Diwali Party Essentials
Shankarpali with an African Twist
The festival of lights aka Diwali, is soon going to shine on us, and bring in all the happy brightness and prosperity (fingers crossed!). And it’s only fair that we look pretty, bring on our A game, and be the perfect hosts. Giving people a taste of delicacies they haven’t really had before, is a sure fire way to brighten up your party (and your smiles. Come on, who are we kidding, everyone likes a compliment.).
So, this year I thought, how about bringing flavours of the world to our Diwali spread, to give ourselves, our family and our guests a taste from around the continents of the world. And believe me you, you will be amazed at how a few dishes from around the world just fit into our ‘Diwali ke thaali’ ka menu. Of course, every year, Mrs. Sharma, Kulkarni kaku, Mukherjee Bhabhi and all of the lovely hosts pan India, decide to up their game. But for all those reading my blog, I’ll let you in on a little secret, read my blog, make the recipes that lead up straight to Diwali, and trust me, you have all four aces up your sleeve!
To begin with, the most colourful of cultures in the world has always intrigued and inspired me. So, let’s head to Africa. A continent that I think is the most underrated. I love the people, the continent and of course the food. Without much ado, let me get straight to the point. While we do cherish the traditional recipes that have been cooked in our homes for generations, it’s about time we move ahead with times. My research landed me in the East of Africa, and I found a tea-time snack (from East Africa), quite akin to our very own shankarpali, or shakkarparra, or the many names it is called in various regions in India. Apart, from the various names, the one common thread remains, that all of us (almost), always make sure it is an essential for Diwali. This Africanised version is almost similar, and it is delicious (not like our original ones aren’t), superbly fluffy, soft and has a brilliant flavour profile. Again one of those things that make you go mmmmmmmmmmm. And guess what, you can serve it in more than one way. Of course I added an Indian touch and a festive flare to an East African tea-time snack, but mark my words, this is the ACE of diamonds! So let’s get started…
This beautiful pillowy version of shankarpali or as I like to call it, African shankarpali, is called Mandazi. And just like we have variations of the shankarpali recipes across India, so does this one. I picked one, that is closest to our Indian version, and well yeah, I totally love it, and I’m sure you and your guests will too. Here goes…
- Tepid water (slightly more than room temperature) – ½ cup
- Active dry yeast – 2 tsp
- Coconut milk (first extract) – 3/4th cup
- Egg – 1 nos
- Sugar – ½ cup
- Kesar/ saffron strands – 8 to 10 nos, soaked in 10 ml of warm water
- Salt – 1 tsp
- Flour (maida) – 4 cups
- Grated coconut – ½ cup
- Cardamom – 4 pods
- Nutmeg – 2 tsp (grated)
- Cinnamon – ½ inch stick
- Black pepper – 6 corns
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
- Desiccated coconut – ½ cup
- Icing sugar – ½ cup
- First, soak the strands of saffron, in about 10 ml of lukewarm water so it releases all that lovely colour.
- Then prepare a wide and deep bowl with the desiccated coconut and icing sugar mix. Set aside.
- Next take the cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper pods, roast them in a dry pan, for about 5 to 7 minutes. Let them come to room temperature and grind them into a relatively fine powder.
- Now for the slightly technical bit, In a large bowl add the warm water (the one slightly above room temperature), coconut milk, salt, 1/4th of the sugar, the saffron water and yeast. Set aside for 5 minutes. Don’t stir. Let it rest.
- After 5 minutes, add the egg, and mix using a whisk.
- Once mixed, add the spices, mix again, and then add the flour, little by little as you go ahead.
- Knead to form a soft dough. It should not be hard, but it should not even stick to your hands. Knead to a softish smooth dough.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning once to coat. Cover Loosely with a clean cloth and set it aside to rise, until doubled in a warm environment (not an oven).
- Once that is done (post 2 hours), roll out portions of the dough to a one inch thick flatbread (dusting the rolling out surface with flour, so as not to stick to the platform).
- Cut each rolled out section, into 1 inch by 1 inch diamond shaped, well diamonds!
- In a deep, and thick bottomed saucepan, add the oil for deep frying (you can start this process 5 minutes before you have your risen dough).
- Now take the lovely diamond shaped pieces (even if they are not, they will look bejewelled, so no worries), and fry them until golden brown in the hot oil, until our jewels are golden and brown.
- Drain them on a kitchen towel and immediately, toss them in the icing sugar and desiccated coconut mixture that we set aside.
- Ideally serve them hot, and immediately cooked. But thanda bhi chalega. Just don’t heat it in the microwave. But serve it on the same day.
- For further questions, check the tips. Because I’m sure I have covered it all.
So, there you go, a slight peek-a-boo into world Diwali cuisine. But don’t forget to read the tips, and follow me on social media; because, you will regret it. Or let me have the pleasure of telling you, I told you so!
- Do not reheat this. Cook and serve ideally.
- But in case you happen to make it in advance, store it in a conducive environment, without any moisture.
- Also, the alternate serving option is, make a sugar syrup, with one part sugar and one part water, and soak these pillows in them.
- Serve them hot or cold. I prefer warm, but that’s me. You take your pick.
I hope you enjoyed this recipe. Make sure the yeast is rested for at least 5 minutes and the dough is rested for at least 2 hours in room temperature. Of course, if you have doubts, write to me. Diwali is a fairly long way off, and any doubts before that will be more than happily cleared! So, go on, follow me, and make the most of this recipe. Good luck. Love, light and delicious flavours!