Homemade sweets during Christmas make the season more enjoyable for your taste and tummy, says ELEANOR D’SOUZA
This year, Christmas Day is fortunately mid-week on a Wednesday, and the rest of the family will be home from the weekend. Which gives us enough time to indulge in some serious sweet-making, that we have missed out on in past years, because of the lack of time. Growing up in India, making sweets for the festive season was akin to a social event, with all the family members gathering around after dinner a few evenings before Christmas Day, to make delicacies in abundance like kulkuls and neoris, among others. Each family increased its array and households good-naturedly competing with each other to create the best and most tasty, created from recipes handed down by at least a couple of generations of enterprising mums.
These days we are all too busy with children, home and work, and even more so during the festive season when we rush to buy presents, decorate the home and meet deadlines. We tend to take the easy option buying a variety of good quality chocolates and shortbread biscuits to display on the sweet tray when family or friends come calling.
But this year, I will be making some of my traditional favourites which were so popular among family and friends in Mumbai. They do take a bit of effort, but the end result will be worth the challenge. I only hope they last until Christmas Day!
These delicious coconut biscuits have a wonderful flavour and are particularly special to the Goan community
¼ (125gms) fresh grated coconut
200gms semolina (suji)
3 egg yolks
1tsp baking powder
2tsp caraway seeds
¼ glass water
Place the grated coconut in a thick bottomed vessel, add the sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium flam. When the mixture melts and forms a sticky mass, remove from fire. Add 1 tsp butter and stir well. Keep aside. When cool, add egg yolks to the mix one at a time and stir thoroughly until completely blended with the mix. Next, add the semolina, baking powder and caraway seeds and stir through thoroughly until a dough-like mass is formed. Keep overnight in the fridge. The next day, when ready to bake, make small oval balls of the mixture and place on a flour-dusted baking tray. Bake for about 20 minutes at 150c, and until the bolings are tinged with brown. Take care not to overcook. Remove from oven, cool and store in an airtight container until Christmas Day.
A rich blend made from cashew nuts and rose water
¼ kg cashew nuts, ground to a fine paste
250gms icing sugar
2 egg whites
100mls rose water
5 drops almond essence
Food colouring (optional)
Moulds of different shapes
Beat the egg whites until slightly stiff, then place in a thick bottomed vessel. Add icing sugar, ground cashews, rose water and essence and mix together until well-blended. Place on a slow flame and stir continuously until the mixture cooks and begins to form a mass, leaving the sides of the vessel. Mix together thoroughly on a slow fire, stirring continuously until it forms a mass and leaves the sides of the vessel. It is very important that the mixture should be fully cooked. To ensure this, form a small ball of the dough and drop it into a bowl of cold water. If it is firm, the marzipan is done.
Empty out the mix on a lightly greased large plate when still warm and knead for a few minutes. Divide the dough into small portions and mix in the colours you need, kneading well to ensure even colouring. Then mix and match when placing the dough carefully into the moulds to get the desired shape. So for a strawberry shape, the stem could be green and the main fruit could be red. Prepare the entire batch of marzipan and store in an airtight container.
Milk cream toffee
Homemade chocolate that’s the first to disappear
1 litre full cream milk
2¼ cups icing sugar
2tbsp cashew nuts, ground to a fine paste
1tbsp vanilla essence
Moulds for shapes
Boil the milk on high fire, stirring continuously until it reduces to half its quantity. Reduce the fire, continue stirring add sugar, the cashew nut paste and butter. Keep stirring until the mix leaves the side of the vessel. Place the batter on a greased plate, divide the mix into small balls and gently press into the moulds to get the desired shape.
Chana dal doce
A simple, sweet favourite, but you need a strong arm for stirring
250gms gram flour (chana dal)
2½ cups sugar
200gms fresh ground coconut
In a pressure cooker, cook the dal till soft, then cool and place in the blender to grind to a fine paste. Add coconut and blend into the mix. In a thick bottomed vessel, place the mix, add sugar and cook on a low flame, stirring constantly. You will be stirring for quite a while, until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and is cooked through. Pour the batter into a lightly greased plate or board, wait for it to cool and then gently cut into diamond shapes. The mixture will solidify and set, and can be then placed into an airtight container.