December! The most magical time of the year! Regardless of how the weather is, December is still all about comfort food and fine desserts. Christmas is the time to go all out when it comes to the spread. Warm home cooked meals are the best part of the holiday season. Some of the best memories of perfect home cooked meals are often not all about the dish itself, but the sentiments associated with the meal and the company. Whether it is about baking a three layer cake or about outdoor charcoal grilling, it’s more about laughing and sharing food with dear and near ones.
Most often the foods that we grew up eating always taste better. It doesn’t matter whether those meals were lavish or simple. It’s the familiarity that makes it much more comforting. These are the comfort foods that we crave when festival mood strikes.

However, in today’s scenario, when we live in a health-conscious society, family recipes that have survived for generations are slowly being replaced with versions that are milder. I have to admit – though these holiday meals feature delicious dishes, many of the items are not necessarily the healthiest options. So, here I have created healthy versions of beloved holiday dishes.

Christmas Fruit Cake Indian-Style

Fruit Cake, Holiday Cooking

1 teaspoon each chopped dates, prunes, cherries, apricots, golden raisins, dark raisins, craisins and tutti frutti
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick butter (unsalted, softened)
4 large eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 teaspoons caramelized sugar zest of 1 large orange
150 ml fresh orange juice
150 ml gold rum
150 gms almonds, pecans and cashews, sliced and chopped
1 teaspoon each cinnamon powder, nutmeg powder, and allspice
1 teaspoon each baking powder and baking soda
a pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon black cumin
10 cloves
butter for smearing or butter paper
1. Day 1—Soak all the nuts and dry fruits in rum for about 24 hours.
2. Day 2—prepare caramelized sugar. Take two teaspoons of sugar and add a tablespoon of water and when the mixture is saturated, add some lemon juice. Set this aside.
3. Bring softened butter and sugar together, and beat until it is smooth.  Add eggs and whisk to peaks. Add caramelized sugar, flour and spice powders to it. Mix well.
4. Add the well-soaked nuts and fruits to it. Now, if you have any further liquid left in your bowl, please discard.
5. Smear butter in the cake pan and pour the batter in it. Bake for about 45 minutes over 350°F, preferably in the middle rack. Then, use a tiny toothpick to check if it is thoroughly done in the middle.
6. Give it some resting time (about five minutes) and serve.

Vegan Buffalo Wings


1 bag button mushrooms
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼  tsp paprika powder
¼  tsp cayenne powder
salt to taste
oil for deep frying
¼ cup Louisiana hot sauce

Mix flour, salt, paprika and cayenne pepper together. Place mushrooms in a wide nonporous dish and sprinkle this mixture over them until it’s uniformly covered. Cover the dish and refrigerate for about an hour.

Heat up the griddle and add oil. Once the oil is smoky hot, fry these mushrooms till reddish brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat up a sauce pan, add hot sauce to it and toss the fried mushrooms in it. Let the sauce get well-coated to all the sides. Serve them in a serving bowl as an appetizer.

Vegan Fried Fish


1 cup cow peas (thuvar lilva) salt to taste
1 inch ginger root
2 garlic cloves
3 dry red chilies
few curry leaves
1 tsp fennel seeds
oil for shallow frying
salt to taste

Things needed:
plantain leaves
skewer sticks
steam cooker
Soak the lentils for about two to three hours and wet grind the same. Blend fennel seeds, salt, dry red chilies, curry leaves, ginger and garlic together coarsely. Now, mix this to the wet-ground lentil’s paste. Divide them into equal parts and set aside.

Now, clean the plantain leaf and place a skewer in the middle. Place one portion of the heavy lentil’s batter on the skewer-plantain set up. Shape them up into a fish. Remove from the leaf and place them in steam cooker. Repeat the same for the remaining batter.
Steam cook these fish shaped fritters for about 10-12 minutes. Bring this down to room temperature.
Heat the griddle, and add oil. When the oil is smoky hot, fry these steamed fritters till golden to reddish brown.  Serve as a side dish to go with Indian meals.  n


Butter Biscuits
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick butter
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
pinch of salt

Mix salt, sugar and butter together. Add the flour to it and knead into smooth dough. Divide them into equal parts.

Use a cookie cutter or shape them up like a disc. Then, make small holes with a fork. And, spread these cookies on a butter paper.

Bake for about twenty minutes over 350 degrees. Store them in air tight jars and serve with evening tea or coffee.

Malar Gandhi is a freelance writer who specializes in culinary anthropology and gourmet Indian cooking. She blogs at