Mangalore has its own macaroon. It doesn't taste anything like what you would expect a conventional macaroon to taste like, but its a macaroon all the same. These Mangalorean macaroons are very similar to the German Wasp Nests that I made some time ago, and have the same texture and sweetness of those meringues, except that they are made with cashew nuts, rather than almonds. Pretty much every Mangalorean I know will instantly recall the taste (and price) of these macaroons, and remember them fondly. We used to buy them from Taj Mahal Sweets, and they were a delicious treat for special days.
My fondest memory of these macaroons is associated with my Aunt Kitty's visits. Aunt Kitty is a friend of my mum's, and she lives in a village outside Mangalore, where she's a teacher. She's a wonderful lady, who looked after me when I was a baby, and mum had to go back to work. She is a dedicated teacher, and everyone who knows her and works with her remembers her acerbic tongue, but at the same time, no one disputes her generous heart :-)
As kids, my sister and I loved it when Kitty Aunty (as we called her) came to visit, as we knew we were in for tons of treats. Aunty Kitty loved spoiling us, be it with ice creams from the famous Ideal's ice cream parlour in Mangalore or sweets from Taj Mahal or puffs from Venus Bakery. And of course, these macaroons, which she always loved to buy for us. Even when I was all grown up (some may dispute that fact, hehe) and heading to the UK, she tucked a small packet of these treats in my suitcase, so I wouldn't be deprived of them. I am lucky indeed to have such lovely aunties, and while I get to see them only rarely these days, I can never forget their huge influence on my life.
I was inspired to try and make my own macaroons, after my friend Shireen mentioned that my wasp nests were very similar to these Mangalorean macaroons that we grew up with. And the more I thought about it, the more I thought, why not? I mean, I have already tried to recreate some of the tastes of my childhood like Bebinca, so macaroons aren't that much of a challenge by any stretch of the imagination. And of course, with Christmas coming up, it's a perfect time to be baking up a storm anyway.
I mentioned in my first Christmas themed post, that I was looking to create a fusion of Indian/ Canadian and British Christmas traditions this year. And what better to start of with than these light, crisp and sweet bites with the crunch of cashew to remind me that I was, indeed, biting into one of my childhood favourites. I have no clue as to the origin of this Indian sweet. I can only imagine that they are an adapted version of meringues, but with the addition of Indian spices and cashew nuts. Mangalore produces and exports a fair amount of cashew nuts, so I think this was a sweet invented by their bakeries and subsequently popularised over the city.
I looked around for some recipes, and there weren't many out there. The ones that did exist, confirmed what I'd suspected, that these macaroons were pretty much meringues, made with egg white, sugar and a touch of cardamom powder and cashews.
So I decided to go my own way with these, and experimented a couple of times with different combinations of spices and nuts. I am sharing the recipe of the version I think comes closest to the taste of those Mangalorean macaroons. Of course, you can shake things up by changing the nuts and spices (cinnamon and pistachios, perhaps, or almonds and nutmeg, or coconut) but I wanted to keep things simple and reminiscent of my childhood.
I loved these macaroons, as did my family. This time round I was smarter, and I made sure that they got put away as soon as everyone had a taste. They are so deliciously moreish, that its way easy to forget the amount of sugar in them, so I was careful not to overload Aditi... the last thing I need is a sugared up little elf creating merry havoc in the house :-)
I hope you like these macaroons, and don't forget to let me know if you tried them and if you liked them. I enjoy hearing back from my readers, and its such a thrill when that happens. Until then, enjoy this super simple, but oh-so-yummy recipe.
2 egg whites
½ cup caster sugar (about 100 g) *see notes
¼ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp cardamom powder *see notes
¼ cup unsalted cashew nuts, coarsely chopped *see notes
Preheat oven to 140 C or 275 F.
In a clean, very dry bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are very stiff. My method of checking is to turn the bowl upside down, if the egg whites don't slide, they are done.
Little by little, add the sugar, beating well after each addition, until the sugar is all gone. I do it 2 tbsp at a time.
Beat in the vanilla and the cardamom powder.
Very gently, fold in the chopped cashew nuts.
Line a baking tray with some parchment paper (so the macaroons don't stick), and very carefully drop tablespoonfuls of the macaroon mixture on to it. Don't worry if they are all different shapes, but do try and make them evenly sized (otherwise, some will cook sooner than others)
Bake in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes, until crisp and a very light brown. Carefully, slide off the baking sheet, and leave to cool. *see notes
Macaroons cannot be frozen, but will keep well in an airtight tin for a couple weeks.
- Caster sugar is very fine sugar. I use the sugar labelled berry sugar here.
- To powder cardamom, take out the seeds of one green pod, then toast quickly in a hot pan for 30 seconds. Grind down to a powder using a mortar and pestle.
- I just chuck the cashews into a ziplock back, and give them a couple bashes with a rolling pin.
- Finally, the baking time given in this recipe will elicit a chewier macaroon. For a crisper version, bake for ten-ish more minutes, checking constantly on the macaroonx to make sure they don't burn.
Credit for inspiring these pictures goes to Melissa from Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach