Food

Favourite Christmas flavours of celebrity cooks

Mutton Biryani

Mutton Biryani   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Showstoppers on dining tables as families gather around to enjoy the flavours of Christmas

It is that time of the year when festivity is in the air. The aroma of cakes, bakes and traditional eats is soaked in flavours of Christmases, past and present. As the action shifts from busy kitchens to richly laid tables, MetroPlus asks culinary queens from different places in Kerala what is that must-have on their menu for a family gathering around the dining table

Chitra Shaji — Thiruvananthapuram

Chitra Shaji

Chitra Shaji   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Chitra Shaji recalls waking up on Christmas Day to the aroma of either chicken or mutton stew as a child. “You wake up with an appetite and look forward to the hot appams that go with the stew.” Chitra remembers how the women of the household would have snacks like avalosunda, aval vilayichathu, venna biscuit (a rusk kind of biscuit shaped like a bun) ready so that the children wouldn’t get in their way while they were busy preparing the day’s feast.

And while she still continues the tradition of serving appam and stew on Christmas day, the stew served is invariably mutton. “My husband is extremely fond of mutton.” Lunch is either mutton biriyani with a side of fried chicken, pappadam, salad and pickle or a naadan sadya featuring a wide spread of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Her mother-in-law, Janaki Amma, taught her basic recipes. “Amma is an excellent cook. She taught me half of the recipes I know, the rest are through experimentations in the kitchen.”

Favourite Christmas flavours of celebrity cooks

While not all of the dishes she tries out is a success, her husband always encourages her. Chitra also relies on the recipes from Mrs KM Mathew’s cookbook and the ones jotted down by her grandmother and aunts. “My grandmother used to make orappam. It is made of rice flour, coconut milk with either jaggery or sugar, like a halwa and then lightly baked to make it crusty and crunchy on the exterior. Inside, it has a fudge-like texture. While I picked up the recipe for orappam from my aunts, I am yet to make it myself. This year, I hope to add it to my Christmas table.”

(Chitra Shaji, aka Annie, is the host of the cookery show ‘Annie’s Kitchen’ on Amrita TV)

Sheela Tomy — Pala

Favourite Christmas flavours of celebrity cooks

Sheela Tomy has just finished baking two-and-a-half tonnes of her signature plum cake. “Most of it have been sent to customers but there are some more to be sent,” she says. Preparations for her rich rum- and wine-soaked fruit cakes begin in March-April when she starts cleaning the dry fruits and soaking them in rum or wine. Baking begins in the first week of November and is all done by the month-end.

“No Christmas at my home is complete without the cake. It is a hand-me-down recipe that is common in Pala and many Christian households here. I inherited it from my grandmother and mother-in-law,” she says.

She adds that all that she has done is to tweak it a bit by adding more of exotic and imported dry fruits and soaking it for longer in spirits. The cakes are all baked in an old-fashioned Borma oven fired with coconut shells and firewood that she had had built in her beautiful vintage house in Pala.

This Christmas is special as all her five children and their children will be at home for the festival season.

“The dinner on December 24 is special. Usually, I make turkey roast. I use the same ingredients that my mother had used for chicken roast. This time, I am planning to try a new recipe for the roast, one that I found on Facebook as there are people who may not enjoy the spicy ones I used to make,” she says.

(Sheela Tomy’s cakes can be bought through her Facebook page, Kallivayalil Bakes)

Rekha Jacob — Thirssur

Favourite Christmas flavours of celebrity cooks

“Unlike many places in Kerala, in Thrissur, pork is the highlight of our menu. Breakfast is usually vattayappam or appam with stew or pork in different forms,” says Rekha.

She says lunch is a large spread and for that a traditional dish of pork and vazhakka, which she learnt to make from her mother-in-law, is a family favourite. “However, in my family, no feast is complete without the prawns fry or the prawns biriyani that I cook. The prawns fry is a recipe I tweaked but the biriyani is one that I found in an old Femina magazine that my mother had saved.”

(A culinary expert, Rekha enjoys sharing her recipes in various magazines)

Annamma Kottukapally — Pala

Annamma Kottukapally

Annamma Kottukapally   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Although traditionally in most Christian households, Christmas breakfast is the star of the day, Annamma Kottukapally chuckles when she says it’s Christmas lunch that her family looks forward to. The dishes for the feast are usually prepared the night before. And a feast it is with duck-, mutton-, pork- and chicken- based dishes a must on the table. “For the past five to six years, turkey is on the menu too.” The turkey is prepared Continental style with apricots, prunes, celery, carrots... Chilli flakes are occasionally added to lend the dish a touch of spice.

Favourite Christmas flavours of celebrity cooks

“I enjoy going through various recipes and picking out ingredients that I think will work best while preparing a dish. This turkey dish is a twist on a recipe I found in an old magazine. My children and grandchildren are extremely fond of the dish. Plum cake with sugar icing is a must too.”

(Annamma Kottukapally is the founder and owner of Anns House of Sweets, a confectionery chain)

Toshma Biju Varghese — Kottayam

Favourite Christmas flavours of celebrity cooks

For Toshma Biju Varghese, Christmas is the time to catch up with relatives. The must-have for breakfast is the palappam-duck curry combo. “Appams are prepared in the kalchatti (stone pan) just like my grandmother used to do. Preparations start the previous day, say by 3 pm, when I soak the raw rice to make the appam batter. It has to be soaked for six hours,” she explains. The duck curry, a typical Kuttanadan preparation, does not use red chilli or coriander powder. “I was always fascinated by the yellow-greenish colour of the curry. The colour and spiciness come from turmeric powder and ingredients such as green chillies, pepper and spices,” she says.

Roast turkey with apricots and prunes

Roast turkey with apricots and prunes   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

For lunch, it is either chicken biriyani or mutton biriyani, with a pudding as dessert. Toshma bakes fruit cakes every year. This year, she made a 200-kg cake, which was packed in half-kg and one-kg packets to be delivered to clients and friends and family.

(Toshma is a cookbook author and cookery show hostess)

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 1:02:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/showstoppers-on-dining-tables-as-families-gather-around-to-enjoy-the-flavours-of-christmas/article25789080.ece

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