Perfection in a Parcel: Conkies, a Tutorial
Tired of making the same old desserts, cakes, pies and cookies? No? Anyways just read on.Try this Caribbean dessert to wow your friends and family. If you have 2 and a half hours in your life and a good attitude get on board and continue reading the post. Conkies are prized desserts in the Caribbean and in Barbados it rivals the national dish of Flying Fish and Cou Cou which is cool because conkies can be made vegan. If you give someone a good tasting conkie you are guaranteed that they would be your friend for life. You see there is a magic in conkies from the talk of making it, to the aroma in the house to the parcel that is all yours. A conkie is a pumpkin, sweet potato and coconut pudding perfumed with sugar and spice and steamed in banana leaves. Sounds good right? I would not go so far to comparing conkies with a pumpkin pie but it has that sort of appeal to it. Now do not leave this post yet thinking this is something you can never do because you do not live next to a banana tree. You can make conkie parcels by using cut rite paper doubled layered with aluminium foil to create conkies. The banana leaf does give some of its characteristic flavour but, your end result would not suffer at all.
Conkies are consumed in some Caribbean islands. In Barbados they consume it around independence day which is the 30th of November. Conkie making is done by most of the older generation but I hopped onto that train too because I need to keep this tradition up. My husband has a bad habit. He would look at something and then make up his mind by just looking at the picture of the food that he does not want it. I showed him a conkie in a magazine and he was like “it looked somewhat un cooked”. I said “ok you will see”. Unfortunately someone else beat me to giving my husband his first conkie but I did not mind. Boy did his mind change when he opened his parcel which was warm and sunk his fork into the rich pudding. He was like wow this is soo good. As soon as I got back home he wanted me to make conkies at home but I was scared because I was not sure if I could live up to that great conkie he had. Read on to see what happened later.
To make killer conkies you need a few things:- Calabaza Squash, white fleshed sweet potatoes (this time I will let you orange flesh lovers use the orange fleshed ones, a fresh dried coconut broken peeled and grated,quality cornmeal (fine corn flour), a” semi willing helper”, banana leaves or alternative.
The next thing that needs to be done is to prep banana leaves. I was told that people that live outside the Caribbean can buy Banana leaves in some shops…?? We picked two large banana leaves and cleaned them off with a little soap and water and a damp cloth. Leaves can pick up a lot of dust and crap so clean them well. Dry the leaves for a couple of minutes. The next step is so much fun and it is called “singeing”. You place banana leaves on an open flame and the banana leaf goes limp and therefore it is easy to work with and it does not break like a fresh banana leaf. Here I am in the kitchen happily singeing.
Ok now we have the leaves almost preped but lets move on to making the actual filling. Now I have a bone to pick with some people. When I saw finely grated I mean I want whatever you are grating to look like confetti or pulp depending on the consistency. Use a box grater and use the finest side to grate your food. If it is not fine enough run it through the food processor with a little water. The ingredients need to be finely grated or they would not look pudding like in consistency. Here are the ingredients that you need for conkies.
400 grams of grated Calabaza squash or pumpkin
1 coconut cracked peeled and grated finely
260 grams of sweet potato finely grated
340 grams sugar ( brown or white does not matter)
1 heaping tbs ground spice which is ground cassia it smells like cinnamon but it is stronger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbs almond essence ( if using extract use 1 tbs)
1 tbs freshly ground nutmeg
100 grams of juicy dark raisins
1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups cornmeal (fine corn flour the best quality you can find)
1 heaping tsp salt
120 grams vegan butter melted
2 oz canola oil or vegan shortening melted
250 mls of almond or soy milk
18 8×8 inch banana leaves prepared
about 20 pieces of banana leave ribs for steamer
Mix the coconut, pumpkin, sweet potato, sugar, spices, milk, butter, salt,essence, raisins and flours. Add milk and mix well. Add canola oil and margarine and mix well.
You now have your killer conkie batter ready to be used. It should look like this is you are a good reader
From here you would need to add it onto the banana square.
You need to place the mixture on the ribbed side of the leaf. The next part is to fold the conkies. What you want is a parcel that can withstand the steam so you will fold along the length of your ribs. Bring the right side leaf to cover the entire conkie mixture and then cover the leaf with the other side.Fold the two sides like a parcel. If you have some good twine you can tie up your parcel or you can do what Cynthia and many people do. They use the banana leaf to tie the parcel. I am lazy and would never go through that so I did one. You do not need to tie it up as it would steam into shape.
Look at how I folded up my parcel.
Now you are almost there. You need to prepare you pot for steaming. If you have a bamboo steamer you can use it or if you are poor like me you will use all parts of the banana tree and create your own steamer at the bottom of the pot. Here I crudely chop up the steams and made a make shift steamer.
Now pack your parcels into the pot.
Add water just to cover your steamer and some salt and steam for a good 40 minutes. To check to see if your conkie is done check the conkie at the top for doneness.
Here is what the conkies look like when after they have been steamed.
Cute huh? I cooled these down for about 30 minutes before I served them to the semi willing helper.
Here is what the cooled conkie looks like inside.
The colour is vibrant and mixture has cooked fully and has a glossy finish.
Now here is a closeup.
So the result of 3 hours of labour including setting up the set for the photographs are 18 beautiful tasty conkies and a happy “semi willing helper” who is planning to have guest over so that they can feast on this. Remember you do not need to have banana leaves just cut out wax paper and reinforce with aluminum foil. Conkies freeze well and when you want one just thaw it down and re heat in the microwave. If you do not have a microwave thaw and just lightly steam. Conkies can be eaten cold, piping hot or at room temperature. You can enjoy with tea or some homemade coconut ice cream. Now who is going to be the first of my international readers that would take on this dessert?
I am waiting..