Skip to main content

30 Days of Christmas: Kuswar


In a country as culturally diverse as India, it is easy to miss on all the good things that go on in different parts of the country. Or even in your own city. Take Christmas treats - I've always associated Christmas in India with plum cake. A cross between fruit cake and the British plum pudding, the cake is rich with dried fruits and nuts, boozy enough to make you drunk and deliciously dark brown because of the added caramel. Plum cake is something that springs up all over Mumbai, possibly all over India mid-December and I've always thought that this is the only Christmas goodie making the rounds every year.

For the first time this year, I've spent Christmas surrounded by East Indians and Goan Catholics and imagine my surprise on discovering a whole world of Christmas goodies I've never heard about. So if you are as unaware as me, let me introduce you to the concept of kuswar. A Goan Catholic tradition, kuswar refers to the collection of treats that are made at home before Christmas. They are then packed in pretty boxes and handed over to visiting friends and family. Three packages of kuswar have made their way to my home this year and you bet there are at least ten things there I've never seen, eaten or even heard of before. Like most things Indian, kuswar derives inspiration from the British as well as from Konkani desserts and Hindu diwali sweets, leading to a mishmash of 20-odd recipes. Fortunately, the treat boxes I got all had a different selection so I seem to have tasted all the usual suspects this year. Plum cake will always remain a favourite, but I now bring to you a list of my new favourites from the Christmas treats I received:

1. Guava Cheese: Ripe guavas cooked with sugar until they are firm and pureed to form jelly squares. Either from the guava's natural color or because of added coloring, the guava cheese is bright red. Because of the high pectin in guavas, it naturally sets into solid squares, something akin to a quince jelly. The flavour, all tart and sweet and fresh at once, is a great contrast to any salty crackers or sharp cheeses you can find.

2. Milk Cream: This sweet will remind you of cashew barfi, condensed milk and mawa cake all at once. Made by reducing whole milk, sugar and ground cashews to a thick fudge, milk cream is always too sweet but nonetheless delicious.

3. Kulkul: Sweet and crisp fried dough that reminds you of shakarpara, shaped like a fusilli. What's not to like!

4. Coconut Ice: This one's pretty much like your coconut barfi but is firmer and has a smoother texture.

There are a few other things that will make an appearance in your kuswar boxes but I can't say I love them. Karanji - fried dough filled with cocount, as well as marzipan is almost always there. You will also get some form of Christmas cake - another variation on the fruit cake covered with marzipan and fondant - but it's either too rich or two sweet for me. I'd take another slice of that plum cake instead.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Fruits of the Forest

I know there hasn't been a new recipe on these pages for a while. But worry not, I'm back with a real zinger. Earthy, creamy, crunchy - this is an appetizer that ticks all the right boxes. And if you happen to be a mushroom lover like me, this is the best way to eat mushrooms I've found so far. I present to you, for all your year end parties and appetizer cravings - creamy mushroom pate on toast.

Its mushroom pate two way - just on its own and panko-crumbed and fried. Both go on a crisp garlic baguette with watercress and some kewpie mayonnaise. Here's the recipe.

Ingredients
Crunchy garlic butter toasts (I buy them as is, but you can also slice and toast baguettes)
200 grams button mushrooms
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp cream cheese
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
kewpie mayonnaise (or regular mayonnaise)
watercress or micro herbs
salt and black pepper to taste
oil for deep frying

First, make mushroom pate. Y…

Farm to Fork in Chail

Back in 19th century, when Shimla was the summer capital of India, the Maharaja of Patiala got the British rulers riled over his dalliances and got banned from entering the city. Not the one to be put down so easily, he found a tiny little town about an hour from Shimla and made Chail his very own summer capital. Today, Chail still has the impressive Palace that the Maharaja built and the highest cricket ground in the world. There really isn't much more to the city apart from a small local market and a couple of hotels that get spillover crowd from Shimla in the summers. It's a pleasant little diversion but that's not why I went to Chail. I stopped nine kilometers short of the town to make Ekam my home for a weekend.

Sumeet Singal built this house on a cliff as his own weekend home. Today, even when Ekam is open as a luxury boutique resort, the cosy homely feeling remains intact. I asked Sumeet what there was to do during my three day holiday at Ekam. He told me that ther…

A Bowlful of Comfort

I have a friend who is quite the globetrotter. Lunches at her place, often right after her trips, are a treasure trove of global flavours. But the last time we met, she was just back from Tamil Nadu and out she brought a bowl of curd rice. I love curd rice and have eaten a lot of it over the years but my friend's version was so full of flavours and textures, it was a revelation. Obviously, I asked for the recipe.

The genius of this curd rice lies in adding the tempering or the tadka twice, once to mix in the rice so it absorbs all the flavours. Then you make a second batch to top the rice with just before you serve, so it adds crunch to the usually mushy dish. The recipe also has a few other elements added in for texture, freshness and flavour.

I over-ate at lunch at my friend's and I over-ate again when I made this for myself for lunch. Plus, all the ingredients you need are likely in your kitchen already so you may as well go make it now.

Ingredients
1/2 cup rice
1 cup plain…