The forgotten Christmas pudding
Nothing makes a better end to a Christmas dinner than a rich, dense Christmas pudding. Home chef Rhea Mitra Dalal is keeping the steam and spirit alive
On Belvedere Road in Mazagaon, we look for a signboard for Katy's Kitchen. We're told they make the best Christmas pudding in town. Minutes later, we are escorted by a staffer to an old, one-storied building. Walking up its high stairs, a toasty, intoxicating fragrance of goodness simmering on a warm afternoon engulfs us. Home chef Rhea Mitra Dalal welcomes us into what looks like a one-room kholi, lined with old trunks, vintage chairs, white tables, large degs or aluminium pots and intricate railings of windows from a long, long forgotten Bombay.
Dalal's love affair and entrepreneurial association with food started in 2000, when she married into a Parsi family that had an established catering business. In 1976, Dalal's mother-in-law, famed cook and archaeologist Katy Dalal had started a catering service from her home in Fort and expanded it into one of the best in the business. "She was happy to have me join in, bring new ideas to the table and be a helping hand. When she passed away 10 years ago, I changed the name from Dalal Enterprises to Katy's Kitchen in her honour. Most of our staff is trained by her," says Dalal.
Katy had travelled the world with her shippy husband, being adventurous with food and experimenting with local delicacies. One such find was the Christmas pudding they tried in England. The taste had stayed with Katy for long after and she recreated the recipe, referring to a couple of books. Eventually, she started making it for family and friends, and later, clients. "She was very confident of her recipe and the result had been consistently good; so, we took the plunge. Even today, making Christmas pudding is my most precious activity in the year. I feel I am carrying her recipe forward, hence the name Katy's Christmas pudding. She may not have invented it, but she did things her way."
The preparations start a year in advance, when Dalal soaks raisins, fruits and spices in brandy and rum for the next December's batch. "I find it amusing how it has become a trend for five-star hotels to organise the annual cake-mixing ceremony one month before Christmas. The fruits need to be soaked for long for the flavours to develop. One year, when we couldn't make puddings, and the fruits kept soaking until we made a batch the following year; the clients had loved it the most. So last year onwards, we started to make an extra batch that would be used two years later," says Dalal.
When the fruit is drained, the Dalals retain the beautifully flavoured mother liquid that keeps maturing over the years. The soaked fruit is well-drained and added to the final mix of flour, almond flour, sugar, jaggery, butter, eggs, apples and vegetables to achieve a multi-layered taste. It is packed densely in a mould, sealed and steamed for around six hours to be thoroughly cooked through. "The pudding is thick and because it is in a sealed container, steam doesn't get in easily. It has to heat uniformly and cook through the middle," says Dalal.
The first batch of Katy's Christmas puddings are steamed by December 1 so that they can be couriered to the outstation clients. "What's Christmas without a Christmas pudding after all," smiles Dalal. "These can be had immediately or when well-sealed and refrigerated, even after a year," she adds.
Rhea Mitra Dalal mixes and steams portions of Katy's Christmas pudding made with fruits soaked in alcohol for over a year at her Belvedere Road kitchen. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
Number of hours it takes for the pudding to cook through
Pudding V/S cake
Puddings don't have the bulk of the flour, nor are there leavening and rising agents. Its density comes from being packed with rich ingredients like almond flour, apples and vegetables. Also, since it is steamed, not baked, the balance is different, as is the texture. The pudding won't rise more than half a centimetre.
Katy's Christmas pudding is priced at Rs 1,700 (large), R900 (medium), and available on order Call/WhatsApp 9820904694
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