Thursday, 20 December 2012

Greed is good!

Diamond cuts
I am going to make a bold statement that seems a tad ungenerous, not at all in keeping with the season’s spirit! But do read on…
Children can be greedy- especially children of mothers who are prolific and good cooks! Mother often would reproach us. “One would think that such kids would be so satisfied with the fare coming their way that they wouldn’t be greedy at all!”
But alas! She had no such luck.
The adults in the family had all grown up in the tradition of at once rapping kids on the knuckles for gluttony as indulging in their cravings. It was customary to offer the first portion of any sweets made (without tasting) to the almighty as naivedya or offering in thanksgiving! All laddus, burfis, karanjis had to wait for the sprinkling of the holy water, before we kids could attack them. Oh, it was so excruciating to hold off our instincts to tuck in. But we were God-fearing children- well, almost always.  
However, if a tyke were inconsolably nagging a parent for a treat, hanging by the mother’s pallu, then a grandmother would intervene with some homespun wisdom and even reproach the mother – a younger woman usually a daughter or a daughter-in-law, “ Children are in the image of God, so if your kid wants the sweets so badly, God wants them to have the sweets!” This logic extended to family pets as well.
Now that was very convenient!
So by now you may have guessed, yours truly belonged to that greedy broods brigade. Legend has it that I once ate thirteen gulab jamuns in one sitting, but I still maintain that they were very tiny ones! And once I hogged a whole bunch of frosted diamond cuts or sweet shankarpali during one Diwali – but then, they were too delicious to stop with a few!
Greed, avarice, covetousness… no no no no – these are very unforgiving words – associated with sin – how can innocent kids be called greedy? Well, let me qualify the word – to assuage troubled or annoyed mums, much to the consternation of critical relatives and neighbours- and in self-defence!
Kids seem greedy, for they usually start early on their way to become gargantuan gourmands, finicky foodies and imaginative innovators. Only, since they haven’t developed a thermostat of social pressure, they may be freely expressing their feelings. Maybe all the greed is nothing but nature’s way of packing in as much sensory and experiential exposure as possible? Perhaps this avarice is not a sin at all, but a powerful motivator for people to innovate and create new things. 
And if kids act greedily when visiting or eating out, perhaps it's more to explore other people's cooking, diverse tastes rather than just plotting to embarrass their mortified parents! 
As long as kids are generous and grateful, why worry about their being greedy-except of course for health reasons!
Yes, greed can be good!
As good as these diamond cuts or frosted Shankerpali pictured here- which aren’t exactly diamond shaped because all the perfectly shaped ones were devoured – er greedily- before I zealously salvaged some of the stragglers for a photo shoot!

Frosted Shankerpali

1 cup maida
1 tbsp ghee or butter for shortening
A pinch of salt
Oil for deep frying
For the frosting     
1 cup sugar
1/3  cup water (approx.)
½ tsp ground elaichi or cardamom (optional)
Sift the flour with a pinch of salt and rub in the ghee or butter. Add cold water, little by little and make a stiff dough. Keep covered for 30 minutes.
Melt sugar with 1/3 cup water (approx.) over medium heat. When the syrup starts boiling, add 1tsp of cardamom powder and check for thread consistency till you get a two string consistency. You will need to keep this syrup warm, or it will crystallise. Also, if you are frying several batches of shapes, you will need to adjust the syrup by adding a spoonful of water, scarping the sides of the pan and boiling it till the syrup is formed to two string consistency again.
Heat about 2 cups of oil in a wok.
Divide the dough into two balls and roll it out into a large disc, about 2-3 mm uniformly thick. With a fluted cutter or knife, cut the dough disc into diamond shapes or squares.  Fry the shapes in medium hot oil till very light brown and transfer them onto kitchen paper.
Dunk the diamond cuts into the sugar syrup and move them around gently to coat each one with the syrup. Remove with a slotted spoon draining all the syrup and arrange them in a plate to cool. Separate clusters, if any, when still wet.  As the diamonds dry the sugar hardens providing a lovely frosting. Dust with some coloured sugar, if you wish.
I think it is useless to tell you about the shelf life of these – for there isn’t any! Just remember to keep them in an airtight container- if ever you are required to store them. 

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