I should have been in bed hours ago. We’d put in an early night and I had already got a jumpstart on the following day’s routine. So there was a slim chance that I might be able to keep my daily promise to get some exercise in the morning. Yet, here I sit nursing the remnants of a subsiding cold, and juggling ideas on how best to introduce this slab of dense, black, sticky sweetness you see here in the pictures.
It has to involve eloquence befitting the richness of both its heritage and plain finger-licking goodness. I’m stuck, so guess we’ll move along with introductions. This wedge of cloying, ghee-sweating indulgence, my friends is Doldol; that quintessentially Anglo-Indian dessert and star favourite around the holidays. It is the definitive culinary marker of Anglo Indian confectionery coming in second only to another traditional classic – Christmas plum or dark fruit cake.
This is the bête noir of all Anglo Indian sweets. Well, at least I call it that. The recipe is a well-guarded secret in Anglo Indian circles, with every variation asserting it holds the closet claim to authenticity. But, we’ll make an exception and you’ll find the recipe somewhere here in the mix.
As you can see from the pictures, this is not fare for the faint hearted. That glossy sheen you see over it is not just the flash from the camera. It is ghee; loads and loads of it that dictate and determine every step of the making process. Together with sugar, coconut milk, cashews (yes we must have nuts with the highest triglyceride index!) and ground black rice, it makes for one helluva coma-inducing confection. Seriously, one piece and you’ll be passed out!
So, yeah, crazy of me to think that a dessert of such artery clogging proportions could be delivered in a neat little package of perfect phraseology!
It’s funny how, today, I am catagorising ‘Doldol’ (God, I’m still cringing at that word) among the family’s heirloom recipes, when back in the day, I would do anything to distance myself from any association with the word. Yes, I was ashamed to say ‘Doldol’ (cough, cringe, cringe…). Though, I would secretly indulge myself with gloopy mouthfuls of its comforting sweetness.
I remember well, when, at school, we were invited to share post-holiday treats; I would vigilantly supervise the packing of my lunch box to ensure that ‘Doldol’ didn’t make its way into the mix. And especially, when you are a bucktoothed, gangly teenager like I was, a sweet with a name like this would only earn you extra time in solitary. Yeah, high school was pretty much the same then as it is today – little discernment and no tolerance for great tasting food with weird names.
So rather than open up my treat box to expressions of disdainful bewilderment and suspicious curiosity, I chose to win my classmates over with familiar sights from the holiday table. The added bonus of not being “that girl with some funny sounding black sweet” was sufficient encouragement as well. Yeah, did I mention, I was no Miss Congeniality in High School? Well now you know.
So, there’s a little bit of history for you to chew on. Back to the topic for the day. Well, there’s not much else to say, except look back on the memories and celebrative togetherness that the making of it helped create. Really, that’s what the holidays are about, right? Especially, in my childhood home where stress levels boiled over during any kind of holiday cooking/baking these ‘moments’ were fire-branded into memory.
I can still hear daddy barking out orders to mum as he, sweating over a hot stove, vigorously stirred the Doldol mixture in a large, wide pot. The two formed the perfect tag team and followed very strict division of labor in the holiday kitchen. Dad did the heavy lifting and growled out commands to the munchkin minions (brother and I) and mum was his handy helper. She ticked ingredients off lists, greased and lined baking pans and in, short, was the prep and prime party around the holidays.
They keep up the tradition till today, with a steady exchange of friendly fire, regularly and not just around the holidays. Anyway, I am going off topic again. We kids didn’t mind all the heated commotion and teeth-clenched cussing (what? The holidays are stressful), as long as we got to lick the cake basins clean and clear sticky remnants from the Doldol tray (yikes! There’s that word again).
Strangely enough, I have never made Doldol. Don’t ask me why ‘cause you’ll probably get some elaborate explanation about how I prefer the more intricate and challenging pursuit of baking. I seriously do love baking, though. Anyway I do plan on making Doldol myself one of these days. I was all set for it during Christmas time only to find that the black rice I bought last year turned into a powdery, insect infested mess. So, it’s back on the back burner again. For this time around too I am relying on Dad’s tried and tested Doldol making skills.