My husband and sister-in-law had gone to visit Mrs Baker on a Christmas Eve several years back. A bunch of yellow chrysanthemums and a Nahoums plum cake that she so adored in tow.
The ancient doorbell, beside that rickety time-battered letterbox, it’s door carelessly ajar, and that nameplate that had long lost its shine, you had to strain your optic nerves to even read the name, took minutes to answer. Anxious minutes.
And finally she opened the door.
Mrs. Baker. The first teacher that my husband and sister-in-law had been lucky, as they unabashedly admit, to be blessed with.
Age had caught up on her. She was stooped. And no, she could not recognise them. Despite their feverish endeavors.
Yet that sparkle in her eyes hidden behind those thick glasses and that naughty grin on her now wrinkled face were just the same. And palpable was her happiness. Happiness that old students, who cares if she could not recollect their names, had remembered her.
They sat in silence.
Fleeting memories. Nostalgia. Of decades gone by.
My niece wanted me to go over to Australia with her. She said, breaking the silence. With a disdainful scowl. But this is my city. My people. Can I ever leave them ?
Tears rolled down her cheeks.
Take care children. Do come again. God bless. Her frail voice rang. As they stood to take leave.
I had a ball of a time cooking Anglo-Indian cuisine over the last fortnight. Cuisine representing a community so full of life. Selfless in their service to the community and society. Feisty and fiercely independent. Who despite their ups and downs, triumphs and tribulations, have made the city their very own.
And I end my sojourn here with a Christmas pudding. Speckled with raisins and sultanas. Perfumed with ginger and citrus. Flambed with vodka.
What’s a Christmas, as Mrs Baker would chuckle, without a Christmas pudding ? Steamed. Not baked. As she would assert.
Christmas Pudding, the Anglo Indian Way
- 50 g sultanas
- 50 g dried apricots chopped finely
- 50 g dried prunes chopped finely
- 50 g dried cranberries
- 50 g dates chopped finely
- 50 g plain flour
- 50 g breadcrumbs
- 75 g butter brought to room temperature
- 75 g brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 apple peeled and grated
- 1 small carrot peeled and grated
- 40 ml orange juice
- 1 tsp orange zest
- 2 tsp ginger freshly grated
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tbsp honey
- 75 ml spiced rum for cooking
- 100 ml vodka to flame the pudding
- 200 ml spiced rum for soaking the dry fruits
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon for adding to the spiced rum
- 1 tsp ground star anise for adding to the spiced rum
- Add 1 tsp each of ground cinnamon and star anise to 200 ml spiced rum. Soak the sultanas, dried apricots, dried prunes, dried cranberries and dates in the rum at least 1 week ahead of preparing the Christmas Pudding. Store in an air-tight container. (The longer you get to soak the fruits in the liquor, the merrier it is :))
- Add the plain flour, breadcrumbs, ground cinnamon and cloves and baking powder to a large mixing bowl.
- In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and butter till light and fluffy.
- Add the flour-breadcrumbs mixture to the batter above. Mix well. Ensure there are no lumps.
- Add the grated apple, grated carrot, dry fruits and soaking liquour, mix well.
- Finally stir in the grated ginger and orange zest. Pour the orange juice and 100 ml of spiced rum. Give it a good mix.
- Gently pour the pudding batter to a bowl. Cover tightly with a lid. As an extra precaution, further cover the bowl with an aluminum foil to make it water-tight. You would want to take extra care that the water bubbling away in the steamer doesn't make its way to the bowl and ruin the pudding.
- Steam the pudding for 6 hours. Ensure you keep replenishing the water in the steamer.
- Allow the pudding to cool. Demould from the bowl onto a serving plate.
- Carefully pour the vodka over the pudding and light it.
- Watch the video at the end of the post. Blue flames dancing in merriment around the pudding as I flambe mine. Serve immediately.