It was like there was this unsaid pact between Aunty Anwari and mummy that if it was Eid, mummy will just show up at her door a day or two before the festival to help her with all the festive cooking. Aunty Anwari would do the same for Diwali. Mummy complained Aunty doesn’t come over before Holi. But Aunty Anwari was worried Mummy would pull a prank on her, considering the role bhang (cannabis) plays in Holi . Hence Eid and Diwali were the safest bets.
Around afternoon, right after we would be done with our lunches, there would be a loud knock on the door and a holler. As if one wasn’t enough! You could see aunty marching right in and you’d know Diwali cooking is about to begin. Mummy would ask Ganga, our house help, to put up a pot for chai on the burner. My brother or I would be ordered to fetch a notepad and a pen. Both the ladies would then spend the next couple days making lists, measuring ingredients, kneading doughs, sharing recipes and secrets over several cups of chai.
There would always be this debate over whose recipe wins over whose. Arguments over the spiciness of dal filling for flaky dal samosas or what goes inside the gulab jamun, raisins or Mishri, a type of rock candy? Does coconut laddu taste better when you add khoya, thickened milk in it or should shakkar paara be cut off of a flattned disc or rolled like a gnocchi, for it to be able to soak sugar syrup the most? For two days they fought with each other, laughed together and tasted each other’s recipe only to agree that the other person was right. Whoever won the battle of recipes, we would always be the winner because we got to eat all of that delicious food and also got to witness the true essence of festivals with these two ladies.
Today, two days before diwali, sitting with my little one, watching the rain pouring outside my kitchen window, here I am kneading big batches of dough, debating in my head, how spicy the lentil filling should be for the samosas and how I should shape the shakkar paara. Last Diwali Mummy’s recipe won this Diwali Aunty Anwari is winning!
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoon ghee (room temperature)
Water (approx. 1/2 cup)
For Sugar Syrup:
1 cup sugar
Oil for deep frying
In a large mixing bowl, mix flour and ghee together. Take small portions of flour and ghee and rub it between your palms until the two are incorporated well together. To check pick a small portion of the flour mixture in your palm and make a tight fist. On opening the fist if the flour still holds its shape that means it is incorporated well.
Add water to the flour in small quantities and knead it into a dough. Knead well to form a smooth, semi soft dough. Here’s a video to show how to knead a dough.
Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest for 5 minutes. Then knead again for 1-2 minutes on a clean surface just to smoothen the dough.
Pinch small portions of dough, 1/2 teaspoon size, roll them into balls.
Shape paare/pastry using a gnocchi maker, back of a sieve or basket shape the paara. To do that place one dough ball on the back of the basket or gnocchi maker, press very gently with your index finger and slide your finger to the side of the paara/pastry. The pastry should get indents on the surface and a depression on the inside making it great to hold as much sugar as it can. Lay pastries on a baking sheet and cover with a damp cloth.
Heat oil for deep frying the pastries. Bring it to a temperature of 350 deg. F. Deep fry the pastries over medium heat until they turn golden brown. Pull out of the oil and transfer on paper towel lined dish to strain extra oil.
While still warm, toss paara in sugar syrup.
In a heavy bottom sauce pan bring water and sugar together. Bring the too to a boil. Turn off the heat.
Mix paara/pastry and sugar syrup together in a pan or bowl. Toss everything well together coating each paara with the syrup. Repeat the process at least 3-4 times at intervals (every 8-10 minutes) until the sugar starts to crystalize.
Let shakkar paara cool down completely before transferring it to an air tight container.