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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 –
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
This version of marzipan is made using cashew seeds and is shaped into little colorful bites. It is the crowning glory of every Indian Christmas platter.
Let’s talk about the dough for a bit. It is such a ridiculously simple recipe, you will be surprised at how tasty the nankatais turn out. I find that this dough can be a little finicky and it usually works beautifully on a slightly warm day. While that works beautifully for us in Australia and anyone in the Southern Hemisphere, it could be a challenge in the Northern Hemisphere, where its the middle of winter. If its cold where you are, you might find that the dough ends up a little crumbly and you may have a little difficulty shaping it into a cookie. When that happens, I pop the dough in an ovensafe bowl and pop it into a slightly warm oven (about 100 degrees) for a couple of minutes. This helps the ghee warm up and helps bind the dough.
Yields: 1/2 kilo (approx 30 cookies)
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup besan (chickpea flour)
1 cup sugar (superfine. You can also powder larger grain sugar and then use it in the recipe)
2/3 cup of ghee (clarified butter)
1/4 tsp baking soda
Preheat your oven to 180 deg. Celsius and line a baking tray with some baking / parchment paper.
Mix the ghee and sugar till it is light and creamy. Scrape down the edges and bottom of the mixing bowl halfway through the process.
Add the rest of the ingredients (baking soda, all purpose flour and chickpea flour) to the mixing bowl and continue mixing till it forms a dough.
Shape into little cookies by rolling portions of the dough into a little ball and flatten it slightly. Place the cookies on the lined baking tray.
Bake for 12-15 minutes or till done. Your looking for a light colour on the edges.
Take it out of the oven and leave the cookies to cool on the tray itself.
When completely cool, store in an airtight container.
You can watch the video recipe here –
Goa, renowned for its beautiful beaches and people is an idyllic getaway for many. Every school holiday meant a trip to Goa to spend time with family. Along with beautiful weather and some of the most amazing produce, what I enjoy most are the traditional Goan sweets. Since moving from Bombay, these sweets are no longer within easy reach for me. So over the last few years, I’ve done the next best thing – learn to make them myself. A lot of these sweets make an appearance on the Goan Christmas platter also called Kuswar (pronounced koos-wahr). So far, I’ve had brilliant luck with quite a few and I will list them along with links to their recipes at the end of this post. I’m hoping to get a few more of them up earlier this year. So check back soon.
Today, after a long wait, I’m happy to share with you a recipe for Dodol. Dodol is almost a jelly like sweet made using Goa Jaggery, coconut and rice. Traditionally made, it is a very labor intensive recipe, but the results are so worth it. You use coconuts, freshly grated and juice extracted, the rice roasted and ground and after the jaggery is added you cook it long and slow, stirring continuously. Unfortunately for me, I don’t have access to Goa Jaggery in Sydney. But I was told that I could use Molasses instead. So on my last grocery shop, I picked up a bottle of Molasses. I decided I was going to try a few short cuts to cut down on time involved and used rice flour and a can of coconut cream. I’m happy to report that the whole prep and cooking process that usually takes hours, took be about half an hour from start to finish. The hardest part was leaving it overnight to set. You may not need to leave it that long, but I made the dodol in the evening and it was too warm to cut into after dinner.
But when I did cut into it, it was soft and delicious, just like I remember. I would recommend refrigerating it for a while before serving. It cuts a lot easier when cold. So if you’ve been putting of making Dodol because you can’t find jaggery, go get some molasses and get making. When adding the molasses, don’t go by the color of the mix, but taste for sweetness.
1 1/2 cup rice flour
1 can (400ml) coconut cream
3 tbsp roughly chopped cashew nuts
1 tsp ghee to grease the loaf tin and knife
Water, as needed
Grease a loaf tin with a little ghee and keep aside.
In a large pan (I use the 12″ Kitchenaid Stainless steel skillet) measure out the rice flour. Add enough water and make a batter (almost like a thick pancake batter). I use a whisk for this as it mixes the flour well without any lumps.
Pour in the coconut cream and whisk till dissolved.
Add the molasses and stir.
Now, place the mix on a medium heat and let it cook, stirring continuously.
When it starts thickening, drop the heat to low and continue stirring. I find that you may still find lumps in the mix even inspite of stirring. Use a whisk and break them up. It returns to a smooth consistency very quickly. I had to do this about 3 times.
As it thickens, it gets harder to stir. Add the chopped cashew nuts and keep stirring.
After about 20 minutes, here’s what my mix looked like.
Continue cooking till the mixture starts leaving the sides of pan and looks a little glossy. I cooked the mix down for about another 5 minutes, stirring continuously.
At this stage, you need to work quickly. Pour into the greased loaf tin and flatten it down using the back of a spoon or a spatula.
Leave to set and cool completely. Once it has cooled you can either refrigerate it for later use or demould it to serve. To demould, just place a plate, slightly larger in size than the loaf tin, on top and tip the tin over the plate. A slight shake of the tin and plate should be enough to loosen the dodol and let prop it on the plate.
Slice and serve.
Pin now and try later.
Guava Cheese or Perad is a quintessential Goan sweet that makes an appearance at Christmas time. Its flavourful and lightly chewy like a Guava gummy candy.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!!!
Drain the guava halves and reserve the syrup.
Now place all the seeds, that were previously scooped out, in a strainer, add a couple of spoons of the reserved syrup from the cans and stir through the strainer to extract all the guava puree from the centres. You may need to do this a couple of times adding a tiny bit of syrup each time to extract all the guava. Add the extract to the pan and now discard the seeds.
I usually end up with about 370g pulp from the halves and about 250g from the centres. In all about 620g of guava pulp. Other recipes call for a lot more sugar, but since these are canned guavas in syrup they are sweeter than the fresh ones, so I’ve cut down on the amount of added sugar in the recipe.
Add the cloves and the sugar to the pan.
Place the pan on medium heat and stir continuously using a wooden spoon with a long handle. The guava mix tends to sputter and spit while cooking and the long handle will prevent the mix splashing on your arms. Make sure that when you stir, the spoon gets to the edges of the pan to prevent it sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. If the mix sputters too much, lower the the heat and continue cooking.
When the mix thickens, extract the cloves carefully and discard. Continue cooking till it leaves the sides of the pan. Keep stirring.
Test to see if done. (Use water test – Place some icy cold water in a small bowl and drop a teaspoon of the sweet on it. If it firms up on cooling it is done. If it is still very soft or too sticky, it needs more cooking).
When done, pour the mix into the greased pan. Using the back of a large spoon that has been greased with some ghee spread the mix to form an even slab and set aside to cool.
When it has cooled down a bit, using a knife that has been greased with some ghee, cut into cubes. You may need to grease the knife a couple of times while cutting to prevent it sticking.
When it has completely cooled, store in an air tight container. If you are making this ahead of time, or if it summer like in our part of the world, refrigerate till you are ready to use.
As Christmas comes closer, I see so very many posts of Christmas cookies and treats pop up all over the place. A lot of the treats that you now see have evolved over the years. In the last couple of years, I have seen and tried out a few that are brand new to me and I wouldn’t have known of if it wasn’t for the internet. These were so much easier and quicker to make than the kind of Christmas sweets I am used to making, not to mention absolutely delicious. Today, however, I’m going to share with you a Christmas treat that I’ve grown up with, these gorgeous Kulkuls. This is a traditional Goan sweet and if you haven’t had them before these are little deep-fried, sweet, pastry bites.
This sweet called Kulkuls (cuhl-cuhls), is something I’ve grown up with. Every year, at around this time the family would gather to make these little treats. And yes, it is a family affair. This little bites of fried, sweetened pastry take a while to make. Since, many hands make for light work, my Grandma, my Mum, my Father (whenever he was on leave from work), my brother and I would sit down to make these sweets. We’d make a massive batch of this every year and it would take a whole evening from start to finish. That being as it is, we’d make Kulkuls every single year. These little fried dumplings can be sweetened to your liking and they have a long shelf life. The batch that we used to make around this time, would last till the end of Jan. In all honesty, they’d probably keep much longer, but they are so tasty and addictive, they’ll be finished long before that.
Most of my family recipes, the old Goan ones have been handed down from one generation to another. The weird part is almost all of these recipes, never had fixed quantities of ingredients mentioned. The recipe is very forgiving and I’ve managed to chart down some quantities for reference. This quantity is a much more manageable batch size than what I’m used to, but you could cut it down further, if you need to. The process should take a couple of hours but I think its all worth it. While I did manage to get step by step pictures of the process, I didn’t manage to take a picture of the batch after it was done frying. So for the time being, I am putting up a picture of our platter of traditional Goan Christmas sweets from last year which has some kulkuls on it. I”ll try and get a better one this year.
|L-R: Date Rolls, Nankatais, Kulkuls, Chonya Doce, Perad, Milk Cream|
1/4 kg Semolina (rava)
1/4 kg All purpose flour (maida)
A splash of milk
3 tbsp clarified butter (ghee)
1/3 can coconut cream (400ml can) (You could also use about 150 ml freshly extracted coconut juice)
2 fat pinches of salt, or to taste
Superfine (or powdered) sugar, to taste (Start with a couple of heaped tablespoons and add more as needed)
Oil, for deep frying
Knead all the ingredients to a dough using milk as needed.
Kneading the dough once its done, should leave a slight trace of ghee on your hand, but only just. If your dough is on the dry side, add a little more ghee and knead again. This ensures that the dough doesn’t stick to the forms we’re using to shape the kulkuls.
Taste a little pinch of the dough for sweetness. I tend to not make these too sweet so that it cuts through all the other sweetness on the plate. If you think you want the kulkuls sweeter, add some more sugar and knead into the dough.
Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest for about half and hour.
To shape the kulkuls, you can use a variety of things. We now use these paddles that are specifically used for kulkuls. If you don’t have these paddles, you can use the back of a fork or a new, clean haircomb.
Work with a small portion of the dough at a time. Keep the unused dough covered with a damp cloth while you work with the rest. Roll into a long sausage shape and cut into pieces.
Working with one piece at a time, place the piece of dough on the paddle.
Using your thumb, flatten the dough into a rectangular piece as shown in the pictures below.
Starting with the end closest to you, gently life the dough and roll away from you, keeping the roll fairly tight.
Lightly press the edge of the roll to seal it up so that it doesn’t open up while frying.
Adjust the size of the pieces of dough to suit the size of the kulkuls you need.
Repeat with the rest of the dough. As you shape the kulkuls, keep them on a flat tray. I turn a cookie sheet upside down and use the back of the tray.
When they are all done, heat some oil for deep frying.
Test that the oil is hot enough by gently dropping a small bead of dough into the oil. If it bubbles in the oil, instantly and comes to the top, the oil is hot enough.
Keep the oil on medium heat.
Gently tip the kulkuls into the oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Fry them in small batches as the oil may froth a little and bubble up and spill over. Start with the ones that were shaped first.
When the kulkuls are golden brown, drain using a slotted spoon and place on some kitchen paper to drain off any excess oil.
Repeat with the rest of the kulkuls until they are all fried up.
When the kulkuls have completely cooled down, store in an airtight container.
Enjoy this lovely addition to your Kuswar platter.
** I’m hoping to get more pictures this year and will add them to this post.
If you’re looking for other Kuswar recipes, you can find them here –
200g dessicated coconut
2 cups water
2 cups semolina
2 cups sugar
6 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
1 tsp baking powder
A generous pinch cardamom seeds, crushed (Seeds from about 6 large pods)
In a heavy bottomed pan, bring the water to a boil.
Add the sugar to the pan and let it melt.
Once the sugar has melted, add the coconut and the ghee and let it come to a boil, stirring frequently.
Add the semolina and let it cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the crushed cardamom seeds.
Take off the heat and cool.
|After the mix has cooled|
Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line and grease a baking dish / cake pan.
When the mix has cooled, add the baking powder.
Just before baking, add the beaten eggs. Mix well till the eggs have been incorporated well.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake till done. (Till a skewer pierced in the center of the cake comes out clean.)
If the top starts to brown too quickly, cover the top with some aluminium foil.
Cool down and enjoy!!!
NOTE – Add the eggs only just before you bake the cake and not in advance. Preheat the oven in time to bake the cake.
heat for exactly 7 minutes.
– If the marzipan turns too dry add a couple of drops of rose water and knead till it reaches desired consistency.
– If the marzipan is slightly moister than you’d like, knead with some icing sugar till it reaches the desired consistency.
– If the dough is too moist, put in back on the fire for a minute or so and stir. This step is usually not needed. I had to do this just once when using a different stovetop and the lowest flame was way to low than what you’d find on a regular stove top.