Christmas Fruit Cake – dark, rich and boozy

A good, rich, dark and sometimes boozy Christmas Fruit Cake is a must-have on every Christmas platter. Studded with dry fruit soaked in rum and spiced with beautiful holiday flavours, this recipe is sure to win you over.

Christmas Fruit Cake
Christmas Fruit Cake

In most Christian homes along the south west coast of India, a good Dark Fruit cake makes an appearance at Christmas and all special occasions like engagement parties, weddings, anniversaries, Communion celebrations and so on. It also holds a very prominent spot on a typical Christmas platter, or what is locally referred to as a Kuswar platter. (Kuswar=Christmas sweets)

Most people I know enjoy a good fruit cake, but very often, find it too tedious to make one at home. They settle for a commercially made cake, which very often has a number of additives including caramel colour to give it a deep, dark colour.

Today, I’m sharing with you, my favourite Fruit Cake recipe. This recipe is a little longer than most other cake recipes. However, I can assure you it is a fairly simple process and the end result is so good, it’s well worth all the extra effort. To help make the process easier, I’ve broken this recipe down into a few parts. Some of them can actually be done days before you’d like to bake this cake. The best part is, this cake tastes best if it’s allowed to rest for a couple of days, so it’s a perfect one to make ahead.

Step 1 – Soaking the fruit

This recipe calls for 500gms of mixed dry fruit. In my assortment, I’ve used raisins, sultanas, currants, mixed peel, candied / glacéd cherries and candied ginger. You can use any dry fruits of your choosing, in the proportion you’d like them. It just needs to add up to about 500 grams all together.

Dry fruit assortment
Dry fruit assortment

Chop the larger pieces of fruit down to make slicing your finished cake easier. Doing this also makes for a better eating experience, in my opinion. Place all the fruit in an airtight glass jar, top it off with some rum and set it aside in a cool dark place. The fruit needs atleast 24 hours to soak and rehydrate. The longer is steeps in the rum, the better the results. This can be done upto a year in advance.

Soaking the fruit
Soaking the fruit

Step 2 – Making the caramel

The 2nd step is making the caramel. There are many ways to make a caramel. For this recipe, you’re looking for one that gives you a slightly more fluid consistency. I’m using a 2:1 ratio – 2 parts sugar to one part water and I find that this gives me the perfect results for this recipe. You can make this caramel even a few days before you want to bake your cake. Simply let it cool down completely and store in an airtight glass jar. If you’re making this the caramel, the day that you’re baking the fruit cake, make sure the caramel has cooled down completely before you add it to the batter.

Christmas Fruit Cake - Making the caramel
Making the caramel


Step 3 – Making the cake

Making the batter is a very simple process. It’s just like making any other cake. You need to ensure all your ingredients are at room temperature. In this recipe, I’m using dark brown sugar to help lend a darker colour to the cake. If you can’t find dark brown sugar, regular white sugar will work too. Just make sure you use a fine grain sugar or simply powder your regular white sugar before adding it to the batter.

Sometimes, you find that the fruit in a fruit cake like this one isn’t evenly distributed. Mix the fruit into the flour – baking powder mix to ensure that the fruit doesn’t sink to the bottom of the cake.

Also, in this recipe, I’m using treacle to darken my cake and give it an added boost of flavour. If you can’t find treacle, use some molasses instead. I’m not using any artificial colours. A lot of the commercially available dark fruit cakes use caramel colour. If you’d like to, you can add some to the batter.

Mixing the fruit and flour
Mixing the fruit and flour
Christmas Fruit Cake - Adding the fruit to the cake batter
Mixing the batter
ready for the oven
Ready for the oven

I’m going to feed this cake only once with some dark rum, just as it comes out of the oven. This will help the cake soak up all the rum.

Feeding the cake
Feeding the cake

While you can cut into the cake as soon as it cools dow, for best results, I recommend atleast letting it stand overnight before you cut into it.

Once all the Hard Yakka’s out of the way, sit back and enjoy your stunning Fruit Cake.


Christmas Fruit Cake - Sliced
Christmas Fruit Cake – Sliced

Rose Cookies – Kokkisan

With Christmas fast approaching, today I thought I’d share with you a recipe for Rose Cookies. Rose Cookies, Kokkisan or Achu Murukku – these are a few names these little treats go by in different parts of the South of India. If you’ve not had these before, imagine amazingly crisp, deep-fried, sweet cookies. They are so more-ish. Which is why it’s a good thing this batch yields quite a few cookies.

Rose Cookies
Rose Cookies

Let’s move on to the cookies themselves, shall we? While they’re not difficult to make, the batter can be very temperamental and finicky. This is one Kuswar treat I personally find the most trying. The most important part of this recipe is the batter. It takes a little patience and tweaking to get it to just the right consistency. But boy, once you do, churning these cookies out is a breeze.

The batter –

Are you ready to give these a try. Let me walk you though the process. Putting the batter together initially is a very simple process and it just a matter of whisking all of the ingredients together. The one thing you need to watch out for, is the amount of liquid that goes into it. You’re looking for a batter that isn’t too thick or too thin. It’s a Goldilocks kinda situation; you have to get it just right. A huge saving grace is that the batter is forgiving and can be easily fixed.

Rose Cookies - batter
Rose Cookies – batter

If its too thick, it wont cling to the cookie iron at all. When this happens, gradually add small amounts of coconut milk (if you’re out of coconut milk, you can use water) and whisk it in. On the other hand, if its too thin, it’ll stick to the iron and won’t release into the oil, even after you try to separate it using a fork or a skewer. To fix this, simply add a little all purpose flour to the batter, a little at a time and whisk it through and try frying it again.

The frying process –

Now that you have you’re batter sorted out, you need to keep a few things in mind while frying these cookies. Once the oil heats up, maintain it by using a medium to medium low heat. If the oil is too hot, the cookies will brown too quickly. The cookie iron needs to be heated well for it to release the cookies into the oil. The first few cookies are like a tester batch. You may have to sacrifice a couple of them while you figure out the right consistency.

Take the cookies out of the oil when they’re a little lighter than you’d like it. They tend to darken as they cool.

With these pointers in mind, you are now equipped to make a beautiful batch of these Rose Cookies.


If you’re looking for more Kuswar recipes to make this Christmas, here are a few of my favorite recipes you might enjoy too –
1) Kulkuls
2) Date Rolls
3) Baath / Badca
4) Coconut Toffee
5) Milk Cream
6) Coconut Ladoos
7) Guava Cheese / Perad
8) Nankatais (Eggless)
9) Marzipan (Eggless)
10) No-cook Almond Marzipan
11) Marzipan – My favorite recipe
12) Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge
13) Chana Doce

Gingerbread Fudge – a quick and easy recipe

Gingerbread Fudge
Gingerbread Fudge

Today’s Gingerbread Fudge is a great recipe to have on hand for Christmas. It is quick and easy, and results in a creamy fudge that is beautifully spiced with all the Christmas flavours. So if a combination of white chocolate and the flavours of a traditional gingerbread is your thing, stick around for the recipe.

With Christmas fast approaching, a lot of folks have started with all kinds of prep work. From deep cleaning and decorating their homes, shopping for the Holiday season and planning their social calendars, most houses see frenzied levels of activity at this time of the year. It’s because of this, one needs to have a few easy and delicious recipes to fall back on.

This gingerbread fudge recipe ticks all those boxes. With prep and cook time of mere minutes, the hardest part of this recipe is leaving the fudge alone, to cool and set. Sounds perfect, right? Well, it is. And you’re left with a nice batch of fudge that just melts in your mouth.

And if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere like I am, we’re headed straight for summer. And it gets really hot here in Sydney. So while everyone in the North is baking up a storm, these kind of recipes work out perfectly for us. This way we get to enjoy those beautiful flavours of Christmas without having to turn the oven on.

This fudge can be made a few days ahead. Store it in the fridge in an airtight container lined with baking / parchment paper. I suggest placing a piece of baking / parchment paper between layers as well, to prevent the pieces of fudge from potentially sticking to each other.

Now, if dark chocolate is more your thing, check out my Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut Fudge recipe. It is absolutely divine.

The ingredients –

This list is an easy one to get a hold off. You will need condensed milk, white chocolate, vanilla, molasses, ground spices (ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg) and don’t forget the butter.

ingredients
Gingerbread Fudge ingredients
ingredients1
Gingerbread Fudge ingredients

Let’s get cooking –

Line a 9×9 inch cake pan with some foil, leaving a little overhang to help take the fudge out once it has set. Set this aside to use later.

Place the condensed milk and butter in a heavy bottomed pan on a medium low heat.

Add the molasses and vanilla. Mix through and add the white chocolate. Stir well to help the chocolate pieces melt.

Next, add the spice powders and stir well to incorporate.

Once all the chocolate has melted and the spice powders have been incorporated thoroughly, pour out onto the lined cake pan. Tap the pan gently a couple of times to get rid of any air bubbles.

Leave it on the kitchen counter and let it come to room temperature.

Refrigerate for 4-6 hours or overnight to set completely.

Cut into squares and serve.

Chana Doce

When you think of Chickpeas, a lot of people think of savory recipes. Have you tried making sweets with a chickpea base? If you haven’t, you really ought to. This Chana Doce is a Goan sweet served at Christmas time, weddings and special occasions. It is made with chana dal and coconut and mildly flavored with cardamom. There are heaps of Indian sweets that use some form of chickpeas as a base, like these Besan Laddoos or even these sweet flatbreads called Puran Poli. These two are just the tip of the ice berg and I hope to try and bring you some more Chickpea deliciousness in the future.

Today, I’m sharing with you a Goan sweet recipe. This Chana Doce is a Goan delicacy and makes an appearance at Christmas time, weddings and special occasions. The recipe calls for chana dal, which is hulled and split chickpeas. Everytime we visit Goa, we always bring some back home with us. A good Goan bakery is paradise if you have a sweet tooth. Our typical haul would include this Chana Doce and a Coconut variant, the ever popular Bebinca, Dodol, Baath, Bolinhas and Pinag. I think that about covers it. Our favorite place to buy these treats is a quaint little bakery in Mapusa called Simona’s. They also have outlets in Porvorim and Sinquerim. What’s your go-to place to buy your favourite Goan treats?

It’s hard for us to get back to Goa as often as we did when we were in Mumbai, so I’ve decided to try and make these delicacies at home. And after some experimenting, I’ve finally got a recipe for Chana Doce that I’m happy with. This is a softer version of the sweet and just melts in your mouth. The commercially available one is a little harder and has a slightly longer shelf life, but its slightly more difficult to make. We actually quite like this softer version and hope you do too.


Goan Pork Vindaloo

A good Pork Vindaloo is a must-have at any gathering, party or special occasion in most Goan households. Today, I’m sharing a much loved recipe in our family – my father’s Pork Vindaloo. It is such a simple recipe, but results in such a spectacular curry. You are going to enjoy this one. It is perfect to serve around the Holiday season, because this can be made a day or two in advance. In fact, the flavors are even better if it is served a day after it is made. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do.

 

GoanPorkVindaloo
Goan Pork Vindaloo

Goan Pork Vindaloo


1 kilo boneless pork (pick a slightly fatty cut)
1-2 tbsp oil
1 – 1 1/2 onion, finely chopped
Salt, to taste
Vinegar, to taste
1 tsp sugar

For the masala – 
12 Kashmiri chillies, deseeded
6 black peppercorns
5 cloves
3 green cardamom pods
2″ cinnamon
6-8 large garlic cloves
1 1/2 inch ginger
Vinegar, to grind to a paste

Cut the pork into chunks and set aside.

Grind all the ingredients for the masala to a fine paste using vinegar. (Ideally Goan vinegar is used. If you don’t have access to it, malt vinegar or red wine vinegar will work well too.)

Heat some oil in a large pan. Saute the onions till they have softened and start caramelizing.

Add the masala and fry off well for a couple of minutes.

Add the pieces of pork and salt, to taste. Stir well to coat all the pieces with the masala and let the meat fry off for a few minutes.

Add enough water for the pork to cook through and achieve the consistency you want. I used about 2 cups of water. (You can add more water, if required, later on, when the meat is cooking.)

Cover and cook till the meat is tender.

Check for seasoning and adjust as required.

Add 1 tsp sugar to balance out all the flavors.

Serve hot. This Pork Vindaloo goes very well with some steamed rice, a Peas Pulao, some bread or sannas too.

Enjoy!

 

Goan Sausage Pulao

Goan sausage pulao is soul food for almost every Goan. And I definitely fall into that category. I’ve only been able to make this now, more than 5 years after we moved away from India, mainly because I haven’t had access to a good Goan sausage. Goan sausages are called Chorize / Chorise and they are the spicier and tangier cousin of the Portuguese Chorizo. I recently tried making my own sausages at home and while I need to tweak the recipe just a tiny bit, I was pretty stoked with the results. They are the tastiest sausages I’ve had.

Anyway, on to the pulao. This pulao is a brilliant one-pot meal that comes together in a jiffy. You don’t need to make your own sausages to enjoy this pulao. If you do, kudos to you. Otherwise, simply buy some good Goan sausages. Your pulao will only be as tasty as your sausages are. This pulao is a culmination of my Peas Pulao and my Goan sausage chilly fry, which by the way, make a stunning combination too.
Are you ready for it???

GoanSausagePulao
Goan Sausage Pulao

Goan Sausage Pulao
Serves 2
2/3 cup Basmati rice
1 tbsp oil
2 green cardamom pods
2″ cinnamon
8 black peppercorns
5 cloves
1/2 onion, chopped
1 chilly, finely chopped (or to taste)
1/3 tsp turmeric powder
1 large link of Goa sausages
1/2 tomato, chopped
1/4 cup green peas
Salt, to taste
Wash the rice in some water and drain. Repeat this 3-4 times. Then soak the rice in water for 30 minutes. The water level should be an inch above the level of rice. After 30 minutes, drain the rice, rinse through with some fresh water and drain. Your rice is now ready to be cooked.
Heat the oil in a vessel on a medium heat.
Add the whole spices (cardamom, cinnamon, peppercorns and cloves) to the oil and saute for about 30 seconds.
When the spices are nice and fragrant, add the onion and chilly. Saute till the onions have softened and turn translucent.
Add the turmeric powder and stir well.
Add the sausage and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
Add the tomato and cook till the tomato has softened.
Now add the rice and gently stir through, using either a wooden or silicon spoon, to prevent the grains from breaking.
One the rice has fried off a little for about a minute, and is coated well with all the spices add the green peas and 1 1/3 cup of room temperature water. (The ratio of rice to water should be 1:2)
Add salt to taste. (Remember the sausage also has some amount of salt in it.)
Stir well.
Cover and cook on medium heat till all the water has been absorbed by the rice.
Take off the heat and keep it covered. Let it rest for a couple minutes.
After a couple of minutes, fluff up the pulao gently with a fork.
Serve hot.

Goan Prawn Curry

Everyone has atleast one meal that takes them right back to their childhood. For me its this prawn curry. This curry with some rice, for me, is the ultimate soul food. And I must say, my mother makes the best prawn curry in the world. Atleast I think so. This is her prawn curry recipe that I’m sharing with you today.

Goan Prawn Curry

 
1/2 kg prawns, peeled and deveined
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 chillies, slit in half
1 piece of amsol (dried mango)
3-4 pieces of kokum
A walnut sized ball of tamarind
1 tbsp coconut oil
Salt, to taste
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vinegar
For the masala – 
1/2 cup grated coconut
6 Kashmiri chillies
2 large cloves garlic
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1/4 tsp black pepper corns
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
Sprinkle salt, squeeze some lemon juice and drizzle the vinegar over the prawns and set aside.
Pour a little warm water over the tamarind and set aside (I use about 1/4 cup of water).
Grind all the ingredients for the masala to a fine paste, using a little water as needed.
Heat some oil in a pot.
Saute the onions till they have softened and turn translucent.
Add the masala and let it saute for a few minutes.
Add some water to thin out your masala and get it to the consistency you like. Remember the curry will thicken as it cooks. So add a touch more water.
Add the chillies and bring it to a boil.
Turn the heat down to a simmer, add the amsol and the kokum and let the curry simmer for 6-8 minutes. Halfway through, stir the curry through and add water to adjust the consistency, if needed.
When the curry is almost ready, add the prawns. Add some of the tamarind extract and cook for another 2 minutes or till the prawns are just cooked. Don’t overcook the prawns.
Check for seasoning and adjust as required.

Serve hot with rice.

Enjoy!

Veggie Pasta in a Tomato Sauce

Pasta is a very popular meal option at home, like I’m sure it is in a lot of homes. I love how versatile the recipes can be and how quickly pasta meals come together. This recipe is no exception. I use a mix of vegetables, usually whatever I can find in the fridge. I use Passata to make my sauce and that gets it ready in a jiffy. This recipe is ready in under 30 minutes and that includes all the prep work too. It has so much flavor, its hard to believe how simple the recipe actually is. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.





Veggie Pasta in a Tomato Sauce 

4 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 onion, chopped
1/3 – 1/2 cup capsicum, chopped (I used a mix of red and green peppers)
1/2 zucchini, thickly sliced
A handful of broccoli florets
1/3 cup corn kernels
10 olives, sliced
1 cup passata / tomato puree / canned tomatoes
1/2 cup vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt, to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Red chilly flakes, to taste
1 tsp mixed herbs (dried)
1/2 tsp oregano (dried)
1/2 tsp sugar
Pasta
Parmesan cheese, to grate over the pasta

Start by cooking the pasta according to the package instructions.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, season the water generously (I use 1.5 tsp salt) and add the pasta to the pot. Stir immediately, to prevent the pasta from sticking to each other and to the bottom of the pot.

When the pasta is cooking, heat another pan.

Add olive oil to the warm pan and add the garlic. Saute till the garlic turns fragrant.

Add the onions and cook over a medium heat till they soften a bit.

Add the peppers and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes or till they start to soften.

Add the broccoli florets and saute for another minute or so.

Now, add the zucchini and corn and stir through. Cook for another minute or two.

Season with some salt and pepper, to taste.

Add the red chilly flakes and the herbs. Stir through.

Add the passata and the stock.

Let it come to a boil and leave to simmer for 5-7 minutes or till the veggies cook through and the sauce develops good flavor.

Add the olives and the sugar and stir through. Take off the heat and set aside.

By now the pasta should be cooked. Reserve 1/4 – 1/2 cup of the pasta water and drain t
he pasta.

Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat the pasta with the sauce.

Place the pan on medium low heat. Add a couple of tbsp. of the reserved pasta water. Stir through and let the extra liquid cook off for another minute or so, or till your pasta reaches the desired consistency.

Grate some parmesan cheese over the pasta and serve.

Enjoy!

Peri Peri Chicken Wings

Peri Peri Chicken Wings – a perfect , spicy dish to serve up at a party or game night, or even with a nice big salad for a quick weeknight meal. Either way, these are super delicious and while looking through the blog recently, I realized that I haven’t shared many chicken wings recipes here. So today, I’m going to rectify that. I bring you some spicy, delicious Peri Peri Chicken wings. These are made from scratch and bake off in the oven. So there’s very little hands-on time required for this recipe. All you have to do it put together a simple marinade paste and then work on a dip, a salad or anything else you’d like to serve these wings up with.

PeriPeriChickenWings
Peri Peri Chicken Wings
 

If you’re prepping your own chicken wings, split the wings and either set the tips aside for a stock or discard. I bought Marco’s Wing Nibbles from Woolworths that has this stage dealt with so you use the wings as is. 

This recipe couldn’t be any simpler. After prepping the wings, you simply wash them and pat them dry. Sprinkle with salt and use our beautiful homemade marinade. Peri Peri is known to be a spicy sauce / marinade and this one is. If you enjoy a good Peri Peri, but don’t want it too spicy, you could substitute some of the birdseye chillies with a milder pepper. That way you will still get the color and volume in the marinade but it won’t be too spicy. 

In our house, we love spicy food, so I’ve used birdseye chillies with the seeds and all. And can I tell you, these wings turned out so very delicious. It packs the perfect amount of kick for us and when you pair this with the homemade Blue Cheese Dip, it is absolutely divine. 

The Blue Cheese Dip has the perfect cooling affect to counter the spiciness of the wings. Let me tell you, once you taste this, you won’t be able to stop at one. But don’t just take my word for it. Go ahead and make these wings and try them out for yourself. 

So let’s take a look at the recipe now, shall we?

Lamb Kebabs … and how to make quick pickled onions and a yogurt dip.

Nothing says ‘Spring is here’ more than some Lamb kebabs. Spring Lamb is in stores now and while some of the premium cuts can be very pricey, today’s recipe uses ground lamb (lamb mince). This is not just easy on the hip pocket, but cooks up really fast too.

You can serve these kebabs as a starter, or with a salad as a main too. Today I’m serving it up as a wrap with some homemade, quick pickled onions and a yogurt dip. Start off by making the pickled onions and the dip, so that they have a little time to let the flavors develop. 

Quick Pickled Onions

1/2 onion, sliced
Salt, to taste
1-2 tbsp Lemon juice
Separate the half rings of the onion slices. 
Sprinkle salt and lemon juice over the onion and mix well to let the seasonings get to all the onion slices. 
Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour. 
Yogurt Dip / Spread

1/2 cup Greek yogurt
Salt, to taste
1/2 tsp sugar, or to taste
1/2 clove of garlic, finely chopped
A few mint leaves, finely chopped
Mix all the ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour. 
Lamb Kebabs

500g lamb mince
Salt, to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
2 chillies, finely chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1-2 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
Oil, for frying
Mix all the ingredients and shape into kebabs. 
Heat some oil in a pan. 
Fry kebabs for a couple of minutes on each side, or till you get a beautiful golden brown color on each side and till its cooked through to your liking. 
Serve hot. 
** To make the wrap, I use some homemade, whole wheat chapatis, layer some salad greens on top, add a couple of the kebabs, smear some yogurt dip over and top with some pickled onions. Wrap up and enjoy.