My mother is a natural cook. She only ever used a written recipe when she baked and she used to bake a lot!! Like all natural-born cooks, she would adapt recipes and this one of those. Her inspiration is from the Ceylon Daily News Cookery Book. This daily newspaper publishes a weekly recipe which was then complied into a book. The latest publication of this book that I have is 2013 and the Christmas cake recipe has remained the same for over 50 years!
My mother’s recipe has kept true to a lot of traditional ingredients; preserved pumpkin and chow-chow (chayote). She has also certainly brought in other influences; glace cherries, freshly milled spices and the amount of brandy used are above the scripted levels!!
There are a few stages to making the Christmas cake and it starts months in advance. All of the preserves are made a few weeks before. At about this time of the year, all the dried fruits, nuts, preserves, and peels are cut and liberally soaked in brandy.
Inhale the brandy and the fruity nectar; it’s going to be an aroma that permeates every atom in your home
230g/ ½ lb ginger preserve
450g/ 1lb raisins, chopped
450g/ 1lb sultanas, chopped
230g/ ½ lb currants, chopped
230g/ ½ lb dates, chopped
230g/ ½ lb chow-chow preserve, chopped
230g/ ½ lb pumpkin preserve (aka ash gourd, white pumpkin or winter melon), chopped
230g/ ½ lb mixed candied peel, chopped
230g/ ½ lb glace cherries, chopped
230g/ ½ lb cashew nuts, chopped
1 teaspoon cardamom, freshly ground
1 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground
1 teaspoon cloves, freshly ground
1 teaspoon ground ginger
200ml brandy, hold onto that bottle you will need it in a few days!
This will take a while to do, so switch on the radio/podcast/music and let the chopping begin!
Place the chopped fruits, nuts, and preserves into a large bowl, add the spices, brandy, rosewater and honey and stir. Make sure all of it is well combine and coated in the brandy.
Seal in an airtight container and leave in a cool dark place.
We will come back to this in a few days, all good things take a wee bit of time…