What with everyone getting into the Avurudu spirit and going out of their way to please their old aunts and uncles, by pretending to follow ancient customs, yours truly decided to try his hand at making Konda Kevum.
So, it was with a heavy but determined heart that I set out to do the deed with my brilliant housewife of a mother who was ever so glad to see me in the kitchen for a change.
The first task was to make sure I had all the ingredients.
- One bottle of Kithul treacle? Check.
- Coconut oil? Check.
- Rice? Check.
- Wheat flour? Check.
- Coconut ekel (iratu)? Check.
- Experience? Cross.
I should’ve realised the whole thing was going to be a complete disaster when I took the rice out of the bowl and put it straight into the grinder, just like that, without even washing the darned thing. Apparently when preparing rice flour, as my mother kindly pointed out to me, washing the rice is not enough; you have to dry it with a clean cloth too. Can’t you just buy this stuff readymade? And thank God for grinders. There was no way my hands would’ve survived a half-hour pestle and mortar ritual.
The rice had been ground into a very fine powder thanks to the awesome power of electricity. My attempt at sifting the powder with a sieve, however, wasn’t so successful. There was flour everywhere: on the table, the floor, my hands, my t-shirt and also a little bit on the sheet of paper where it was actually supposed to be. Mom to the rescue, again.
Now it was time to mix it all up. I performed the grueling task of adding a pinch of wheat flour to the rice flour. This was followed by adding salt and a few tablespoons of sugar, with no major incidents apart from breaking a few sweats. Phew.
Mom wouldn’t let me pour the treacle into the mix, though. I think she was afraid I’d end up using the whole bottle. Mothers.
Anyway, the whole thing was mixed thoroughly into a sticky goo that was disgusting to look at but smelled rather delicious all the same. Right. Anyway… everything was ready. It was time.
I sat down in front of the gas cooker (a hearth was too much work), put the pan on the stove and, following my mom’s strict instructions to the letter, poured just the right amount of oil into it, and started the fire.
Soon the oil was heating up and I took one of those big spoons to scoop out some of that goo-ish brownish mix and poured it smack into the middle of that burning oil, real slow, watching the stuff form into a weirdly circular shape. It was eerie and made me think of bad horror movies.
It was at this point that mom gave me the ekel and a long spoon with lots of holes in it. “Okay, so what am I supposed to do with this?” I asked.
“Stir it, of course. Make sure you stick the ekel in the centre and keep it spinning while washing the mixture with oil from all sides with the spoon,” she said in a very matter-of-fact tone.
Right. Okay, great, this was going to be a cakewalk.
I kept forgetting to spin the ekel, what with all my thoughts bent on washing the soon-to-be Kevum with oil from every possible angle. When I’d eventually rememberedo spin the ekel, I forgot to do the washing. This went on for a few minutes, with my coordination skills going from bad to worse, after which my mom reminded me it was now time to make the ‘konde’ or the crown, or whatever you want to call it.
I was instructed to keep the ekel right in the centre of the Kevum and start spinning, again, while somehow forming a crown shape with the help of the spoon, like that was the easiest thing in the world.
I did as I was told, spinning and turning for a good three minutes with the smoke burning my hands, and ended up with a flat, brown disc with something that vaguely resembled a big pimple on top – my very first ‘konda kevum.’
Well, there you have it. That’s my Avurudu kevum story. The kevum didn’t look that great, but it was definitely edible and tasted heavenly. So there.