All illustrations by Shawn D'Souza
Festivals, in India, may mean many things — gathering with family and friends, the thrill of having presents from the elders, new clothes, a holiday from everyday routines. Unbridled joy. They also mean food. From veritable feasts prepared in the days leading up to the festival, to family recipes brushed off only on these special days, the aromas and flavours one remembers wafting through the home on festive occasions, and best of all, that satisfied, lethargic rest after an excellent repast — these are the memories we associate with festival food.
And Christmas, as a festival, certainly has a very strong connection with food. From the quintessential rum cake (albeit with a twist) to a full Naga feast, delicate kul-kuls, to salted meat and mutton stew — we got foodies from all over India to share their favourite Christmas recipes, and memories.
These traditional dishes are made as per heirloom recipes, handed down from one generation to the next.
Merry Christmas, and bon appétit!
“I am the fourth generation of my family who makes this dish every Christmas. We belonged to a village named Seela Patti (originally in Uttar Pradesh, now part of Uttarakhand) and were originally Hindu zamindars. With the arrival of the British we converted to Christianity, and ever since, our food has an eclectic mix of influences from Anglo-Nawabi cuisines,” says Hanok Jacob, a cinematographer who hails from Bareilly but now works in Mumbai and Delhi. He learnt this recipe by keenly observing his father prepare the dish, who in turn had learnt it from his father’s cousin.
A big portion of meat is required for this recipe, preferably from the thigh of a buffalo. However, one can make it using any other kind of meat as well. The norm is not to wash the meat at all; any contact with water will spoil it. In the olden days, salted meat was prepared in a large earthen pot, but these days plastic tubs are used. “One of the specialities of this meat is that it almost gets reduced to half of its original portion by the end of the entire process. Suppose you take 10 kg of meat, by the end only 4-5 kg of meat is what remains,” informs Jacob.
Meat (boneless and without fat) — 10 kg
Sea salt — 750 gm
Cinnamon (dalchini) — 50 gm
Nutmeg (jaiphal) — 50 gm
Mace (javitri) — 50 gm
Tamarind pulp — 50 gm
Jaggery — 150 gm
Citrus lemons, 3-4 inch in size – as many as needed to dip the meat completely
Kalmi shora – 25 gm
First, mix all the dry, whole garam masala spices — cinnamon, mace and nutmeg — and marinate these into the meat, in a plastic tub. Then, add citrus lemon juice, sea salt and tamarind and mix once more. Then what we add is the meat tenderiser — ‘kalmi shora’. The meat should be dipped in this concoction of spices, lemons and citrus juices completely. The shora will make the meat tender from the inside. The meat must be kept in this marinade for 7-10 days.
Massage the marinade into the meat from time to time and keep the whole out in the sunlight over these 7-10 days, so that the meat doesn't spoil. Turn the meat at regular intervals so the spices have a chance to seep into it. After this, the meat is taken out and boiled on a slow fire for about half an hour. This process is repeated two-three times and the water is removed periodically. The shora makes the meat a little bitter. So the water must be drained from the meat multiple times. Once the meat is cooked, it is wrapped in cotton gauze and hung for at least 1-2 days at a high point. Three days later, the meat is dry and you can make slices of it.
Eat as is, or fry and serve with coriander chutney or red spice chutney. Squeeze lemon juice over the meat slices.
ALMORTH OR BUFFARTH:
“As a child growing up in Kolar gold fields, the delicious aroma of meats and vegetables simmering in a huge pot over a wood-fired stove, is one of my lingering memories of Christmas. For us, Christmas just wasn’t Christmas if it didn’t start with huge bowls of almorth stew with crusty bread for breakfast. I still try to have this awesome stew for breakfast on Christmas morning, but of course a much leaner one with just one or two meats and lots of vegetables,” says food historian Bridget White Kumar, who has been closely researching Anglo-Indian cuisines of India.
This dish is a mixed meat stew made with a combination of meat, chicken, pork and vegetables, made as per an old Anglo-Indian recipe. However, any combination of meat could be used as per one's preference. The same recipe could be made with only chicken as well.
Beef — 250 gm
Mutton / lamb — 250 gm
Chicken – 500 gm
Pork — 250 gm
Carrots, beans (or any other English vegetables), chopped into medium size pieces – 150 gm
Potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters — 3
Chilli powder – 2 teaspoons
Turmeric powder — ½ teaspoon
Black pepper powder — 2 teaspoons
Coriander powder — 1 teaspoon
Dry red chillies, broken into pieces — 4
Garlic, chopped — 2 teaspoons
Cinnamon, inch-long pieces – 2
Cloves — 5
Onions, sliced — 3
Tomatoes, chopped — 2
Mint, chopped – 2 tablespoons
Oil – 3 tablespoons
Salt to taste
Coconut paste — 2 tablespoons
Vinegar — 2 tablespoons
Cut the meat, chicken and pork into small pieces. Heat oil in a pressure cooker or a suitable vessel and add the onions, cinnamon, cloves and chopped garlic. Fry till the onions turn golden brown. Add the mutton, beef, chicken and pork together with the chilli powder, turmeric powder, pepper powder, salt coriander powder and tomatoes and mix well. Fry till the tomatoes turn to pulp. Add the broken dry red chillies, mint and the coconut paste and mix well. Add sufficient water and cook till the meat is soft. If cooking in a pressure cooker, cook for 10 minutes (6 to 8 whistles). Now add the chopped vegetables and vinegar and simmer on low heat till the vegetables are cooked and the gravy is thick. Serve with rice or bread.
CHANAR PUDDING WITH NOLEN GUR:
“Growing up, my brother and I would often say 'Dadai er mansho khabo', which meant we wanted to have some meat dish cooked by him. Not only has my granddad perfected the dishes that he found the recipes to but he has himself created many recipes which have now become a part of our own cookbooks,” says Sreyasi Chaudhuri, who runs a confectionary catering business along with her mom in Kolkata.
“Dadai always says that winter is a very special time for him as he gets to shop for groceries 'mon khule' (whole heartedly). This particular pudding is his own recipe, our special Christmas pudding. This particular recipe not only celebrates the decadent nolen gur but it is a Christmas tradition at our home. It makes it way on the table with the traditional roast and plum cake,” she says.
Cottage cheese (Chhana) – 100 gm
Date palm jaggery (Nolen Gur) – 1/3 cup
Sugar – ½ cup
Egg — 1
Vanilla essence – as per taste
Milk – ½ cup
Grind the sugar till it's powdered. Beat the eggs well, add the sugar and mix until it dissolves. Grind the chhana and milk to a thick paste. Add some extra milk in case the mixture is too thick. Add the egg mixture and grind again, so everything is mixed well. Pour the mixture into a cooking utensil, and slowly mix in the nolen gur. Steam the mixture on a double boiler for 10 to 12 minutes. Before serving, top it with some nolen gur.
“I come from a Syrian Catholic joint family. We are 20 members in all. We look forward to Christmas because it means all of the relatives getting together and having a potluck. We would end up with 15 dishes for the Christmas Eve dinner!” says Rohit Albin Cheyaden, a professional chef with a restaurant named Adipoli.
This is his grandmother Molly Anthony’s recipe. Telling us about its uniqueness, he says, “It shows our Syrian Catholic roots with the use of whole spices and coconut milk. It is to die for!”
Mutton – 2 kg
Carrot – 750 gm
Mix of French beans, cauliflower and peas — 500 gm
Potatoes — 500 gm
Cinnamon — 5
Clove — 5
Star anise — 5
Mace — 5
Bay leaves — 2
Green cardamom — 2
Onion, sliced – 6
Green chilli, slit — 10
Curry leaves — 10
Ginger – 10 gm
Ginger-garlic paste – 10 gm
Salt – as per taste
Milk – 80 gm
Cashew paste – 30 gm
Coconut milk – 100 gm
Crushed pepper – 10 gm
Coconut oil – 20 gm
Grate coconut and mix with 3 ½ cups of water. Drain and keep aside (this will be the first batch of coconut milk). Now grind the coconut pulp in 3 ½ cups of water (second batch of coconut milk). Again, grind the ground coconut pulp in 2 cups of water and drain it — that becomes the third batch of coconut milk.
The hard bones of mutton, along with 1/8th kg of mutton bones (bought separately) need to be cooked well in 2 cups of water. When cooled, grind them in a mixer and if needed, add some water and strain it using a big pore strainer. Wash the mutton really well [As pieces, mutton ribs or legs are preferred]. Into the mutton, add three twigs of curry leaves, cloves, cinnamon (broken into small pieces), green chilli (slit into halves) and ginger (cut into half and then into thin long slices). Add salt to this and mix well with your hands. Add 1 cup of water and give it a boil using a pressure cooker [After the first whistle, keep it for 4 minutes].
Cut carrots in such a way that the pieces are 3/4th of an inch in length and ½ an inch in diameter (breadth). Take medium sized potatoes; clean them and cut them into 4-5 pieces each. These potatoes should be half boiled using the broth obtained from boiling bones and mutton, as mentioned earlier. After the potatoes, add the carrots and stir well. Let the vegetables cook properly with the pressure cooker’s lid closed.
Place the boiled mutton and vegetables in an open vessel and add the second batch of coconut milk. Put this on a flame and let it boil. As it boils, add to this the first batch of coconut milk. Reduce the flame, stir and check the consistency of the gravy. In case you need a thicker consistency, add some corn flour to the third batch of coconut milk and add to the mixture. The third batch of coconut milk is used to regulate the consistency of the recipe. In case, you need it to be a little tangy, add some vinegar (this is absolutely optional). Heat coconut oil and add finely chopped small onions (circular in shape) and thinly chopped large onions. To this, add the remaining curry leaves, Kashmiri dried red chilli (deseeded). When the onions turn brown, add raisins and turn off the flame. Add this to the mutton stew along with some sprinkling of cardamom powder and immediately close the lid. Let it rest for a while and then it is ready to eat.
Traditionally served with appams.
GOAN ROAST PORK WITH ROASTED POTATOES
“When we were growing up, Christmas was a huge affair in our family. We all looked forward to the Christmas meal because that was the time all of us would sit and eat together. There was this joke in our family that we will always have three-four different types of pork dishes on our table,” says Chef Floyd Cardoz, founder of restaurants such as Mumbai’s The Bombay Canteen and New York’s The Bombay Bread Bar.
This recipe is an adaptation of what Cardoz’s mother would always prepare during Christmas. “(In) those days the Christmas meal used to be a lazy lunch, as we would be out the previous night with kids, parents, grandmas and aunts etc. I improvised on the recipe a bit but kept the basic soul of the recipe intact,” he says. While his mother would simply pop the potatoes in a pressure cooker, Cardoz likes to cook them in the oven itself along with the pork.
Pork Shoulder, bone out with fat — 4.5 kg
Potatoes, large — 6
Onion, sliced thin — 2 cups
Kashmiri chillies, broken into pieces — 3
Dark rum — ½ cup
Ginger, peeled and pored — 3 tablespoons
Garlic, peeled and smashed — 6 cloves
Mustard seeds, ground fine — ½ tablespoon
Black pepper, ground fine — 1 teaspoon
Cloves — 3
Cinnamon, an inch-long stick — 1
Turmeric powder — 1 teaspoon
Goan vinegar — 1 tablespoon
Sea salt – 2-3 tablespoons
Peel the potatoes and slice evenly into ¼ inch slices and keep together. Skewer the potatoes so as to make them whole again. Place them in a bowl of water. On the day (before) the pork is to be cooked, sprinkle with salt and place in steamer. Cook the potatoes until they are half cooked and reserve to be used later.
Prick the pork shoulder all over using a roasting fork. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and rub over the pork. Cover and refrigerate and let it marinate overnight.
Bring the pork to room temperature. Remove the pork from marinade (rub most of the marinade off and reserve it). Heat a large heavy bottomed pot in an oven heated to 400 degrees. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the pot and add the pork to sear on all sides. Add the marinade along with 1 cup of water to pot, cover and continue to cook in the oven. Ensure that you baste it every 8 minutes.
After 30 minutes add the potatoes to the pot, cover it until the potatoes are cooked completely. Approximately after 30 minutes, remove the pot from oven and let it rest covered for another 15 minutes. Remove pork and potatoes and slice the pork. Adjust the juice in the pot with a little water (as required) so as to have a semi thick juice. Remove the skewers; arrange the pork and potatoes on a platter and pour sauce from the pot all over and around it.
SHANGHAI GRILLED CHICKEN/SHEPHERD'S PIE
“For me Christmas is a memorable and meaningful festival — in spite of all the chaos surrounding it. As a young adult, when my mom started to trust me with the kitchen utensils, I remember helping her cook various Christmas delicacies,” says Reuben Augustine Dewan from Kolkata.
Dewan is a Chinese Christian and has a mixed cultural heritage. The Indo-Chinese community — one of the oldest immigrant communities in India — of Kolkata, over the years, have contributed immensely to the city's diverse cultural ecosystem.
Both these dishes — Shepherd’s Pie and Shanghai Grilled Chicken — have a message, according to Dewan. “The term 'Shepherd’s Pie', also known as 'cottage pie' was in use by 1791 when the potato was being introduced as an edible crop affordable for the poor. On the other hand, Shanghai Grilled Chicken follows the simple culinary rule of ‘mise en place’ which refers to ‘putting in place’. It is a symbol for us of Jesus putting everything into place in everyone’s lives. These dishes are a reminder of what the season is about — happiness and being thankful to Jesus for everything,” he says.
For the Shanghai Grilled Chicken —
Boneless chicken leg — 300 gm
Ginger paste — 1 teaspoon
Garlic paste — 2 teaspoons
Red chilli sauce — 1 teaspoon
Corn flour — 1 tablespoon
Salt — as per taste
Refined sunflower oil — 2 tablespoon
Cut the chicken into half-inch strips. Except for the oil, add all the ingredients to the chicken strips and leave it to marinate for an hour. Skewer the chicken strips and grill for 30 minutes in the oven at 200 degree. Ensure you brush it with oil occasionally.
For the Shepherd’s Pie —
Minced mutton — 300 gm
Onion, medium sized, thinly chopped —2
Tomato puree, small tetra packets of 200 ml — 2
Fresh cream, small tetra packets of 200 ml each — 1
Cheese cubes – 4
Ginger paste — 1 teaspoon
Garlic paste — 1 teaspoon
Mixed herbs — 1 teaspoon
Corn flour — 2 tablespoons
Milk, single toned — 100 ml
Potato — 1 kg
Butter — 50 gm
Egg, for garnish — 1
Salt — as per taste
In a deep frying pan, add 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the ginger-garlic paste and stir for a minute. Then add the finely chopped onions and stir fry for a minute again. Now add the minced mutton, mixed herbs and give it a good mix and keep it for 5 minutes. Then, add two packets of tomato puree and two cheese cubes. Let the mix boil; take it off flame and then allow it to cool.
Meanwhile, boil the potatoes and take their skin off. Mash them properly, adding butter and mixing until smooth. Keep adding spoons of milk in order to make the mash smoother.
Keep some mashed potatoes (about half cup) aside and put that in a pan. Add the remaining milk, fresh cream and two spoonfuls of corn flour. Stir it quickly till it becomes a smooth, thick, creamy sauce.
In a deep baking dish (approx 4 inch deep and 8 inch wide), line the mashed potatoes all around the base and the walls; add the meat mixture and finally the white sauce over it. Then add a beaten egg and cheese at the top and put the dish in the oven at 200 degrees for over 25 minutes. Serve it hot on Christmas morning.
BOL SAN RIVAL
This cake is a reflection of Goa's Portuguese heritage. “Bol San Rival translates to 'cake without any rival' and rightly so, because unlike other cakes, this is a rather light one, made with almonds,” says Chef Vernon Francis Coelho of Goa.
Chef Vernon's grandmother hailed from Northern Goa’s Candolim area and hence there's a strong Portuguese influence in the family's culinary practices. “My mother used to make the cake every Christmas and I absolutely loved it,” added Chef Coelho.
Egg whites — 12
Almond powder — 400 gm
Palm sugar — 450 gm
Butter — 200 gm
Plain sugar — 200 gm
Vanilla essence (if required) — 1-2 drops
Beat the egg whites until they are light and add sugar — a little at a time. Pour the almond powder into it until is evenly mixed. Add the vanilla essence (optional) and give it a good mix. Spread it into a shallow baking tray and put it into the oven at 300 degrees for about 8-12 minutes.
Since the cake doesn’t rise, it is layered; there are 3-4 layers of cake separated by fresh butter cream. To make the butter cream, take sugar and water in equal proportion and boil the mixture till the sugar dissolves. Then add butter to it and mix it properly.
To garnish the cake, you can use cherries, almonds etc.
NAGA CHRISTMAS FEAST:
Aketoli H Zhimomi from Nagaland says that usually during Christmas, the entire village feasts together after bringin in the festival in church. "On Christmas, our families gather together and share stories and exchange gifts. Every family member has a role to play during the festive season — the younger girls are usually tasked with making black tea and kumunupu sho (sticky rice roti), and most of the adult work force is engaged in community cooking like chopping meat, cleaning vegetables, while of course some are just there to eat,” she says.
Zhimomi is a home-cook who won an intrastate cooking competition in 2013 to promote Naga cuisine. She currently runs an indigenous Naga cuisine restaurant in Dimapur named Ethnic Table. There are recipes that have been passed on from generation to generation and form an essential part of the Naga culture, especially that of the Sumi tribe that Zhimomi belongs to.
(According to Zhimomi, since most tribal cuisine is passed on verbally from one generation to another, there is no written list of ingredients or set recipe. People use their own discretion in preparing these dishes.)
Sticky Rice Bread
Soak sticky rice overnight. Drain the water and let it dry for at least an hour. Pound the dried, soaked rice in a large rice pounder till it gains a rough, powdery form. Sieve the powder and again pound the residue. Then, in a basin, make dough with the pounded powder and lukewarm water. Ensure the dough isn't runny. In a banana leaf, take a dough ball (the size of one’s palm) and flatten it, wrap the banana leaf around it, and set aside. Then, boil water in a large pot. Once it starts boiling, add the wrapped sticky rice dough and let it boil for 20 minutes. Take the wrapped leaves out from the pot and let it cool. It can be served with tea or with chutney.
Alternatively, one can also do a fried version. For this, the steps remain almost the same except for this: After the dough is made, shape it into ovals by hand and then deep fry in vegetable oil.
Pork Innards with Pig’s Blood
Cut the innards into small pieces and put them in a pot. To it, add some ginger, garlic, Naga king chilli and salt. Add water to cover the meat and cook, letting the water reduce. In case the meat isn’t tender, add some more water. Once the meat is tender, add the pigs' blood to the curry and stir constantly as it cooks. When it becomes semi dry, add zanthoxylum pepper powder and let it simmer for 5 minutes on low fire. Then take it off the heat and serve.
Smoked Pork with Fermented Soya Bean
In a pot, add axone (fermented soya bean paste) and salt and let it cook. Add dried red chilli to the gravy and cook till the skin of the chilli becomes soft. Clean and cut the smoked pork and add to the gravy, pouring in water as and when required. Once the meat is tender, crush local ginger and zanthoxylum (Sichuan pepper) and add to the curry. Let it cook for 5-10 minutes and remove the pot from fire. The gravy should ideally be up to the level of the meat.
Pork Trotters with Fresh Kidney Beans
Cut meat, add salt and water and start cooking. The trotters will take time to cook till tender so keep adding water if it dries up. An hour into cooking it, add fresh de-shelled beans into the meat and cook till both the beans and trotters are soft to touch. Take a few green chillies and roast over fire; let the skin of chilli blister and roughly shred it with hand and add that to the curry. Then add thinly sliced fresh ginger to the trotters and bean curry once it is tender.
Whole Pig's Head
Clean the pig’s head properly; the cavities in the ear and nose should be cleaned thoroughly with water and scraping with knife. Put it into a pot lined with banana leaf. Add dried red chillies, 1-2 Raja King chillies and salt to the pot. Then add roughly crushed ginger and pour water up to the level of the head and put the pot on the flame. Cook the head for an hour on one side and then turn it over and add more water and cook. Once the gravy cooks down to base of the meat, take the pot off heat.
“Around Christmas, the winter becomes much harsher in Manipur. With the chilled air and morning fog, you will often find families having an early lunch on the terrace or in their courtyards under the warmth of the winter sun,” says Diana Chingakham, editor of HappyTipsy. She has been researching and documenting the culinary practices of Manipur and its nearby regions for quite some time now.
Manipur has a considerably dense Christian population but "Hindu families, especially the youngsters, celebrate Christmas with as much fervour as the Christians,” explains Chingakham. From Chicken curry (which uses the feisty Bhut Jolokia, also popularly known as the King Chilli), to mild vegetable stews — Christmas food in Manipur is an eclectic mix of flavours.
Nga-atoiba Thongba is mashed fish curry cooked with potatoes and peas. “Mothers often prepare this dish and have it piping hot, or they will keep it in their kitchens all night for the night chill to freeze the curry. This is then consumed with hot steamed rice over lunch,” says Chingakham.
Fish, cut in small pieces — 1 kg [*Manipuri fish dishes are best cooked with varieties like Catla and Rohu]
Ginger-garlic paste — 2 tablespoons
Onion, sliced — 1
Nakuppi (garlic chives) — 50 gm
Green chillies — 3
Turmeric powder — 1 teaspoon
Coriander powder — 1 tablespoon
Cumin powder — 1 tablespoon
Chilli powder — 1 tablespoon
Mustard oil — 3 tablespoon
Water — 250 ml
Haribok (Manipuri Herb), cut into pieces — 2
Peas — 150 gm
Potato, cut into cubes — 1
Fresh coriander — for garnishing
Salt to taste
Wash the fish properly and keep it aside. In a pan, add mustard oil and let it heat a bit. Add the garlic chives and the onion and sauté until golden brown. Then, add the ginger-garlic paste and fry for about 1 minute. Now, add the potato cubes and peas followed with turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, green chillies and sauté the entire mix properly. Add water and salt, and let it come to a simmer. Now, put the fish in the pan and let all the flavours seep into it. When the fish seems cooked and the gravy looks creamy yellow, add freshly-chopped coriande. Serve hot with steamed rice.
GLUTEN-FREE RUM CAKE
Filmmaker and entrepreneur Veena Bakshi has revamped a popular Chirstmas dish and made it healthier. The rum cake recipe she inherited from her mother has now become gluten-free; Bakshi avoids using maida (refined flour) and instead uses ragi.
“We are Maharashtrians and we celebrate all festivals with equal joy and splendour. We used to make this cake around August or September for Christmas. The cake matures with age; you keep adding rum in tiny quantities every few days and the cake really comes into its own,” says Bakshi. It is best had with some vanilla custard. This recipe was devised by her mother and a friend some 50 years ago. “They believed a lot of rum had to be had by them before soaking the fruit… a spoon for the cake and a spoon for each of them every time the cake had to be ‘rummed’!” she adds.
Rum — ½ a bottle
Munakka (large seeded raisin) — 2 cups
Kishmish (small, pale yellow raisin) — 1 cup
Dry fruits including mango, cherry, prune etc — ¾ cup
Flour [for gluten-free use ragi] — 1 ½ cup
Eggs — 4
Brown sugar — 1 cup
Cashew powder — ½ cup
Walnuts, broken into small pieces — ¾ cup
Cinnamon powder — ¼ teaspoon
Ginger powder — ¼ teaspoon
Clove powder — ¼ teaspoon
Golden syrup — ½ cup
Lemon, grated skin — 1
Soak all the dry fruits and raisins in a half bottle of rum for around three days.
Beat the eggs and sugar together till they are white and fluffy, adding one egg at a time. Then add the golden syrup and grated lemon skin and mix well. Mix all the dry ingredients together, except for the walnuts, and then add the cashew powder. Add this dry mixture to the beaten eggs mixture, spoon by spoon, mixing constantly. Also add the fruits from the rum bottle into the mixture. Last, add the walnuts.
Bake this at 150 degrees for about 2.5-3 hours and once done, check the cake using a toothpick. Wrap the cake in a foil and add rum into it every few days.
Kul-kuls are traditional sweet snacks made in East Indian homes during Christmas. Popular chef Michael Swamy, who authored an award-winning book (The East Indian Kitchen), extensively researching and documenting the traditional Maharashtrian-Portuguese fusion cuisines that were also part of his upbringing, says: “Making kul-kuls was often a family affair owing to it being a cumbersome task. Everyone would pitch in and this added to the laughter, bonding and the entire festive spirit. This would also be a part of the Kuswar platter that was exchanged with family, friends and neighbours during the season.”
Semolina (sooji/rawa) — 1 kg
Whole wheat flour (aata) — 1 kg
Milk — 250 ml
Eggs, lightly beaten — 6
Sugar — 1 kg
Ghee, for frying — 500 ml
Mix semolina and flour in a bowl. Add milk and eggs and mix well. Slowly add upto 200 ml of water and knead to make the dough pliable. Add more water if required. Set aside to rest overnight. To shape the kul-kuls, pull a tiny piece of prepared dough and shape into an oval ball. Press it against the teeth of a newly-oiled comb or the prongs of a fork. Gently roll it into a cylinder. Deep fry kul-kuls in hot oil for a few minutes and remove while still white.
To make the glaze of the kul-kuls, boil the sugar with 30 ml of water over very low heat. To test the syrup, dip a spoon into it and plunge it in ice-cold water. The syrup should form into a soft ball. Now, toss the fried kul-kuls in the boiling sugar syrup and turn them out onto a steel plate. Allow the kul-kuls to cool and the glaze to set and then later store them in air-tight containers.
(Known as Kokisaan in Konkani)
Mangalorean kuswar is all about families coming together and making these Christmas goodies together, says Gloria Viegas who is trying to maintain the tradition of preparing these sweets even today.
“As a child who returned (to India) during the Gulf War, memories around Christmas time meant visiting our grandparents’ place…around 10-12 of us, our grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins all would sit down and make the kuswar together... some kneaded the dough, some made small balls of the dough, some cut the shapes. While our grandmother would fry them, we would all be laughing, singing or simply talking... Today my grandfather is no more and grandma is bedridden, so I continue making these sweets in their memory, so that my children should also have similar memories when they grow up. Anyway, traditional kuswar making has almost completely stopped. Everyone buys from the bakery; it’s no longer a family thing,” laments Viegas.
Refined flour (maida) — 500 gm
Rice batter — 2-3 tablespoons
Egg — 1
Coconut milk — 2 cups
Vanilla essence — few drops
Nutmeg — ¼ teaspoon
Butter — 1 ½ tablespoon
Iron cast for shaping the cookies
Mix all the ingredients, except for the egg, into a bowl and make a smooth batter. Beat egg separately and mix in the end without beating the batter.
Oil should be heated and the iron cast form of the cookies should be heated in oil for a while otherwise the batter won't hold on. Take little portions of the batter into a shallow bowl and fry.
About the artist: Shawn D'Souza is a textile designer and illustrator. Follow his work on Instagram.