Boozy Holiday Fruit Cake (Eggless) & a Christmas Nostalgia

Boozy holiday rich fruit cake (eggless) with dried cranberries, dates and raisins soaked in red wine for a month!

Christmas in Calcutta is an emotion. While it may ruffle some feathers, I have to admit that Calcutta is probably the most secular city in India which celebrates festivals like Christmas not out of any religious compulsion but because it’s a delightful celebration of life, something that lifts your spirits.

For those of us who grew up in Calcutta, the festival is synonymous with Nahoum’s rich fruit cake. Surprisingly in December the whole city gets busy in Christmas preps, and the Jewish bakeries and neighbourhood confectionaries start selling homemade plum cakes that are made with rum soaked raisins, dates and candied peels. All of a sudden, Ruma kakima’s sleepy bakery in the dusty bylanes of Free School Street is abuzz with activities.

Nahoum’s will remain my most favourite always- their dense and rich fruit cakes are so moist and loaded with dry fruits. This is my ode to their legendary cakes as i reminisce about the bygone Christmas days of my adolescence when I would patiently wait in a long queue outside the store with my mum just to get my share of treats. That was my Santa moment.

The authentic Christmas plum cake/ fruit cake in Calcutta is prepared with dried fruits soaked in rum for a prolonged period and most recipes are handed down through generations. I have used red wine instead and have also used greek yogurt instead of eggs which is honestly unthinkable in the original recipe. But then sometimes it’s okay to deviate from the original and tweak things here and there just for fun, doesn’t take away anything from the classic 🙂

Ingredients:

Chopped dried cranberries, black raisins, sultanas, pitted dates, candied ginger soaked in red wine (or dark rum) for at least 2-3 weeks (the longer the better)

11/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 tsp each of ground cinnamon, clove and nutmeg

1 tbsp orange zest

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup olive oil (or any vegetable oil)

1 cup brown sugar (preferably) or raw cane sugar (no white sugar)

1 cup greek yogurt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup of chopped mixed nuts like almonds, pistachios and cashews

Method:

In a mixing bowl, add 1/2 cup olive oil and 1 cup brown sugar. Whisk it well for a couple of minutes until well combined.

Now add the yogurt and vanilla extract and whisk again. It will take a couple of minutes to whisk everything to a smooth consistency.

In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. Start with 11/2 cup of all purpose flour. Toss in the ground spices, orange zest (make sure to avoid grating the bitter white pith), baking soda, baking powder and mix everything well with the whisk.

Now throw in the flour mixture into the wet bowl and fold with a spatula. No whisking from this point anymore and also ensure that you don’t overmix the batter. The batter is supposed to be dense and heavy.

The last step is to add the chopped nuts and soaked dried fruits into the cake batter and fold again with the spatula. Reserve some of the soaked fruits for spooning on top of the cake.

Line a square baking pan with a parchment paper and pour in the batter. Sprinkle the remaining soaked dried fruits on top and bake in a pre heated oven at 160 degree C for around 60 minutes. Let it cool down completely before serving.

*Some tips*

Always pack the cake tightly in an aluminum foil to store it. This preserves its shape and moisture.

The cake tastes better with time. The longer it soaks all the goodness from the rum/ wine, the better it tastes.

‘Feed’ the cake with wine/ rum by poking holes all over it with a toothpick and then keep it tightly packed.

Could it get any boozier??

Down Memory Lane: Classic Shepherd’s Pie

Truth be told, there’s a lot of debate on the origins of the humble shepherd’s pie- whether it’s Irish or British! There are bits and pieces of history/ folklore surrounding this classic delicacy and there’s no one person or an event that gifted this hearty dish to the world.

Probably somewhere around the early 1800s, peasant housewives in Ireland and northern parts of England came up with the ingenious idea of putting the leftover meat from Sunday roasts to good use by making pies out of them. This clever practice avoided wastages, while families could enjoy something which is not only delicious and new but also filling and inexpensive.

Traditionally, shepherd’s pie uses minced lamb while cottage pie uses minced beef. The ground meat combined with veggies simmered in a rich gravy and topped with creamy mashed potato and grated parmesan results in a dish that is so comforting that it warms your soul.

Feel free to use ground turkey or chicken or even soy meat in case you want alternatives.

Ingredients (serves 2)

For the lamb gravy:

250g ground lamb

1 cup of mixed veggies like chopped celery, carrots and onions

2/3 cup frozen peas

3 fat garlic cloves minced

1/2 tsp dried rosemary leaves

1 tbsp dried thyme leaves

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp worcestershire sauce

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 cup chicken/ meat stock

2 tbsp Olive oil (or any white oil)

For the mashed potato:

450 gram boiled and mashed potatoes (preferably russet potatoes)

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp sour cream

1 tsp dried parsley flakes

1/2 tsp garlic powder

4 tbsp grated parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Heat olive oil in a pot and sauté the chopped carrot, celery, onions along with minced garlic. Once fragrant, add thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Mix everything well.

Now add the ground lamb and throw in some green peas. Stir and let the meat cook until it’s no longer pink.

This is the time to add the worcestershire sauce (key!), tomato puree and the meat/ chicken stock. Cook for a while on medium heat and then cover and let it simmer nicely on low heat until the sauce thickens. Take off the heat once done.

Meanwhile, chop and boil the large potatoes and mash them with a fork. Mix in butter, sour cream, dried parsley, salt and pepper.

To assemble the dish, layer the cooked meat in a baking dish and top it with the mashed potato. Sprinkle the grated parmesan on top and bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 mins at 200 degree C. Broil for another 3-4 mins for that beautiful golden colour on top 🙂

Wishing you all a merry Christmas & happy holidays!

Holiday Spiced Cappuccino

Do you relish your coffee the traditional way?

Or do you love playing around with various flavours to accentuate your coffee experience?

Nothing can be more comforting than curling up on the couch in your fuzzy socks, with your favourite cappuccino with a spicy twist. As much as I love my coffee, I enjoy experimenting with different ingredients that bring out the best flavours. Hints of warm cinnamon and nutmeg makes this a delicious drink that does taste of Christmas.

Do give this recipe a try because Tis the season 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 140 ml hot brewed espresso shot (I used the Nespresso Vivalto Lungo capsule)
  • 140 ml warm milk froth (a good mix of foam & milk)
  • 1 pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of ground nutmeg
  • few drops of vanilla essence
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 10 small marshmallows

Method:

In a serving glass/ cup, mix 140 ml of freshly brewed espresso with 1 tsp of brown sugar (or as per your preference) and a pinch of ground nutmeg.

Meanwhile take 140 ml of milk, add few drops of vanilla essence and make froth using your favourite frother/ whisk. I used the Aeroccino 3 which makes great hot and creamy milk froth for the perfect cappuccino. Please note that the froth should at least be warm.

Pour the milk into the glass and top it off with the milk froth/ foam.

Garnish with some lightly toasted marshmallows and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon. Enjoy 🙂

*Some tips*

Always use freshly brewed espresso.

You could also add a dash of ground clove along with the cinnamon in the espresso for an enhanced flavour.

2% milk (dairy) is best for cappuccinos. You could substitute with any plant based milk but the froth/ foam may not be of a great quality.