Nothing Like A Delightful ‘Naadan’ Christmas Spread!

         This Christmas, Try out the Secrets of Classic Syrian Christian Cooking! 

Kerala is among the few states in the country to boast of a historic Christian population.  It is a belief among the Christian community here that their history dates back to AD 52 when Saint Thomas visited God’s own country to preach the gospel and baptised its natives, thus giving rise to a community of Nasranis. With beliefs steeped in tradition and a history that goes back centuries, it is not surprising that the classic Christian delicacies also have an old world charm!

With Christmas right around the corner, Ritz catches up with some of the top chefs in Kochi who share native, seasonal and homemade recipes that promise to entice your taste buds!

 

After the period of ‘noyumbu’ or lent, the Christmas feast is essentially a non-vegetarian extravaganza with a choice of red meat, duck, chicken and sea food delicacies. The mystical concoction of the spices and the flavour of the chief ingredient – the coconut, are some of the secrets of the traditional Syrian Christian cuisine. The tantalising delicacies listed below are served as an accompaniment with ghee rice, spring hoppers, appams or Kerala parathas.

Kuttanadan tharavu (duck) mappas

Ingredients

Curry-cut duck                                                    150 gm

Sliced shallots                                                      100gm

Julienned ginger                                                 20 gm

Chopped garlic                                                    20gm

Julienned green chilli                                         10gm

Curry leaves                                                          1strips

Sliced tomato                                                       50gm

Pepper powder                                                      2tsp

Red chilli powder                                                  1tsp

Coriander powder                                                2tsp

Turmeric powder                                                ½tsp

Fennel powder                                                      1tsp

Coconut oil                                                          25ml

Coconut milk                                                     25ml

Salt                                                              to taste

 

For Tempering – In a pan of hot oil, sauté the following ingredients. The process unlocks the flavours and lends a special aroma and taste to the dish.

Mustard seed                                ½tsp

Sliced shallots                               6 nos

Whole red chilli                             3 nos

Curry leaves                                   1 sprig

 

Method

Heat coconut oil in a pan. Add ginger, garlic, shallots, sliced green chillies and curry leaves. Sauté till it turns brown. Add powder masalas and sauté for a while on low fire and then add the tomato slices. Sauté well and add the curry-cut pieces of duck. Cook on low fire and when the duck is almost done, add coconut milk and mix the contents well. Check seasoning and sauté till the gravy becomes thick. For the finale, temper mustard, shallots, red chilli and curry leaves in a pan. Add this to the curry.

 

Pothirachi Ularthiyathu

Buffalo Meat – 1kg

Onion – 250gm

Ginger – 15gm

Garlic – 15gm

Green chilli – 6nos

Coconut flakes – 50gm

Curry leaves – 2 sprigs

Fennel – ¼tsp

Cardamom – 4nos

Cinnamon – 2pcs

Cloves – 4nos

Bay leaf – 1

Coconut Oil – 50ml

Red Chilli Powder – 2tsp

Coriander powder – 2tsp

Turmeric – ½tsp

Garam Masala – 1tsp

Peppercorn crushed – ½tsp

Salt to taste

 

Method

Marinate the meat with a little bit of the following: ginger, garlic, whole spices, turmeric, coriander powder, red chilli powder and salt. Add a little water and cook the red meat till it is half done. Keep aside. Heat oil in a pan, add garam masala and green chilli along with the rest of the ginger, garlic, curry leaves, sliced onions and coconut flakes and sauté until golden brown.

Add remaining chilli, coriander and turmeric powders and sauté for a minute. Now add the cooked meat into this mixture and stir well. Check seasoning and sauté till dry. Finish with fennel powder and crushed black pepper corn.

 

Natholi Fry

 

Anchovy (natholi) 200gm

Chilli powder 1tbsp

Turmeric powder ½ tbsp.

Ginger garlic paste ½ tbsp.

Black pepper powder ½ tbsp

Rice flour 1 tbsp

Juice of 1 lime

Salt to taste

Red chillies 2 nos

Onion 1

Crushed garlic 1

Curry leaf 1 strip

Coconut oil For frying

 

Method:

Marinate the fish with ginger garlic paste, chilli powder, turmeric powder, rice flour, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Set aside for 15 minutes.  

    

Heat oil in a pan and deep fry the fish on a medium flame. Garnish with fried onion, curry leaf, red chilli and crushed garlic.

 

Recipes contributed by Chef Rejimon PR, Crowne Plaza, Kochi

 

The Coconut Milk is a crucial component of Syrian Christian cooking. Coconut milk powder is available in the market but homemade coconut milk can be made by grinding the grated coconut with 2 tbsp of water in a grinder and extracting the juice from the mixture by manually squeezing it and sieving it to get the liquid content or coconut milk. This is called the 1st extraction. To the squeezed coconut mixture, add the required water (as per the recipe) and repeat the process (grinding, squeezing, sieving) to get a second extraction and then, the third extraction. The liquid becomes more dilute with each extraction.

Traditional Palappam

Rice flour                              900gm

Semolina                              80gm

Toddy                                    150ml or yeast 2gm

Salt                                         to taste

Sugar                                     60gm

Coconut milk                        120 ml

Water                                    900ml

Method:

Soak the semolina in a pan with 800 ml water and bring it to a boil. Keep stirring it till it reaches a thick consistency. Turn off the fire and allow it to cool.

Next, mix rice powder, sugar, salt and fermenting agent. Add this into the prepared semolina batter. Add water and bring in to a thick consistency and keep the batter aside for 8 to 10 hours for fermentation.

Once it ferments, add the coconut milk into the batter and mix well until it reaches a loose pouring consistency. Heat an ‘appa chatti’ or round non-stick pan/‘kadai with lid. Pour a ladle full of batter on to the hot pan. Wait for 5 seconds. Hold both handles and rotate the pan till the batter spreads evenly.

Cover the pan, turn down the heat and cook for about two minutes or until the sides are crisp and golden brown in colour and the centre, a little ‘puffed’ up. Serve hot!

 

Syrian Irachi Curry

 

Buffalo meat cubes                       1000gm

Coconut flakes                              30gm

Onion sliced                                  250gm

Julienned ginger                           20gm

Sliced garlic                                 15gm

Green chilli                                    40gm

Curry leaves                                   20gm

Chilli powder                                  20gm

Coriander powder                           30gm

Turmeric powder                            5gm

Pepper powder                                5gm

Garam masala powder                    15gm

Fennel powder                                 20gm

Coconut oil                                      100gm

Coconut milk 1st extraction             70ml

Coconut milk 2nd extraction            140ml

Coconut milk 3rd extraction             300ml

Salt to taste

 

Method:

Heat coconut oil in a pan, sauté ginger, garlic, green chili, curry leaves, and onion till golden brown. Then add masala powders, stir a while and put the meat cubes and fry for a minute. As the water starts to trickle from the meat, add third extraction of coconut milk in to it and simmer till the meat is half done, then add second extraction of coconut milk. Simmer till the meat is well done. Finally add first extraction of coconut milk and turn off the flame. Temper with mustard and shallots.

 

Chicken stew

 

Chicken cubes                                 1000gm

Carrot                                              100gm

Potato                                              200gm

Coconut milk 1st extraction             200ml    

Coconut milk 2nd extraction            300ml

Coconut milk 3rd extraction            500ml

Cinnamon sticks                              8gm  

Cardamom                                       6gm

Cloves                                              4gm

Coconut oil                                      100ml

Curry leaves                                     30gm

Onion                                               250 gm

Ginger                                              20gm

Green chili                                       40gm

Cashew                                            30gm

Raisins                                             10 gm

Fried onion                                       5gm

Salt to taste

 

Method:

           

Heat pan and pour coconut oil. Crackle the spices, add green chilli, ginger, sliced onion and curry leaves and sauté till tender. Pour 3rd extraction coconut milk and cubed vegetables and chicken cubes. Simmer for few minutes till the vegetables and chicken are tender. Add second extraction of coconut milk and simmer till the meat is done. Finally reduce the flame, add the first extraction of coconut milk and stir well. Top with coconut oil and curry leaves. Garnish with fried onions, cashew, raisins and curry leaves.

 

Recipes Contributed by Chef Saji Alex of Kochi Marriott, Kochi

 

Cake and Wine are synonymous to Christmas and the festive recipes can’t possibly be complete without them! The Orange Rum Glazed Fruit Cake is a light fruit cake which requires the fruits to be soaked but just for a couple of days. This is a simple Christmas fruit cake perfect for home bakers.

 

Orange Rum Glazed Fruit Cake

Butter (salted) – 500gm

Powdered sugar – 600gm

Maida – 500 gm

Baking Powder – 1.5tsp

Eggs – 5

Orange zest – 1 tbsp

Orange juice – 2 tbsp

Raisins – 200gm

Orange peel – 100gm (store bought or fresh peel chopped)

Chopped nuts – 200gm (either cashew or almond or walnuts)

Apricots chopped 50 gm

Mixed spice powder – 1½tsp (ground cinnamon, nutmeg & cloves)

Honey – ¼cup

Dark Rum – 2 tbsp plus additional ½ cup for soaking

For the Orange glaze:

Orange juice – 1 cup

Powdered sugar – 2 cups

Rum – 1 tbsp

 

Method:

Mix the fruits and nuts with spice powder and half cup of rum and refrigerate for a couple of days.

Sieve maida with the baking powder. Next beat the butter in one direction until fluffy. Add sugar powder little by little at a time and continue to beat until it doubles in volume. Beat in the eggs lightly one at a time.

Mix maida with fruits and add to the batter along with honey, orange juice, orange zest and remaining rum. Pour into a greased and lined tray. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degree for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow it to cool. Top with warm orange glaze.

For the glaze:

Mix orange juice, sugar powder and rum and cook over medium flame until it becomes thick. Pour it while it is warm over the cake.

 

Traditional Homemade Red Wine

The following ingredients of the traditional red wine, once mixed, need to be stored in a ceramic ‘Bharani’ of 10L capacity that comes with a loose wooden lid. The Bharani needs to be washed and sun dried before use.

Black grapes – 1 kg

Sugar – 1Kg

Boiled and cooled water – 3.5 L

Yeast – 1 tsp

Wheat grain – 1 tbsp

Method:

Wash and drain the black grapes well and place it in the Bharani. Add the sugar and squeeze both vigorously making sure that each grape is mashed well. When the sugar has dissolved, add water, yeast and wheat. Stir well and close with wooden lid making sure that only three fourth of the container is filled. There needs to be space for the contents to ferment and rise. Cover the wooden lid with cheese cloth and tie the neck of the container to avoid any contamination. Store in a dark and cool place for 21 days without moving it. After 21 days, gently open it, making sure not to shake or stir it. Sieve the contents by tilting it gently to get clear red wine which needs to be stored in clean, dry, dark coloured bottles in a cool dry place.

Optional: For amber coloured wine, add caramel syrup to the red wine.   

For the caramel syrup – Heat 1 cup sugar in a pan till it becomes honey coloured, add one cup of water to make the syrup. Add this to the sieved red wine before bottling it. Store in bottles and keep aside for another 12 to 15 days before consumption so that it matures and acquires colour.

 

Choconut Caramel Cheese Cake is the perfect finale to the grand Christmas spread. The recipe has a contemporary twist with a rich blend of fresh cream, cream cheese, condensed milk, chocolate and nuts on a crunchy base – the ultimate indulgence!   

For the base:

Marie Biscuits – 200gms

Butter – 100gm

Powdered sugar – 2tbsp

Chopped almonds – 2tbsp to half cup

Powder biscuits and gently mix with butter, sugar powder and almonds until you get a crunchy texture. Use mixture to line a loose bottomed pan and chill in a freezer for 5 to 10 minutes or till it sets.

 

For the Filling:

Cream cheese – 1 cup

Fresh cream (beaten) – 1 cup

Gelatin – 2 tbsp

Water – ¼cup

Condensed Milk – 1 tin

Egg Yolk – 3

Dark chocolate, melted – ½ cup plus 3 tbsp for topping

Mix condensed milk with yolk and gelatin (dissolved in water) and cook over medium heat until thick. Allow it to cool. Add cream cheese, fresh cream and melted chocolate (half cup) and gently fold in. Pour over the cooled crust and allow it to chill in the refrigerator for half an hour or until set.

 

For Caramel Sauce:

Sugar – 2 tbsp

Milk – 2 tbsp

Butter – 1 tbsp

Caramelised almonds chopped – ½ cup

Heat sugar in a pan until honey coloured, add butter and when it sizzles, add milk and cook until lightly thick. Stir in almonds and pour while its still warm over the set cheese cake. Finish by drizzling melted chocolate using a piping bag.

Recipes by Mrs. Anitha Issac, Manna Cookery School, Kochi.