The smell of the decorated pine Christmas tree in the sitting room, the enticing aroma of Christmas cakes being baked and the ‘kalkals’ and rose cookies being fried, the sight of all the Christmas decorations, buntings and the soothing sounds of Christmas carols — I have great memories of everything and all these are a part of the wonder of Christmas.
My mother would start the preparation of the traditional sweets and treats that are a part and parcel of Christmas a fortnight in advance. Kalkals, rose cookies, fruit cakes, coconut sweets, the Christmas pudding, bole cake, dodol, bebinca, marzipan, peanut fudge, cashewnut fudge and rice crispies were some of the goodies that were prepared in abundance by her. The delicious aroma of these goodies would drift through the house and neighbourhood.
I am sharing the recipes of two of my favourite Christmas delights — kalkals and Christmas cake.
As kids, we would wait for the Christmas holidays to begin so that we could all help my mother in the preparation of sweets. We would all sit around the dining table and each of us would take a lump of dough and spread it on a fork to make as many kalkals as possible with it. These kalkals were like small shells and we would also cut out various other shapes like hearts, clubs and diamonds with the help of cutters.
It was fun competing with each other to see who made the most. As soon as we completed a good number my mother would start frying them till all were fried and a huge heap was kept in basins and trays on the table. Once cold, she would make the frosting by pouring hot sugar syrup on the kalkals. We had a lot of fun helping her and sometimes even our non-Christian friends would join the fun. Of course, a good portion of the fried kalkals would go into our mouths in the process!
The Christmas spirit would set in early thanks to the Christmas cake. The earlier it is prepared with your choice of liquor, the more delicious it turns out to be. Most Anglo-Indian families have their own recipe for Christmas cake, which is usually handed down through generations. Candied fruit, plums, currants, raisins and orange peels 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.
In our family, different tasks would be allotted to each person — while one whipped up the eggs, another creamed the butter and sugar. A person with strong arms would do the final mixing and stirring. After the cake batter was poured into the tins, the real fun would begin with everyone fighting to lick the leftover batter in the mixing bowl and on the spoons and spatulas!