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South Indian Christmas Recipes from Goa Plus Recipe for Christmas Cake With Almond Paste Base

Updated on July 18, 2011

As a first generation Canadian of South Indian and Scots-English descent, my Christmas traditions and recipes have evolved over the past four decades as I draw on the heritage of my parents' backgrounds and my home country. My mother is from Goa, a former Portuguese colony in Southwest India. The population is largely Catholic,and the culture a curious mixture of Portuguese and Indian with a strong dose of British influence. Christmas is considered an important holiday festival, and celebrations involve church, food, and family. Here are three Goan Christmas recipes that my mother and grandmother use, plus a recipe for Christmas Cake that my great-grandmother (Nana) used. I have copied it directly from her handwritten recipe notebook, where she began recording her favourite recipes in 1944 when she learned that her daughter (my grandmother) was pregnant (with my mom). The pages are brittle and the words are faded, but legible, and I will pass the notebook and all the recipes on to my daughter so a fifth generation can carry on the traditions and make the recipes their own.


Where in the World is Goa?

Goa, India

get directions




1 kg of poneless pork plus kidneys, liver, and tongue totalling another kg.

(I use 2 kg of boneless pork to avoid mutinous teenage behaviour at Christmas dinner)

About 3 cups of water

22 kashmir chillis with seeds

2 one inch pieces of fresh ginger

10 cloves of garlic

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp tumeric powder

2 tsps mustard seeds

10 cloves

2 cinnamon sticks

2 generous teaspoons of tamarind

about 1/3 cup of vinegar

7 large onions, chopped

about 1/2 cup of canola oil (the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup of butter)


Brown onions in a quarter cup of oil in a large saucepan. Chop meat into bite sized pieces. Add remaining oil and meat to onions.

Mix the spices and vinegar so they are ground together well. My mom uses a hand grinder for the spices, then adds the vinegar, but I prefer to use a blender. Note: This is a MASALA spice mixture and can be bought ready-made at an Asian supermarket or in the ethnic foods aisle of your grocery store).

Add the masala to the meat mixture. Stir for about three minutes, then add the water. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 40 to 45 minutes. It should thicken to a stew-like consistency. Like North American stews, it tastes better after a couple of days and is a perfect make-ahead main dish for Christmas. Soak it up with some yummy Sannas.



Sannas always seemed bland and tasteless to me as a child, but they are the perfect accompaniment to Spicy Sorpatel at Christmas Dinner.


1 cup semolina

1 cup of all-purpose flour, sifted

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tsp quick rise yeast (NOT bread machine yeast)

1 tsp sugar

pinch of salt

water for mixing

Optional: 1/3 cup of finely grated fresh coconut.


Dilute sugar in 1 tbsp of room temperature water in a large non metal mixing bowl. Add yeast.

Gently stir in semolina and flour. Add enough water to make the batter the consistency of pancake batter. Cover with a clean tea towel and let it rise for one hour. I usually put it in my cold oven.

To cook the sannas, I find it easiest to use my nonstick frying pan. Use a large dessert spoon, spoon onto warm 375 degree griddle **do not use oil or butter** and cover for about 10 minutes. This will steam the sannas. Serve immediately with Sorpatel.

How to Shape Kul-Kuls





1 cup semolina

1 cup white flour

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup powdered sugar

10 ounce can coconut milk

1/4 tsp baking powder

canola oil for frying


Sift flour and baking powder in a large bowl. Rub in butter, then gently mix in semolina, sugar, and milk. Knead dough gently for about three minutes, then cover and set aside in bowl for 2 hours. Knead again until the dough feels soft. Tear off a tiny piece of dough, and press it onto the tines of a greased dessert fork. Roll into a shell-like curl (see photo). Place on a baking sheet and cover with a damp cloth so the kul-kuls don't dry out.

Fill a deep frying pan about 1/2 full of oil. Deep fry the kul-kuls on medium heat until they are lightly browned. Cool on a paper-towel lined baking sheet. Sprinkle icing sugar over tops, or keep plain. Store in a cookie tin with a tight fitting lid for up to two weeks.



Ingredients for the Cake:

7 oz flour and 1/2 level teaspoon baking powder OR 9 oz self raising flour

6 oz sugar

5 oz butter

1/2 lb currants

1/2 lb sultanas

2 oz candied peel

2 oz glacee cherries

3 eggs

3 dessertsp cold strong coffee

Strawberry or Raspberry Jam (for assembling the cake)

For The Almond Paste

3/4 lb icing sugar

1/2 lb ground almonds

2 egg yolks

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla or orange flavouring

For The Icing

1 lb icing sugar

Whites of 2 eggs

1/2 to 1 tbsp of strained orange juice

1 angel cake tin needed (I use a bundt pan)


Wash, cull, and dry currants and sultanas. Cut up cherries and shred peel. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs separately stirring each one in quickly and beating well. Sift flour with baking powder, and mix with the prepared fruit. When all the eggs have been added to the butter and sugar, stir in flour and fruit gradually. Mix all ingredients together lightly moistening with the cold coffee. Turn mixture into the well greased cake pan. Fill only to 2/3 of its capacity. Put cake in a very moderate oven to bake for one and 1/4 hours. ( I use 350 degrees) Remove from pan and et it cool on a rack.

To Make Almond Paste

Sift icing sugar, and mix with the ground almonds. Beat the whole egg and yolks together (except 2 whites for the icing). Mix the sugar and almonds to a stiff paste with the beaten egg. Add flavouring to taste. If you like, a little coffee essence may be added. Divide the almond paste into two portions and roll out one to a round shape.  Dusting the board with sugar to prevent sticking, cut the paste a little larger than the cake. Place this round on the cake board. Once cake has cooled brush the base of the cake with jam or jelly and lightly lay on paste pressing lightly. (I use raspberry jam on the top of the cake and then invert it quickly onto the almond paste layer) Form remaining portion of paste into a smooth fat roll and fill centre of cake with it. Flute edges of almond paste stand to decorate and prick centre paste roll with a skewer.

To Make the White Icing

Rub the sugar through a sieve.  Whisk up the egg whites stiffly and stir theminto the sugar with enough orange juice to make a consistency that will hold its shape.  Beat the icing well till it is smooth.  Then spread roughly over the cake. Leave to set.  Decorate the cake with seasonal decorations using a little icing sugar to make them stick.


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    • Avamum profile imageAUTHOR

      Sarita Harbour 

      7 years ago from Yellowknife, Canada

      Thanks so much, oliversmum! I will be posting more recipes in the New Year.

    • oliversmum profile image


      7 years ago from australia

      Avamum. Hi. Goodness these Recipes look wonderful.

      Will be trying the Sannas and the Kul-Kuls they look and sound delicious.

      Thanks so much for sharing these Recipes with us. Merry Christmas from Australia. :) :)

    • Avamum profile imageAUTHOR

      Sarita Harbour 

      7 years ago from Yellowknife, Canada

      Thanks for stopping by, Rosie, and yes, I've tried them all. The sorpatel is spicy though - I had to tone it down a little!

      Merry Christmas to you as well.

    • Rosie2010 profile image

      Rosie Rose 

      7 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Hiya fellow Canadian, WOW! all genuine Goan Christmas recipes. Have you tried them all? They all look and sound delicious! I've tried kul-kuls from my friends.. they are delicious and couldn't stop eating them.

      Merry Christmas!



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