Say Christmas and Anglos chime-in kalkals and rose cookies :). Yup! It’s December again and, if you’re an Anglo-Indian, apart from everything else Christmas, the familiar gathering around the dining table late at night is what kicks in right about now. The traditional family effort at getting the staple X-mas sweets rolling. So, when friends asked about it, we reached out to the Queen of Anglo cuisine herself – Bridget White-Kumar. Here is all you need right from her treasure trove of Anglo-Indian Christmassy goodness.
Here we go… It is our absolute honour to hand our blog over to Bridget…
Christmas meals in Anglo-Indian homes are quite elaborate, under whose weight a table can literally groan. Starting with appetizers, they at times go on to four-course or six-course meals. Each family has their 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, Christmas Puddings, Marble and Chocolate Cakes, Yule Logs, kalkals, Rose Cookies, Fruit Cakes, Bole Cake, Dodol, Coconut sweets, Beveca, Marzipan Sweets, Peanut Fudge, Cashew Nut Fudge, Mince Pies and many other sweets and goodies and some Indian savouries are prepared specially for Christmas, a month or fortnight in advance, filling the house and neighbourhood with enticing aromas. 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.
All these Festive Treats are legacies of the various European invasions in India. The Portuguese influence on Indian food was felt as early as 1498, when Vasco da Gama entered India. Various Christmas and Festive Sweets such as Kalkals, Dodol, Bebinca, Bole Cake, Fritters, Coconut cookies, Egg Custards, etc are of Portuguese origin and are prepared every year in every Christian home all over India.
However, the traditional Christmas Fruit Cakes, Christmas Puddings, Marble and Chocolate Cakes, Yule Logs, Fruit Cakes, Marzipan Sweets, Peanut Fudge, Cashew nut Fudge, Mince Pies and many other sweets and goodies are the legacy left behind by the British. Many other Indian Savouries and sweets are also prepared at Christmas time in Christian Homes. While Cakes and other baked delicacies are sometimes bought from the local Bakeries, no Christian family in India particularly the Anglo-Indians would let Christmas go by without preparing Kalkals and Rose Cookies at home, assisted by the whole family.
Each family had their own traditional recipe for making the Christmas Cake, which was sometimes handed down from generation to generation. The dry fruits and nuts that went into the Christmas Cakes were chopped finely well in advance and soaked in Rum and were normally baked 3 or 4 weeks earlier and then iced or frosted just before Christmas.
Just as the fruit had to be soaked in Rum much in advance, the grapes for the home made wine had to be soaked in October to be ready for Christmas. Ginger Wine however, was prepared just before Christmas. Ginger wine is not exactly a wine. It is more like a ‘Cordial”. A little Ginger wine was drunk as a digestive to wash down all the rich food that was consumed over the festive season.
My mum would start the preparation of the traditional sweets and treats that are a part and parcel of Christmas a fortnight before Christmas. Kalkals, Rose Cookies, Fruit Cakes, Coconut Sweets, Christmas Pudding, Bole Cake, Dodol, Beveca, Marzipan Sweets, Peanut Fudge and Guava cheese and a lot of other goodies were prepared in abundance by her. The whole house would smell enticingly.
One of my strongest childhood memories is the enticing aroma of the cakes baking in the oven at Christmas time in KGF and of us children, sitting around the dining table rolling the KalKals. We’d compete with each other to see who rolled the most kalkals.
KALKALS or KULKULS are prepared all over India at Christmas time. A variant of ‘Filhoses Enroladas’ a Portuguese Christmas Sweet, Kalkals, (always referred to in the plural) are crunchy inch-long curled or shell shaped sweetened fried dough Sweets. Sugar and flour are combined with eggs, milk and butter to a soft dough and then small marble sized balls of this dough are rolled on the tines of a fork or a comb to form a shell or a scroll, then deep fried in hot oil. The dough is sometimes rolled out and cut into different shapes such as hearts, spades, diamonds etc with cutters or a knife and then deep fried in hot oil. The Kalkals / Kulkuls are later frosted or coated in hot melted sugar syrup.
Making Kalkals is a time-consuming process and thus requires many hands in its preparation. Hence a few days before Christmas, a separate day is designated as ‘Kalkal Day’ when every member of the family spends a few hours rolling out his/her portion of the kalkal dough. While one doesn’t know how the name ‘Kalkals / Kulkuls’ got its nomenclature it is probably because of the “curls” of this particular Christmas Sweet.
Rose Cookies are delicious fried Anglo-Indian Christmas Treats. Though named as Cookies, they are not cookies in the strict sense as they are not baked but deep fried in hot oil. Rose Cookies are also known as Rosette Cookies, Rosa Cookies, etc and are prepared with a sweetened batter consisting of Flour, Eggs, Vanilla Extract and Coconut milk. Believed to be another culinary legacy left by the Portuguese in India, they are known as Rose de Coque or Rose de Cookies in Portugal. (They are also known as Rosettes in Sweden and Norway).
The crisp cookies are made by plunging a special hand-held ‘Rose Cookie Mould’ or ‘Rosette Iron’ lightly coated with a sweet batter into hot oil. The Rose Cookie Mould or Rosette Iron is a long-handled gadget with intricately designed iron moulds of different flowers such as roses and daisies. The Mould or Iron is heated to a very high temperature in oil, dipped into the batter, then immediately re-immersed in the hot oil to create a crisp shell around the hot metal. The mould or iron is shaken slightly, till the Rose Cookie gets separated from it. The delicate golden brown, light and crispy cookie thus separated from the mould /iron floats to the top and is taken out from the hot oil with a flat porous spoon. Though a time consuming and laborious process, Rose Cookies are incredibly delicious.
The best way to get into the Christmas spirit nice and early is to start with baking the Christmas Cakes. Christmas cakes are delicious if made in advance and fed with your chosen liquor gradually over the weeks leading up to Christmas. Most Anglo-Indian families have their own recipe for the Christmas Cake, that is usually handed down through generations. Candied fruit, plums, currants, raisins, orange peel etc are dexterously cut and soaked in Rum or Brandy a few weeks in advance. Nuts are peeled and chopped and the whole family comes together to make the Christmas Cakes. Jobs are allotted to everyone – one to whip up the eggs, while another creams the butter and sugar, the flour is sieved, cake tins are lined, and a strong pair of arms are requisitioned to do the final mixing and stirring. After the cake batter is poured into the tins, the real fun starts with everyone fighting to lick the leftover batter in the mixing bowl and off of the spoons and spatulas.
However, in these modern times, people prefer to buy the Rose Cookies, Kalkals and Cake from the local stores and bakeries. The old thrill of making them at home is now fading as families are getting smaller and people breaking away from tradition. These memories of Christmas of old days will remain in our memories forever.
I’m sharing below some Christmas Recipes that have been in my family for generations. The Christmas Cake may not look very dark but its rich and tasty.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
RECIPE FOR KALKALS
I kg plain flour or Maida
100 grams fine soogi
2 eggs beaten well
1 cup thick coconut milk or milk
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
Oil for deep frying
Mix the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder together.
Add the coconut milk / milk and eggs and knead to a soft dough. Add a little more milk while mixing if the dough is too hard. (The dough should be pliable not too soft)
Keep aside for an hour.
Form the kalkals by taking small lumps of the dough and roll 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.
Drain and keep aside.
To frost the kulkuls, melt 1 cup of sugar with ¼ cup of water and when the sugar syrup crystallizes pour over the kulkuls and mix well so that the sugar syrup covers all the kulkuls
Store in airtight boxes when cold.
RECIPE FOR ROSE COOKIES / ROSA COOKIES
½ kg flour
1 cup coconut milk
¼ cup sugar
4 eggs beaten well
½ teaspoon salt
1 litre oil for frying
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon baking powder
Mix all the ingredients together to form a smooth slightly thick batter.
Heat the oil in a deep pan till it reaches boiling point. Now place the rose cookie mould into the oil to get hot.
When the mould is hot enough dip it half way only into the batter and put it back immediately into the boiling oil.
Shake the mould to separate the cookie from it.
Heat the mould again and repeat the process.
Fry rose cookies till brown.
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.
RECIPE FOR A SIMPLE CHRISTMAS CAKE
500 grams refined flour or maida
100 grams soft brown sugar
300 grams white sugar (powdered)
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
½ teaspoon nutmeg powder
500 grams mixed dried fruits (equal quantities of currants, raisins and sultanas) chopped well and soaked in rum before hand
100 grams chopped candied peel
500 grams butter
3 eggs beaten well
4 tablespoons milk (or as required)
1½ teaspoon baking powder
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.
Remove the soaked fruit from the rum and drain, then dust them along with the candied peel with a little flour. Keep aside
Cream the butter and both the sugars well.
Add the eggs, and vanilla essence and mix well.
Add the candied peel and soaked fruit.
Slowly add the 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 till done in a slow oven at 180C.
Check with a toothpick by inserting it in the cake. If it comes out clean, its time to stop baking.
Remove from the oven when done and set aside to cool.
When the cake is completely cool, poke all over with tooth pick and drizzle brandy or rum all over the cake. (Repeat once in every week or ten days).
Wrap in foil paper, and store in an airtight container. This cake will last for months if stored in an airtight container.
Cookery Book Author, Food Consultant and Culinary Historian
Bridget was born and brought up in Kolar Gold Fields, a small mining town in the erstwhile Mysore State (now known as Karnataka), India, which was famous for its Colonial ambiance. She comes from a well-known Anglo-Indian family who lived and worked in KGF for many generations.
Bridget has authored 7 Recipe books on Anglo-Indian Cuisine. Her area of expertise is in Colonial Anglo-Indian Food and she has gone through a lot of effort in reviving the old forgotten dishes of the Colonial British Raj Era. Her 7 Recipe books are a means of preserving for posterity, the very authentic tastes and flavours of Colonial ‘Anglo’ India, besides recording for future generations, the unique heritage of the pioneers of Anglo-Indian Cuisine.
Her Cookery Book ANGLO-INDIAN CUISINE – A LEGACY OF FLAVOURS FROM THE PAST was selected as Winner from India’ under the Category: ‘BEST CULINARY HISTORY BOOK’ by GOURMAND INTERNATIONAL SPAIN, WORLD COOK BOOK AWARDS 2012.
Bridget is also an Independent Freelance Consultant on Food Related matters. She has assisted many Restaurants, Hotels and Clubs in Bangalore and elsewhere with her knowledge of Colonial Anglo-Indian Food besides helping them to revamp and reinvent their Menus by introducing new dishes which are a combination of both Continental and Anglo-Indian. Many of them are now following the Recipes and guidance given by her and the dishes are enjoyed by both Indian and Foreign Guests.
Follow Bridget @ http://anglo-indianfood.blogspot.com & https://memoriesofkgf.blogspot.com/
Bridget is on YouTube too. Head there for masterclasses and more…
All photos courtesy: Bridget White-Kumar