Christmas is a mixture of both religious and secular traditions in India. It’s a time of celebration — with family and friends, with feasting and socialising. Christmas is a fascinating mix of traditions that combines pre-Christian pagan rituals with modern traditions. Every family has its own customs and traditions while celebrating Christmas. Some of these customs and traditions are universal in nature while others may be a result of inculcating local practices and customs. Christmas is therefore the season for traditions, preserving old ones and creating new ones.
In India, Christmas food varies from state to state and communities. Each family has its own traditional recipes for these dishes that are served on Christmas Day. A lot of traditional sweets are also prepared and exchanged with other family members and friends. The traditional Christmas Fruit Cakes, Puddings, and sweets are prepared specially for Christmas, a month or fortnight in advance, filling the house and neighbourhood with enticing smells. This is the time, when the whole house is in a festive mood, with the anticipation of Christmas, and everyone in the family chips in to help prepare those heavenly delights.
Simple Christmas Fruit Cake
- Flour (Maida) 300 gm
- Butter 250 gm
- Powdered sugar 250 gm
- Eggs 3 (beat the whites beaten separately)
- Baking Powder 1 tsp
- Black currants of raisins 100 gm (chopped)
- Date syrup 2 tbsp (for colour)
- Cloves 2 (powdered)
- Cinnamon 2 small pieces (powdered)
- Vanilla essence 1 tsp
- Salt ¼ tsp
- Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.
- Dust the chopped black currants with a little flour and set aside
- Cream the butter and sugar well. Add the egg yolks, date syrup, cinnamon and clove powder and vanilla essence and mix well. Add the black currants
- Slowly add the egg whites and flour and fold in well. If the mixture is too thick add a little milk
- Pour into a greased and papered baking tin or dish and bake in a slow oven for about 40 to 45 minutes
- Remove from the oven when done and set aside to cool before serving
Kalkal (or Kul kul)
Preparation time:1 hour
- Flour (Maida) 1kg
- Rice flour 250 gm
- Eggs 4 (beaten well)
- Thick coconut milk 2 cups
- Salt ½ tsp
- Sugar 300 gm
- Baking powder or baking soda 1tsp
- Oil for deep frying
- For icing: Sugar 1 cup, water ½ cup
- Mix the rice flour, maida, salt, sugar and baking powder together.
- Add the coconut milk and eggs and knead to a soft dough. Keep aside for an hour.
- Form kalkals by taking small lumps of the dough and rolling on the back of a fork or a wooden kalkal mould, to form a scroll. Alternately, roll out the dough and cut into fancy shapes with kalkal or cookie cutters.
- Heat oil in a deep pan and fry as many kalkals as possible at a time. Keep aside.
- Icing: Melt sugar with water and when the sugar syrup crystallises, pour over the I and mix well.
- Store in airtight boxes once cooled
Preparation time: 1 hour
- Flour (Maida) ½ kg
- Rice flour 250 gm (optional)
- Coconut milk 1 cup
- Sugar 200 gm
- Eggs 6 (beaten well)
- Salt ½ tsp
- Vanilla essence 1 tsp
- Baking powder 1 tsp
- Oil 1 litre (for frying)
- Mix all the ingredients together to form a smooth slightly thick batter
- Heat oil in a deep pan till it reaches boiling point, and place the rose cookie mould in the oil to get hot.
- When the mould is hot enough, dip it half way into the batter and put the coated mould back into the boiling oil immediately
- Shake the mould to separate the cookie from the mould
- Fry rose cookies till brown.
- Heat the mould again and repeat the process. Continue in this way till the batter is finished.
Note: The batter will stick to the rose cookie mould with a hissing sound only if it is sufficiently hot otherwise it will just slide off the mould
Homemade grape wine
- Sweet black grapes 2 kg
- Sugar 2 kg
- Water 3 litre
- Active dry yeast ½ tsp OR A handful of whole wheat
- Wash the grapes and crush them well with the sugar
- Add the water and the yeast or wheat and store in a stone jar or any other container
- Leave for 21 days, stirring the wine every alternate day
- After 21 days, strain the wine into another jar.
- To add more colour to the wine, burn some sugar with a little of the wine in a saucepan. When the sugar is burnt to a nice brown, add to the wine and mix well. It will give it a lovely rich colour
- Bottle and keep for future use
- For making larger quantities of wine, increase the ingredients accordingly
Savoury whole roast chicken
- Dressed chicken with skin 1 whole
- Salt to taste
- Pepper 2 tsp
- Chilli powder 1 tsp
- Turmeric powder ½ tsp
- Red chillies 2 (broken into bits)
- Cinnamon 2 pcs
- Cloves 2-3
- Bay leaf 1
- Oil or ghee 2 tbsp
- Potatoes 3 (peeled)
- Marinate the chicken with the salt, pepper, chilli powder and turmeric powder for about half an hour
- Heat oil or ghee in a thick-bottomed pan and add the cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf and broken red chillies. Fry for a minute then add the whole chicken
- Sear the chicken on high heat for a few minutes turning it from side to side till it changes colour
- Add 1 or 2 cups of water and mix well. Add the potatoes
- Cover the pan with a tight lid and simmer over medium heat turning the chicken occasionally till the chicken is cooked
- Remove the potatoes and keep aside
- Continue to simmer on low heat till the chicken is roasted to a lovely golden brown. Remove the roasted chicken to a platter
- Add the potatoes to the pan with a sprinkle of water and fry for a few minutes till the potatoes are coated with the roast residue
- Remove the potatoes and place alongside the roasted chicken, and serve steamed vegetables and bread or rolls.
Dodol or Dhol dhol
Dodol or Black Rice Halwa is a delicious Christmas sweet purported to be another legacy of the Portuguese to Anglo-Indian cuisine. The main ingredients in Dodol are glutinous black rice flour — also known as Black puttu rice, or Burmese puttu rice flour — along with almonds or cashew nuts, coconut milk and lots of ghee or clarified butter. This Christmas delicacy takes hours to prepare and requires many hands for stirring it. The men of the house are usually roped in to help stir the black bubbling mass till it turns into a delicious and mouth watering Halwa. The dodol that is prepared in Anglo-Indian homes is usually made with white sugar. However, the dodol that is very popular in Goa uses jaggery or brown sugar instead. Dodol is also very popular in other countries such as Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, etc. Here is an old and easy recipe that my mum used for many years.
- Black puttu rice flour 1 kg (Any black glutinous rice works well including red rice)
- Sugar 1 kg
- Almonds 300 gm
- Cashew nuts 200 gm
- Roasted fine semolina or sooji 1 cup
- Ghee ½ kg
- Thick coconut milk 5 cup
- Boil the sugar and coconut milk together in a fairly big vessel till it forms thick syrup
- Mix the rice flour and semolina together and add to the syrup, little at a time and mix well
- Add the ghee, cashew nuts and almonds. Keep stirring continuously and cook on low heat till the mixture is thick and separates from the sides of the pan
- Remove from heat and pour onto a greased plate
- Cut into squares when cold (the dodol will be black)
Alternate microwave recipe for dodol
Microwave time: 28 minutes (8+8+8+4)
- Black puttu rice flour 1 cup (if you can’t get the flour buy the black or purple rice and grind a cupful)
- Coconut milk 400 ml
- Salt 1/2 tsp
- Almond essence 1 tsp
- Butter 2 dessert spoons
- Caster sugar 2 cups
- Mix together the flour, sugar, salt with coconut milk in the microwave safe dish in which you intend to cook the dhol dhol. Mix well by hand till smooth and darkly glossy
- Microwave on medium for 8 minutes. Take it out and stir well, and microwave for another 8 minutes
- Take it out of the microwave and stir well again. The mixture will have begun thickening at the edges, mix in, and ensure that it is smooth Add the butter and mix in well, this will be a little difficult, but persevere
- Microwave on medium for 8 minutes. Take it out and mix well
- Microwave on medium for 4 minutes. Take it out and mix well — at this point, it will have a jelly-like texture
- Beat smooth and mix in almond essence quickly
- Spread the halwa onto the greased tray, you will need to smoothen it out into an even layer
- Toss slivered almonds over the top and cut into squares
- Don’t worry if the butter is oozing out of the dhol dhol, just tilt the plate a bit, and pour out the excess.
- Store in a closed container on baking paper or brown paper, in the fridge
- Make it a week or so before Christmas.
Steamed ginger pudding
- Unsalted butter, softened 6 tbsp
- Flour (Maida) 2 tbsp
- Soft bread crumbs 1 cup
- Baking powder ½ tsp
- Dry ginger powder ¼ tsp
- Sugar 1/2 cup (and a little more)
- Egg 1 large
- Candied ginger, coarsely chopped ⅓ cup (optional)
- Honey 1 tbsp
- Whole milk 1 tbsp
- Apricot jam 4 tbsp
- Butter an oven proof pudding basin or mixing bowl and set aside
- Stir together flour, baking powder, and dry ginger powder in a small bowl
- Add the butter, bread crumbs and sugar in a different bowl and mix well. Mix in the egg
- Add flour mixture, chopped ginger candy, honey, and milk into the butter mix and combine well
- Spoon the jam into the bottom of the buttered pudding bowl. Pour the batter on top, then smoothen with a spatula
- Cover the bowl with a lid and steam the pudding for 30 to 35 minutes till done, then take off the heat and leave aside to cool for 10 minutes
- Run a small knife around the edge of the bowl then invert the pudding onto a plate
- Serve warm either with more jam on top or with fresh cream.