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Friday, September 12, 2014

K for Kenya & Kashata

Event: BM #44 , Around the World (A - Z series) 
Choice of Country: The Republic of Kenya  
Capital City: Nairobi  
Official Language: Swahili & English

For my "K" country, I am moving towards East Africa, Kenya to be precise. This nation lies in the "African Great Lakes" region and is said to be inhabited by humans as long as the human history existed. Lake Victoria, the world's second largest fresh-water lake and the largest tropical lake, is situated to the southwest of Kenya. Kenya, along with Uganda and Tanzania is famous for its safaris, diverse wildlife reserves and national parks such as the East and West Tsavo National Park, the Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru National Park, and Aberdares National Park.
The first inhabitants of the region were hunters-gatherer groups. Then people from other parts of the continent started to move towards this region. Then Kilwa Sultanate ruled over the Swahili region up until the 17th century. Later on the country saw foreign  rule including Omani Arabs, Germans and British and of course they all influenced Kenyan cooking. Food in the coastal area gets more exotic because of it's long standing relationship with foreign settlers, merchant traders and it's colonization by foreign countries over centuries. The rural areas prefer simple, nutritious meals incorporating the local ingredients. Kenyan cooking is largely influenced by Indians, Arabs and Europeans. The east coast traders and workers who came from the Indian subcontinent and settled in Kenya brought with them spicy chai, chapatis and samosas. Mahamri / maandazi and samosas are the popular snacks in this region. Ugali, a thick cornmeal porridge forms the base for lunch / dinner.

I chose to go with Kashata, a popular snack from Eastern Africa that has originated in the Swahili region. They are made with peanuts and/or shredded fresh coconut and are specially made for kids during the Ramadan season. The texture is somewhat between a candy and a cookie and they are made over fire or on stove top. My first impression was that kashata probably has Indian roots and is the Africanized version of our own chikkis. Peanut brittle is so popular in India that they are made at home or readily available in stores everywhere, even on the remotest corner of the country if I am not wrong. Like every other Indian, I have grown up enjoying my share of peanut brittle and coconut burfis (squares) and wanted to try this variation.

Coconut and wheat flour are not a part of Indian style brittle. In India skinned whole / crushed peanuts are usually added to jaggery syrup of hard ball consistency and are shaped into squares or balls. Sometimes, sugar syrup is used instead of jaggery syrup but the latter is preferred for it's rich flavor. Basically the dish can be prepared with two ingredients, peanuts and jaggery / sugar and homemade versions use cardamom for flavor.
Kashata uses similar ingredients but differs in terms of preparation, taste and texture, especially if you chose to go with all the ingredients mentioned in the original recipe. I had to try this twice to get it almost perfect. I added both peanuts and coconut since that combo was new to me in brittle making and I left out the flour since it was optional. The first time I thought I will go with the Indian style as I had never used the dry caramelization method. I prepared a sugar syrup of hard ball consistency using a little water and followed the recipe directions. Immediately I knew the measurements were wrong since the mixture I got was almost like semi solid. I had to freeze the mixture to shape by hands and whenever I took them out to eat, they were very sticky to touch and were pale in  color.
I make decent peanut balls and honestly was embarrassed failing at my first attempt cooking such a simple dish. I had to give it a second try, keeping extra skinned peanuts, coconut and toasted wheat flour handy in case. This time I followed the exact directions as shown below. The dry caramelization process lends kashata a rich color and flavor and they taste good. They were not dry/firm like the Indian version and my guess is because the sugar is melted but not let to reach that particular consistency as needed. Keep extra peanuts/coconut/toasted wheat flour handy to add in case if you find the mixture sticky.  

1 cup sugar
2 cups roasted, skinned peanuts or 2 cups fresh / frozen, shredded coconut or 1 cup roasted, skinned peanuts + 1 cup fresh / frozen, shredded coconut
1/2 cup toasted wheat flour (Dry toast flour until it slightly browns.)
1/4 tsp cardamom powder

* Grease a plate with high edges or a square pan and keep it aside.
* Slightly crush the peanuts if using.
* Heat sugar in a heavy sauce pan or a non-stick pan on moderate heat.Do not add any water.
* The quantity of sugar I used for the pictorial was 1/4 cup and the sugar started to liquefy around the edges after about 3 minutes.
* Tilt the pan slightly holding the handle so that sugar melts evenly.
* Cook until the sugar is melted and starts to turn into brown / amber color.
* Add immediately the peanuts and/or coconut, wheat flour and cardamom. Stir well so that the ingredients are coated with the syrup. Cook for a minute and turn off the stove.
* Pour the mixture into the greased mold you are using.
* Cut the mixture into desired shapes while the mixture is still warm. Let cool and serve.



Priya Suresh said...

Wow almost like our chikkis, i love the addition of coconut and wheat flour, am trying to keep away from sweets and you guys are tempting me to make some soon.

Varadas Kitchen said...

Candy making is an art and you have totally mastered it. The brittle looks perfect.

Usha said...

These do look like our Indian brittle. Melting sugar and making a syrup is always tricky for me. As you said, coconut, peanut and wheat flour combination is new however, must have tasted good. They look very delicious

Sapana Behl said...

Those brittle are looking super delicious.

Kurinji said...

yummy brittle...

Manjula Bharath said...

wow very new combination to make a brittle sounds very interesting dear :) again a wonderful choice of recipe there :) looks fantastic , I want to grab some now !!

The Pumpkin Farm said...

a twist to our regular chikki recipe....looks nutrition packed..

Harini-Jaya R said...

Good one. This chikki with the addition of coconut and wheat flour sounds so close to our hearts!!

Pavani N said...

Making caramel anything is somewhat out of my league. Your step by step pics will definitely help in determining the correct color for the caramel. Those peanut brittle looks delicious.

Srivalli said...

Kudos on making such beautiful looking brittle Suma..so nice reading through your adventure..this method of brittle is followed by the Sindhis for their brittle called as the Varo, we had it for ICC..turns out so delicious because of caramelization..

Chef Mireille said...

I came across same recipe from same source and was going to do it for Tanzania but the optional flour thing confused me and wasn't sure how it would work so skipped it. Kudos to you for trying and succeeding!!!

Gayathri Kumar said...

Must be a flavourful candy with all those peanuts,coconut and sugar. Love the detailed explanation..

Priya Srinivasan said...

Brittle looks tempting suma!!! I always fail while making that sugar melt to a brown color, i either get it burnt or it will be that pale white! Patience , is the key i believe!!! :)

Archana Potdar said...

Wow this is delicious. Love the fact that the same brittle can be made in many different ways.

Archana Potdar said...

Looks yum Suma. I love to try my hand at this one.