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Perfection in a Parcel: Conkies, a Tutorial

January 10, 2010

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.

Making conkies

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.

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..

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35 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2010 9:57 pm

    I have only ever made these once before. We call them paime and they are not as popular as pastelles. You only had one helper! Bless you you are a brave girl. This is a lot of work! The pictures are wonderful and I love your innovative steamer.

    • Taymer permalink*
      January 11, 2010 7:46 am

      Wizzy I went to comment on that editorial photo on your blog with the sorrel. That was so beautiful

      • January 11, 2010 6:56 pm

        you left a comment? Sorry I don’t see it:-( Thanks tho. I LOVE sorrel. Cynthia found some white ones soooooo pretty.

  2. January 10, 2010 10:06 pm

    Aw man, they look divine! I wish I wasn’t so lazy and had someone to make them for me.

    • Taymer permalink*
      January 11, 2010 7:45 am

      no one likes to take on the job of conkie making at home. Surprising I enjoyed every minute of it even if I do not like long winded recipes

  3. January 11, 2010 5:48 am

    First of all – STUNNING photos! You are so incredibly talented! The pictures jump right off the screen, I love them all…but especially the last one. I’m so hungry now, these sound fantastic! Thanks for another great recipe.

  4. Bajangyal permalink
    January 11, 2010 8:54 am

    Excellent post T. I have assisted many times in the making of conkies but never taken the role as ‘lead maker’. One of the best memories is everyone pitching in to help make the conkies (even if it was just volunteering as taster)and after all that time had passed finally savouring the fruits of your labour…yum! I can smell and taste them now.

  5. January 11, 2010 2:49 pm

    This looks like a really interestingly different dessert. Could you send over your semi-willing helper with some banana leaves and that squash :D?

  6. Sunshine permalink
    January 11, 2010 6:59 pm

    The conkies look just delicious! The only qualm I have is… a cold conkie? While yes I imagine you can eat it cold, for whoever is trying this recipe the first taste should definitely be hot so as to enjoy the tantalizing flavours wrapped up in that little bundle of goodness. Another great recipe Tay.

  7. January 11, 2010 8:13 pm

    How intriguing! I’ve never heard of these before, but they sound very tasty indeed. 🙂

  8. January 12, 2010 5:43 pm

    Semi-willing helpers 🙂 I like that one. Looks so good. Send one.

  9. January 13, 2010 8:18 pm

    this looks wonderfully good. Would you consider having it printed (& any other ones you’d like to submit) in a vegan zine I’m editing? I posted info on it here a while ago: http://vegansofcolor.wordpress.com/2009/10/12/sofritozine/

    • Taymer permalink*
      January 14, 2010 12:06 am

      Hi Noemi I will send you an e mail with a submission in the morning

  10. January 19, 2010 12:59 am

    you have such a wonderful blog came over from cynthia’s. i most definitely am going to give this conkie a shot. we make something similar, though not entirely, in kerala (southern india). banana leaf parcel and coconut being the same… basically smear a rice flour paste on to individual parcels and fill with coconut and jaggery mixture (with or without cardamom), close and steam exact same way.

  11. January 28, 2010 7:57 pm

    This looks very similar (texture, appearance and method of making) to “paime” (sp) that I’ve seen my grandmother make in Trinidad, but her’s had corn meal. Anything with raisins appeals to me.

    Glad to have found your blog.

    happy cooking

    Chris..

    • Taymer permalink*
      January 28, 2010 8:13 pm

      it is like paime but the recipe varies slightly. I check out your blog sometimes

    • Sabrina permalink
      February 15, 2014 4:38 pm

      Chris, I love you site and fb page. I was hoping to see these from you. You should make them:) Thanks for posting. I will be trying these conkies….yum yum

  12. Gillian permalink
    October 20, 2010 1:58 pm

    Yum Yum these things make me miss Barbados and all that is Bajan. I love conkies they are delicious and would be an interesting thing to make for pumkpin season. You know the white sweet potatoes arent as tasty as in the islands. But the recipe looks good and the phos made my mouth water.

  13. anderlene permalink
    October 25, 2010 3:34 pm

    hi the last time i had conkie i was 14yrs old never forget the taste i am now 44 and thought id try and make it, the texture does look as thick as yours but its going to be my first every try, and i will keep trying till i get it to the taste i remember, growing up ive never had much west indian food, even though i am bajan, im trying to get into my background i can do only curry goat but use lamb dont like the smell of goat lol so im glad for this site to help me show and learn the right way to cook and feast on the pleasures of my heritage, and pass onto my son’s long over due now, thanks again … ann..xx

  14. Anonymous permalink
    December 7, 2010 12:52 pm

    I went to a Bajan function Nov 29th in FL and the first thing I saw was the conkies. I haven’t had a good conkies since I left Barbados. I totally overindulged. I was in heaven. Had to find a good conkie recipe and found yours. Look exactly like the ones my mother made when I was young and the unwilling helper. Would definitely try this recipe. My mother no longer has any unwilling helpers so she doesn’t make them anymore. SAD

    • Taymer permalink*
      December 7, 2010 8:07 pm

      thank you for your nice words…i was never a fan of conkie due to the name as a child it sounded like something that was gross but i matured and i enjoy making conkies…this year i did not make any but my dad did so when i go home I will be feasting on his.

  15. Sabrina permalink
    May 9, 2011 7:30 am

    Omg – thank-you so much for this recipe! Made some over the weekend and they were delicious : ) Hadn’t had them in years!

  16. Heather permalink
    June 28, 2012 6:30 pm

    I combined this recipe with a non vegan one while I was living in Barbados (and I used craisins instead) and I got a ton of compliments from Bajan friends but making them from Canada now – who knew you could buy frozen banana leaves! Thanks 🙂

  17. chef rodney bennett permalink
    November 28, 2012 4:00 pm

    good recipe just as goo as my grandmothers

    • Taymer permalink*
      November 28, 2012 4:04 pm

      thank you chef, those were my first conkies I made alone.

  18. DEAinATL permalink
    January 29, 2013 1:25 pm

    Have a question: have looked at several recipes and they variously call for corn meal or corn flour. Based on the conkies I’ve hadover the years I’d think a coarse corn flour would result in a pretty mealy product – can you use the same fine corn meal you would use for cou-cou?

    • Taymer permalink*
      January 29, 2013 2:52 pm

      i use cou cou flour which is fine

  19. July 26, 2013 10:57 pm

    favorable Our Web Site

  20. Deirdre permalink
    September 29, 2013 11:11 am

    My husband’s siblings are from St Lucia but many of them live here in Texas. Late October they plan to celebrate Creole Day. I think I’ll surprise them with this treat. We just happen to have banana trees in the backyard too. Hopefully the rain won’t beat the leaves to shreds. I’d like to use them versus the wax paper. Thanks!

  21. Deirdre permalink
    October 27, 2013 4:09 pm

    Well I finally made the conkies yesterday. They were a hit at the celebration. Thanks so much for this delicious recipe. One slight change I made was to use coconut cream instead of water to process the grated food items more, then I mashed the excess cream out with a potato masher. Oh yeah, I threw in a few more raisins. Took me awhile to do everything but it was all worth it. Thanks again!

  22. Jeffrey Cox permalink
    March 6, 2014 9:13 am

    Good morning to you: I followed your recipe and my conkies are now super! I would like to repost on face book the conkie which you have displayed! The finished one, open with fork and all! In any event, I remain grateful for you help! Thanks again, and God Bless! Amen

  23. March 26, 2016 5:08 pm

    I live in st.kitts and we make conkie around easter time and it’s that time of year, I love conkie but didnt know fully the procedure of making them this looks very yummy and I will try them my boyfriend and daughter will love them. Thanks for a very imformative recipe.

    • Taymer permalink*
      May 11, 2016 1:08 am

      please follow me at taymermason.com

  24. Anonymous permalink
    November 29, 2016 2:31 pm

    Thx for the recipe

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  1. Conkies or stew dumplings- take your pick | marvalously

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