for syrup together, and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer till reduced to half. 
  5. Pour the syrup over cooled paras; toss to coat, and allow them to cool down again.
These can be stored in an airtight container for weeks.
My two cents: Like my mom did with me, I let the girls roll and cut these.They don't have be rolled thin or cut pretty. Sometimes we even take little cookie cutters and cut them out. There's just no wrong way to do it. My favorite shakkarparas were coated with gur (jaggery). However, by popular vote, we just coat them with sugar now. One of these days, I'll experiment with brown sugar. Till then, enjoy & Happy Dussehra.

Linked to
Diwali Special: Sweets & Savories
Diwali Sweet recipes
My Diwali My way
Dish name Begins with S at Learning to Cook