Conkies, also known as paime in Trinidad and Tobago, are pastelles made from a mixture of corn flour, coconut, and pumpkin and steamed in banana leaves. They are a popular traditional food in Barbados and are often eaten around the end of November, as November 30 is our independence day. This is one of those desserts that people make in large quantities and offer to friends and family. Serve them with vegan ice cream if you like. Make sure that the raisins you use are dark and juicy.
Makes 16 conkies
Eighteen 8-inch (20 cm) banana leaves or pieces of foil paper lined with wax paper
3 cups (300 g) finely grated fresh coconut (requires roughly 2 coconuts)
14 ounces (400 g) calabaza squash or pumpkin, finely grated
9 ounces (260 g) white-fleshed sweet potato, finely grated
1¾ cups (340 g) light brown sugar
1 heaping teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cassia or cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
1 cup (250 ml) nondairy milk
2 tablespoons almond essence, or 1 tablespoon almond extract
1/3 cup (80 g) raisins
1 cup (125 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups (200 g) fine corn flour or fine cornmeal
½ cup (120 g) vegan margarine
¼ cup (57 g) vegetable shortening
If using banana leaves, singe them by passing them over an open flame to make them more pliable.
Put the coconut, squash, sweet potato, sugar, salt, cassia, cinnamon, nutmeg spices, nondairy milk, almond essence, raisins, flour and corn flour in a large bowl. Melt the margarine and shortening, add them to the bowl, and stir until thoroughly combined. Set up a steamer, or place about 20 pieces of the center stalk from the banana leaves at the bottom of a large saucepan and barely cover them with water.
Place about1/3 ( 83 ml) to ½ cup (125 ml) of the coconut mixture on the ribbed side of a piece of banana leaf (or foil lined with wax paper). Fold along the length of the ribs, bringing the right side of the leaf over to cover the entire conkie mixture, and then folding the left side over in the same way. Fold the other two sides over to form a parcel and secure with kitchen twine.
Steam the conkies for 40 minutes. Check the top conkie for doneness by opening the parcel and testing that the cornmeal is cooked. The conkie should be tender, with all ingredients well-cooked.
Cool conkies a bit, then serve warm. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator, where they will keep for as long as 3 days. Or store them in the freezer for up to 3 months.
By: Taymer Mason