Vegan Christmas Cake

Last week, my mother decided to bake her special vegan christmas cake. While I was initially planning to share this recipe on the 25th, I am sharing it ahead at my mother’s request. It is a delightful cake and I am sure you will enjoy it, if you do try it.

Christmas cake veganVegan Christmas Cake

Vegan christmas cake slicesTime taken: 3 hours

Makes 20 slices

Christmas cakeIngredients:

  • Dates – 1 cup, chopped
  • Raisins – ½ cup
  • Cashewnuts – ¼ cup
  • Almonds – ¼ cup, chopped
  • Caramelized peanuts – ½ cup
  • Cherry – ¼ cup, chopped
  • Chow chow (choko) – ½ cup, chopped
  • Ginger preserve – 1 tbsp
  • Puhul dosi (pumpkin preserve) – ¼ cup, chopped
  • Lemon rind – 1 tsp
  • Orange peel preserve – 1 tbsp
  • Mixed peel – ½ cup
  • Coconut treacle – 4 tbsp
  • Caramel syrup – ¼ cup
  • Almond oil – 3 tbsp
  • Vegetable oil – ¼ cup
  • Mixed spice (Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cloves) – 2 tsp
  • Thick tea – 1 tbsp
  • Semolina – ½ cup
  • Flour – ½ cup
  • Baking powder – 1 tsp
  • Baking soda – 2/3 tsp
  • Rose essence – ¼ tsp

Method:

  1. Chop all the ingredients mentioned above (dates, raisins, cashewnuts, peanuts, almonds, chow chow, lemon rind, orange peel preserve, mixed peel, ginger preserve, cherries and puhul dosi/ pumpkin preserve) and mix together in a bowl.
  2. To the bowl, add the liquids stirring them in as you do so. Add the honey, caramel syrup and thick tea and let it soak for about ½ hour.
  3. Mix well before adding the vegetable oil and almond oil. Add the rose essence and cinnamon, cardamom and clove mixed spice to the bowl.
  4. Gradually stir in the semolina.
  5. Sift the flour with the baking powder and soda and add the flour mix to the bowl.
  6. Whisk the contents of the bowl together so that there are no flour lumps anywhere.
  7. Transfer the cake batter to the baking tray and bake at 120⁰C/248⁰F for 1 to 1 ½ hour till the cake is browned at the top and the cake is baked through.
  8. After the cake cools, cut the cake into pieces and wrap the pieces into Christmas wrappings.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Dodol

To celebrate Eid, my mother made some ‘dodol’. This sweet has its roots in the Malay cuisine of Sri Lanka but has since become popular across the entire country.

The second best ‘dodol’ that I have tasted is the ‘dodol’ sold in a little family-run shop on a tiny road across the Peacock beach hotel in Hambantota district. The best was the exquisite dodol wrapped in woven reed that a relative had sent us. He unfortunately omitted to get the contact details of the entrepreneur he had randomly come across and purchased it from. So, I only have the remembrance of the taste by which I have compared all other ‘dodol’ since. I have also hoped that that entrepreneur would have been successful enough in his business and his products would be available at some popular outlet other than his previous door-to-door sales.

At my house, while everyone likes dodol, it is time-consuming to make. My mother doesn’t like to take much time over cooking so she created her instant ‘dodol’ version, which I would say is the third best in my dodol tasting experience.

So, today, I will share my mother’s recipe for her instant dodol as well as my grandmother’s recipe for regular dodol.

(a) Dodol (regular) – grandmother’s recipe

Time taken: 2 hours

Makes 20 pieces

Ingredients:

  • Coconut – 2 cup, freshly scraped
  • Roasted rice flour – 2 cup
  • Jaggery – 2 cup, grated
  • Crushed cardamom – 1 tbsp
  • Cashewnuts – ¼ cup, chopped

Method:

  1. Blend freshly scraped coconut with 10 cups of water and make coconut milk.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a large pot and keep stirring continuously over a medium heat for around 1 hour. Do not allow mixture to burn.
  3. Once it starts thickening and the oil starts separating. Separate the dodol from the oil and transfer to a tray and allow to cool for at least ½ hour. The separated coconut oil can be reused for cooking.
  4. Store in an air-tight container and slice and serve, when required. The regular ‘dodol’ can be stored for at least 2 weeks.

(b) Instant dodol – my mother’s recipe:

Time taken: 25 mins

Serves 4

DodolIngredients:

  • Coconut – ½ cup, freshly scraped
  • Roasted rice flour – ¼ cup
  • Jaggery – ¼ cup, grated
  • Cashew nuts – 1 tbsp, chopped
  • Cardamom – 3 or 4, crushed
  • Vegetable oil margarine – 1 tbsp

Method:

  1. Blend ½ cup of freshly scraped coconut with 1 cup of water to make coconut milk.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a pan and stir continuously over medium heat for about 10 mins.
  3. As the mixture thickens, add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil margarine and mix well. In the instant version, the stirring does not go on till the oil separates, hence the margarine is added before removing from stove.
  4. Transfer to a plate and allow the instant ‘dodol’ to cool for at least 15 mins before slicing and serving. The instant ‘dodol’ has to be served within 12 hours or so and cannot be kept for more time.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Ravai laddu

Today’s recipe for Navarathri is ravai laddu (semolina laddu).  The semolina laddu is the type of laddu that is commonly made in homes in northern Sri Lanka. The boondi or chickpea gram flour laddu is rarely made in homes and is usually available only in Indian sweet shops.

Ravai laddu

Time taken: 25 mins

Makes 5

Ravai ladduIngredients

  • Semolina/ ravai – ½ cup, slightly roasted
  • Sugar – ¼ cup
  • Vegetable oil margarine (preferably sunflower or canola) – 3 tbsp
  • Chickpea – 2 tbsp, fried and split (store-bought or overnight soaked and fried at home)
  • Cashew nuts – 2
  • Cardamom – 3, crushed
  • Raisin – 1 tbsp
  • Hot water – 2 tbsp

Method

  1. Heat the sugar and margarine in a pan for 2 mins on low heat.
  2. Add the fried, split chickpea to the pan as well as the chopped cashew nuts, raisins and crushed cardamom.
  3. Stir and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes until they have combined well.
  4. Add the semolina and stir for around 3 minutes.
  5. Increase the heat to medium and add 2 tbsp of hot water to the pan and mix well. Remove pan from stove.
  6. Scoop the mixture into a little mold and overturn to a plate. Let the laddu cool before serving.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Pongal

My mother often recounts a story from her childhood years, particularly ones that include her grandmother. One story she is fond of narrating is about how her grandmother used to undertake her own farming and not use machines or chemicals. My great-grandmother, who was the last farmer in our family lost her husband at a young age and raised her three children on her own. She had some paddy land and a small vegetable farm, which she managed to buy with her own earning. While she did hire farm labourers when needed, she did a lot of work on her field herself. Also, she raised cows and goats and undertook organic farming. Compost was made on her farm and used in her field. She had her land ploughed with a hand-plough and planted the paddy seeds. When the seeds started growing, just like any other small time farmer, she undertook the weeding together with the help of some hired hands.

The harvesting season was a special process and the cut grain stalks would be loaded onto bullock carts and brought home for the grains to be separated from the husks. By the time they were brought home, it would be night. As there was no electricity in their home at that time, three or four petromax lamps were lighted. My mother remembers that she was very much excited during those days and didn’t want to go to sleep but stay up and watch. It seemed like a carnival at her grandmother’s home, with the place lighted up and movement of people throughout the night.

A pole was planted in the middle of the yard and large woven mats placed around the pole. The cut stalks were spread on the mat. The buffaloes were tied to the pole and two or three hired help would walk the buffaloes around the pole. This was the old process to separate the grains from the husks. My mother remembers watching the men walk the buffaloes calling out, “poli.” The stalks were then picked up and thrashed onto the mat and the grains would separate out and fall. These were then packed up in sacks.

Local rice varieties

The first handfuls of grain were beaten in a stone or wood “ural” to separate the raw rice from the grain. This was made into the first pongal of the harvest. Everyone who helped would be invited for a meal and given bags of grains.

Family members who had died were also remembered on that day and a large variety of food was made. My mother mentions that a special offering was made that day, as part of the remembrance ritual, called the “puthir.” Her grandmother used to take some of the pongal made from the first rice from the harvest and spread it out on a large tray. Then, all types of available fruits were cut up and layered on top of the pongal. Honey was poured over the fruits. A sampling of all the vegetable curries that were made were also layered on top of the pongal-fruit-honey mix. Finally, ghee was poured over the tray of food and everything was mixed together. After the prayers were made, a little “puthir” was handed as “prasadham” (blessed offering) to everyone present.

Today, I will share the recipe of pongal that is made with the first harvest of the season by farmers and by non-farmers on festival days such as the Pongal festival in January, New Year in April and other celebrations.

Pongal

Cooking time: 30 to 40 mins

Serves 4 or 5

Pongal

Ingredients:

  • Rice – 1 cup
  • Roasted split gram (without skin) – ¼ cup
  • Jaggery – 1 cup (grated)
  • Coconut – ½
  • Cardamom – 4 or 5, crushed
  • Cashew nuts – few, chopped
  • Raisins – 1 tbsp
  • Water

Method:

  1. Wash the rice and gram and cook them in a pot with 2 ½ cups of water. Cook for around 15 to 20 mins, till the water dries up.
  2. Grind and extract coconut milk by blending the freshly scraped half of a coconut with 1 cup of water.
  3. Once the rice and gram is cooked, add the grated jaggery and mix.
  4. Then, add the coconut milk and crushed cardamoms. Bring to a boil on high heat and cook for a few more minutes before reducing the heat.
  5. Add the chopped cashew nuts. Cook until the pongal mixture starts coming together and starts to thicken.
  6. Just before removing from heat, add the raisins and mix.
  7. Remove from heat and cover.
  8. Serve pongal with bananas.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Jaggery and coconut cake

My mother makes scrumptious cakes. Some of my favourites are the basic butter cake and the chocolate cake. However, on this site, I will share a cake recipe or two of my mother’s that is both vegan and made with typically Sri Lankan ingredients.

Today’s recipe is that of my mother’s jaggery and coconut cake. The key ingredient here is the jaggery.

Jaggery and Coconut cake

Time taken: 1 hour

Makes 12 – 16 pieces if baked in a 6”x6” baking pan

Jaggery and coconut cake

Ingredients:

  • Grated jaggery (palm or kithul) – 1 cup
  • Water – 1 cup
  • Low fat sunflower oil margarine (Flora, for e.g.) – ¾ cup (150g)
  • Wheat flour – 1 cup
  • Semolina – ¼ cup
  • Roasted coconut – ¼ cup
  • Coconut powder – 1 cup (100g)
  • Cardamom – 4
  • Vanilla essence – few drops
  • Baking powder – 1 tsp
  • Baking soda – ¼ tsp
  • Cashew nuts – ½ cup, chopped or a little for sprinkling (optional)

Method:

  1. Mix the wheat flour, semolina, baking powder and baking soda and keep aside.
  2. Put the jaggery, margarine, water in a blender. Add the vanilla essence and crushed cardamom seeds. Blend for about a minute or two.
  3. Then, add the coconut powder and roasted coconut to the mix in the blender and blend for another minute or two.
  4. Pour the batter into a mixing bowl.
  5. Stir in the flour mix gradually into the batter and mix well.
  6. Add the chopped cashew nuts and mix.
  7. Pour the batter into the baking pan and sprinkle some chopped cashew nuts on top.
  8. Bake in a preheated oven at 140⁰C/ 284⁰F for around 40 – 45 minutes.
  9. Serve with some Sri Lankan tea or fresh fruit juice.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.