I am Goan but I didn’t grow up in Goa. I spent my life in Nagpur before moving to Mumbai about five years ago. Growing up, Christmas meant holidays from school and week-long celebrations. We had a club in the neighbourhood for Catholic families. We would begin celebrating a week before the festival, with activities for children like talent competitions, treasure hunt and dances. It’s a tradition that has continued.
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Christmas, however, was incomplete without guava cheese. This Christmas sweet, made using soft guavas and sugar, was a big part of our celebrations. My mother would prepare 25-30 kgs of it every Christmas. Some of it was consumed during the festival, some shared with neighbours and friends but a chunk was reserved for relatives who would fly in from other countries for Christmas. For instance, my aunt who would visit from London would take a kilo of guava cheese with her so that she could have it through the year. It’s a practice I have continued, although I don’t make more than five kgs.
Marzipan, guava cheese and milk cream are standard Christmas specials. But one sweet that I have never had after my grandmother passed away, is sugar and tender coconut. There were some years when we visited my grandma in Goa for Christmas. She would prepare this seemingly simple sweet — very fine slices of tender coconut topped with sugar. It was bliss, the sight and the flavour of the sweet. White slices of tender coconut were laid out on white parchment paper and topped with sugar. They were so delicate and delicious. I haven’t seen snow, but that’s the closest I felt I came to celebrating a white Christmas.
Soft guavas 1 kg
Sugar (depends on how much
pulp you get out of the guavas)
Ghee 2-3 tbsp
- Cut the guavas into quarters, boil and remove the seeds.
- Blend the guava pieces into a smooth pulp in your food processor.
- Measure how many cups of pulp you have.
- Put the pulp into a large, flat, heavy-bottomed dish on medium flame.
- Add sugar— it should be one cup less than the number of cups of guava pulp.
- Put ghee after the colour of the mixture changes.
- Cook, stirring frequently, till it becomes hard to stir and the guava cheese begins to come away from the sides of the pan.
- Grease a platter and spoon guava cheese onto it. Spread into a thick layer.
- Allow it to cool a little and while it is still warm cut into shapes of your liking.
- When completely cooled, store in an air-tight container.
As told to Dipti Nagpaul-D’Souza