Vattalappam

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Traditionally a Tamil Muslim dish, vattalappam (or watalappan in Sinhala) is an iconic Sri Lankan dessert, similar to a steamed custard pudding, but made from jaggery, coconut milk and cardamom. When Fareena took the vattalappam out of the steamer and sprinkled over the cashews and raisins that had been fried in ghee, I had to control myself from not picking up a spoon and sneaking a taste. When I made this at home, I didn’t exercise such restraint!

Ingredients

  • 210 g ( oz/ cups) jaggery powder*
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 400 ml (14 fl oz) coconut cream*
  • 1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
  • 40 g ( oz/¼ cup) raw cashew nuts, chopped and fried in 1 tablespoon ghee until golden
  • tablespoons raisins

Method

Place the jaggery in a small heavy-based saucepan with 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) water and cook over low heat, stirring until the jaggery has dissolved. Set aside to cool a little.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs using an electric beater on low speed, then gradually beat in the cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and salt, followed by the coconut cream and vanilla; continue to beat for 2 minutes. Pour into a greased 1.25 litre (44 fl oz/5 cup) heatproof bowl, cover with foil and secure with a large rubber band or kitchen string.

Fill a large wok one-third full with water and place a bamboo steamer in the wok, making sure the base of the steamer isn’t touching the water. Bring the water to the boil, then place the bowl in the steamer and cover with the lid. Reduce to a simmer and steam the pudding for about 1 hour, or until set. Using a thick tea towel, carefully remove the bowl from the steamer. To test if the pudding is cooked, insert a knife into the centre — it should come out clean with no pudding sticking to it.

While hot, sprinkle with fried cashews and raisins. Although traditionally served cool (the pudding deflates a little as it cools), it is delicious served warm.