‘Alle Kaap’, ‘Ginger Barfi’ or ‘Allyachi Vadi’ is a traditional version of Ginger Candy in Goa and Maharashtra. Sugar, ghee, milk powder and fresh ginger form the base of our version of this delicious sweet, that’s easy and quick to make. The Alle Kaap seems sticky when cooked but hardens as it cools, turning into a crumbly, melt-in-the-mouth sweet. The sweetness of the sugar and milk powder is offset very well by the sharp flavours of fresh ginger and Sunth (dry ginger powder).
We remember Alle Kaap from the colourful stalls put up at every Jatra or Fest (Temple/Church Fair), where large metal plates were piled high with Khaje (sweet deep-fried dough sticks) and stacks of the freshly made ginger sweet. This easy recipe is our way of bringing those sweet memories into our home!
“Close your eyes, join your hands and ask for whatever your heart desires!” said Aai (grandmother), clasping little Leela’s palms between her own. “Tonight, our Devi (goddess) will grant us anything we ask for,” she said, as her grandchildren huddled close to her, trying to catch a glimpse of the holy idol. The Shantadurga temple was filled with devotees, all there to offer their prayers and ring in the Spring festival of ‘Vhadlo Shigmo’. Outside, the full moon of the Phalgun maas (lunar month around February and March), cast a luminescent glow over the palm-lined landscape as people all over Goa thronged the streets to celebrate this colourful festival.
“Move over!! I can’t see! Let me have a look as well!” cried Pradeep, one of the Nayak children, jostling with his elder cousins to get closer to the temple sanctum. “Shhhhh!” came a warning glare from his mother, as the temple hall resounded with the ringing of enormous metal bells. Within the sanctum, the Bhatji (priest) offered flowers, sweets and incense to the Devi, resplendent in a golden sari, its every pleat having been carefully arranged for this special festival. Multiple strands of precious jewels adorned Her neck and Her divine face glowed in the light of a hundred oil lamps. The devotees sang prayers to worship Her at the end of which, the Bhatji walked around the temple, holding a vial of burning camphor. “Quick! Pass your hands over the fire, that’s when your prayer will be complete,” said Aai, as the Bhatji passed by the Nayak family. Another priest offered the devotees tirtha (sacred water) and prasadache ladu (sanctified sweets). as they thronged to catch another glimpse of their beautiful Devi.
Just outside the entrance to the temple, a band of musicians struck up a lively beat with their dhol and tasha (traditional drums). “Don’t wander off in the crowd! Make sure you stay together!” warned Aai, as the Nayak children pushed through the crowd to rush out the temple door. They followed the drummers down a slope, past the green waters of the temple lake and out into the busy streets.
The streets were a riot of colour, filled with performers dressed in a myriad of costumes! The lively procession would continue through the night and for a further five days. Festivities for the ‘Dhakto Shigmo’ had begun the previous week, celebrated by farmers in small hamlets all over Goa. But now, on this luminous full moon night, the entire state would participate in ringing in the season of Spring!
A wave of men, dressed as horses, danced through the street as a part of the ‘Ghode Morni’ (horse dance), twirling and swaying in their brightly coloured costumes. Each swaying ‘horse’ was draped in fabric of bright colours. “Hold on tight!” said Prakash, picking little Leela and handing her to one of the men dressed as horses. She shrieked with joy as the man lifted her high up in the air, twirled around and gently set the fascinated girl back onto the ground. Running through the flurry of colour, she beamed up at her elder brothers, clinging to Prakash’s hand. The children watched with delight and fascination as wave after wave of performers danced through the streets- men dressed in saffron robes ‘breathing’ fire or walking on burning kolso (coal), others dressed as brave warriors and wielding sharp weapons to showcase their skill.
And then came the best part of the procession, what the children had been hoping to see since many a day- enormous floats, decorated to depict mythological scenes, shooting out flames and smoke as they passed by on wheels. The evil demonic King Ravana carrying away a distraught Princess Sita in his winged chariot, a towering figure of Lord Krishna playing his delightful flute and dancing with beautiful Gopis (milkmaids), the elephant-headed Lord Ganesha undertaking a parikrama (to encircle) to show love and respect for His parents Shiva and Parvati, an enormous scene of ‘Lanka’ going down in flames as the victorious Lord Rama loomed large. The children cheered along with the rest of the crowd, immersed in an ocean of colour, light, music and festivities.
But hunger was never far behind and it was soon time for the children to buy festive treats! Small stalls lined the temple grounds, offering a variety of goodies that were freshly made. The air was filled with the sweet aroma of Khaje, crunchy deep-fried pieces of dough drenched in ginger-flavoured jaggery syrup. Large plates were piled high with squares of deliciously spicy Alle Kaap (ginger barfi), the perfect sweet treat for the chilly night. The children having raided their milerne (traditional piggybank made of clay) for every last anna (erstwhile coins in India), bargained with stall owners in an attempt to make their precious savings go a little further. Now and then, dimpled smiles and charming pleas would earn them an extra slice of Alle Kaap or a handful of Khaje.
Bursting with renewed energy, the children scoured the toy stalls. Small spinning tops and glass marbles very popular ones to buy. Meanwhile, their little sister Leela was content with a shiny miniature kitchen set, made out of beaten brass. The children’s mothers and aunts rummaged through stacks of brightly coloured saris, admiring the latest patterns and embroidery styles, while Aai chatted with the other old ladies seated in the temple hall. The entire Nayak clan celebrated well into the night, returning to the streets to watch the ongoing procession of performers. Saffron light tinged the horizon as the family finally made their way home, intent on catching a few hours of sleep before joining in the day-long Shigmo festivities. There were five days more of colour and cheer to look forward to and it would all end on Rangapanchami, with prayers, sweets, colourful gulal (powders) and delightful treats!
(Makes about 20-25 pieces)
- 100g (4-5 inch piece) Fresh Ginger
- 1 1/2 cups Sugar
- 1/4 cup Milk
- 3/4 cup Milk Powder
- 1 heaped tablespoon Ghee (Clarified Butter)
- 1 tablespoon Dry Ginger Powder (Sunth); optional
Wash and peel the fresh ginger. Chop the ginger into small pieces and grind it to a smooth paste together with the sugar and milk.
Place a wide, heavy-bottomed, non-stick pan on low heat. Melt the tablespoon of ghee in the pan and stir in the ginger paste. Add the milk powder and dry ginger powder, using a spatula to break any lumps of powder that might have formed. Cook the mixture on low flame, stirring continuously to prevent it from burning.
The mixture will bubble and thicken, changing from light yellow to a light brown colour. Continue to cook the mixture, on low flame, stirring all the while. The Kaapa mixture is ready when it starts to leave the sides of the pan. Take the pan off the heat and pour the mixture out onto a steel plate that has been greased with a little ghee. Lightly grease a spatula with ghee and then use it to pat the Kaapa mixture down, pushing the warm mixture towards the edges of the plate so as to obtain an even layer.
Leave the Kaapa to cool for ten minutes. Use a sharp knife to gently score lines onto the top of the mixture and then allow it to cool completely. As the Kaapa cools, it will harden and develop a lovely, crumbly, melt-in-the-mouth texture. Once cooled, separate the Kaapa into individual pieces and serve. The Kaapa may be stored in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to two weeks.
Recipe Note: Pieces of finely chopped fresh ginger may be added to the Kaapa mixture along with the ginger paste for some added texture.
Story Notes: Our stories, set in the early 1900s, are entirely fictional & inspired by childhood tales, local legends and books. Click here to read more about this colourful Goan festival!