There is music in every bite of Dawn Ramkissoon-Ali’s popular homemade snacks.
If you find your head nodding, shoulders rocking and feet tapping with every mouthful of her Aurora Fine Delights kurmas, barfies, tamarind balls, puffs and accra, it’s because ambient instrumentation and soulful crooning is a key part of her kitchen process.
“I have a passion and absolute love of cooking and sharing gastronomic experiences with others. My products are infused with love. While crafting my products, the ambient music played is love songs to get into my zone,” an affable Ramkissoon-Ali told the Express during an online exchange on Thursday.
Just like in making a catchy tune, a good melody must dance atop a strong backing beat. Ramkissoon-Ali says this is where sticking to only the finest quality ingredients ensures her customers receive that “wow factor” from her snacks.
“All my products are carefully crafted with only Grade A ingredients, ensuring a consistently high standard. I aspire to always give the wow factor to my customers, by meeting and exceeding their expectations on taste, and they always get value for money,” she nodded confidently.
Mastering her craft
Ramkissoon-Ali’s great self-assurance comes from three decades of perfecting her craft.
The Charlieville-based baker and confectioner has mastered the arts of sweet and savoury snack-making during those 30-plus years. She has established Aurora Fine Delights as one of the go-to suppliers of East Indian and Caribbean treats on the islands.
That remarkable journey first began on random Sunday afternoons, thumbing through her mother’s cookbook in search of an intriguing recipe.
“I remember making guava cheese, coconut rolls and German pound cake. My family members would always enjoy what I prepared and quickly became my biggest supporters. I always considered it a hobby whilst growing up,” Ramkisson-Ali recalled.
What started as a kitchen pastime soon stirred itself into a viable business outlet as she found herself delving deeper into not only the techniques of baking but also the science of food nutrition.
“As I grew older, I started to do formal training, with the intention to have a food business. Some of the courses I did were how to make cupcakes, muffins, donuts, cake pops, cookie decorating, pastelles, ponche de creme, Trinidad fruit cake, pastry and roti making—yes, roti making because nobody I knew could give me an exact recipe,” she laughed.
“I also did courses in food safety, small-scale catering, nutrition and dietetics. My financial commitment to family always caused me to stay in my full-time day job, and following my dream could only be done as a side-line second job,” she continued more seriously.
Raising to the challenge
Like most small businesses Aurora Fine Delights has been adversely affected by the global pandemic and its resulting restrictions and limitations on daily operations. But, Ramkissoon-Ali says, business is slowly picking up with the recent resumption, and she is determined as ever to build a quality, trusted brand she can one day pass on to her daughters.
“The pandemic restrictions caused sales to come to a screeching halt. Being employed full-time with a company during the lockdown is the only reason I was spared economic hardship. But business is picking back up slowly with the resumption,” she said.
Social media has been a game-changing platform for her business, she added, as she is able to not only stay connected with a loyal customer but also attract new business.
“I use social media to promote my page. I add to ‘my story’ on Instagram and Facebook, regularly showcasing my products. In addition, I promote my menu on WhatsApp for Saturday lunch; if anyone wants a special order, I do that as well. I also engage in giveaways to encourage people to like, follow and share my page. I plan to maintain the momentum of promotions to continue exciting my customers,” she beamed.
With uncertain weeks and months ahead for many small business owners like herself, Ramkissoon-Ali says a quote from the late great American poet Maya Angelou will continue to steady her hand and guide her heart.
“This quote resonates in my mind, ‘You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you’,” she concluded.
Aurora’s Milk Barfi Recipe
4 cups full-cream milk powder
3 Tablespoons dairy cream
2-inch piece of ginger (peeled and grated)
2 Tablespoons ghee
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups water
1. Mix dairy cream and grated ginger into the milk powder and let sit for five minutes.
2. Rub the mixture through a sieve to remove any lumps and ginger strands (use a metal bowl).
3. Sprinkle the ground cardamom onto the mixture (do not stir).
4. Add sugar and water in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil until mixture makes a single thread when put between fingers.
5. Add the ghee to the milk mixture (do not stir).
6. Add sugar syrup to the milk mixture. Stir to combine well.
7. Spread onto a greased tray.
8. Sprinkle the cake decorations on top.
9. Let sit on a level surface until it hardens to the touch
10. Mark with a knife into desired size. Cut when completely cool and enjoy!