We are Hindu and don’t celebrate Christmas. I have, however, spent a large part of my childhood and adulthood living in places where Christmas is celebrated. Now, my next door neighbour also celebrates Christmas and we look forward to the variety of food, cake and chocolates they always bring over.
Our daughter has this little tree (artificial) she loves to decorate and put up in our living room. In fact, for a long time she used to believe in Santa Claus and would be thrilled by the presents he brought for her. She used to be very worried that Santa would give her a miss as we didn’t have a chimney ( her books told her this was how he came) so I used to tell her he would come through the open window!
So, in tune with the spirit of the season, I thought I should do a post about some food typical of Christmas in Kerala.
Christmas in Kerala is celebrated as in other parts of the world, with families getting together and putting up Christmas cribs, attending special masses and eating good food. Christmas trees are not a tradition (probably because they don’t grow here) though stars are put up in Christian homes in December. While I am not sure about the details of the traditional fare served for Christmas, I know it is mostly non-vegetarian. Traditionally foods prepared for Christmas include plum or fruit cake, vattayappam, palappam, kozhalappam and achappam.
Of these, achappam is a favourite with us, whatever the season. “Achu” refers to the mould used to make this and “appam” is a general name for a batter, usually of rice flour, that is deep-fried or steamed.
One of my cookie books has a recipe for rosette cookies from Europe (made using a mould) which is made from all purpose flour and deep-fried. This might be the origin of the achappam. GIven the the Dutch and the Portuguese have influenced Christian cuisine in Kerala especially of those foods connected to important celebrations like Easter and Christmas, it is logical to assume that the Achappam in Kerala is an adpatation of the Dutch “Rose Koekje”
To make an achappam you need a special iron mould which is dipped in the batter and then lowered into the oil. The achappam leaves the mould and is fried till cooked. This technique is what has to be learnt. This comes only with practice. I should know. I finally got it right today. Earlier, the batter would stick to the mould and refuse to come off.
The best moulds are the ones made of iron (not stainless steel) and the heavier the mould the better.The moulds need to be seasoned by immersing them in oil in a wok and then heating them with the oil. Once the Achappam have been made, let the mould cool and then wash it well but without removing the oily completely.
Otherwise, make sure a very thin layer of oil is applied on it before you put it away. This ensures that the mould stays seasoned and also does not develop rust spots.
This video from a television show is a good demonstration of how Achappam is made in Kerala.