Back in India, in a little known place called Tangasseri, Kulkuls, a traditional Christmas treat is served to all friends and relatives during Xmas and the Xmas season, along with Rose cookies, home made cake and home made wine. The lady of the house just waits for the compliments that follow these visits and the usual requests for recipes makes her day receiving compliments for a delicious meal or treat.
I am sure everyone will say that their Mom was the greatest cook, However, I think my Mom really was and 🙂 better than the Master Chefs of today! No garnishes but just gob smacking bloody good! Everything she learnt and experienced through her cooking and compliments, she would write down, change and embellish to perfection. If the recipes had a pinch of this or that, it was her measure of how much she would consider what a pinch was. Not easy to reproduce by any one else’s pinches cups or spoons. Cups, tablespoons and tea spoons did not really mean much as the sizes were always different. I have never seen standard cups, tablespoons and teaspoons back there. The recipes she would give away (verbally of course) always had a price content, like a four annas of this and 10 chukrams of that, the currency during the days of the British Raj in India. So, any fluctuations in the price of ingredients would directly affect the taste of the dishes if others used her recipe. I think it was one way of retaining her number one position as the best cook as judged by those who visited our home. No one, even strangers left our home without a meal or a good cup of tea brewed in the way that tea is meant to be brewed, in a teapot. They were never asked, they were simply served. So, these words “Oh you should’nt have” keeps ringing in my ears.
The making of Kulkuls was an exercise for the whole family and a one off Sunday morning ritual at least three days before Xmas. It takes three days to make good Kulkuls. After the Sunday morning breakfast of Oppers and Figadosi (that’s what my grandmother called a banana, cadamom, cinnamon and jaggery/molasses spicy stew) and the table was cleared, my Mum would bring out the dough she had kneaded and ready for the making for this must have Christmas treat, the Kulkul. A Christmas in any home would not be complete if there were no Kulkuls. The ingedients are simple. Maida flour, eggs, salt and water. It can be spiced up a bit wth cardomoms, cinnamon, essences and therein lies the secret of a tasty Kulkul and why Kulkuls are not the same.
Seated round the table each of us were given a fork and an initial lesson on how to make a Kulkul. Take a pinch of the dough, enough to roll it in the palm of your hands into a ball, about 20 mms or 3/4 inch in diameter. Place it on the back of the fork at the pronged end, then gently roll it off the fork to create the indentations around the ball. We would also leave a signature mark on the rolled Kulkul with a toothpick so that when we finally got to eat it, we would know who rolled it. That was Mum’s way of getting us interested to lighten her work. You could also flatten it on the fork and then curl it off as seen in the photo below. Looking back, it was a great bonding exercise, the making of over five hundred Kulkuls with lots of love and fun rolled into it. My Dad would just watch, tease and egg us on, saying, Ah that is a good one, or that’s too small or that’s too big, or that’s perfect – as no two Kulkuls would be the same! I hope no one plans to mass produce this treat that brings families together. I think every family should have a Kulkul day in the week prior to Christmas day. Below, the Kulkuls are ready for frying in a home somewhere in Melbourne!
The Kullkulls were then deep fried to a golden brown and allowed to drain. The next day it would be dipped into a very light sugar syrup and allowed to dry. The Kulkuls can then be stored in empty biscuit tins or other tins stored away for these Xmas treats. My Mum said it could be stored for months.
With so many cooking shows on TV these days, this is one easy way to bond with your kids and set them off on a cooking adventure. It is fun to cook and spread the joy around.
Merry Christmas to all of you. Stay safe during the season.
Kulkuls in the photo made by Mary Peterson