Watalappam: A Sweet Reward
This is one of my favorite desserts; as a kid I would finish all my chores and homework without any hesitation if I knew I would be getting one of my favorite desserts of all time. Watalappam is a coconut custard made with jaggery (palm sugar) topped with a few cashews. The dessert may originate with Sri Lankan Malays who came to the country during Dutch rule and is originally a Muslim dish especially popular during Ramadan, though still enjoyed year round.
One thing to keep in mind when making this dessert is to get good Jaggery, but it can be hard to find a good source. Jaggery comes in blocks. It should be very easy to cut, and should stick to the knife when you are breaking it apart.
- 500 grams of jaggery, finely chopped
- 12 eggs
- 27 ounces of coconut milk
- 5 green cardamom
- 3 cloves
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
- Cashews used as a topping
Preheat oven to 350 F
Start by beating the eggs, and adding the 27 ounces of coconut milk (I recommend using Chaokoh coconut milk, 2 cans) and whisk the two ingredients thoroughly.
Begin adding the chopped jaggery, roughly 150 grams at a time, while whisking it into the coconut milk and eggs.
Let that sit for a while, in the meantime grind the cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon into a fine powder (a coffee grinder should do the job). Add these spices along with the nutmeg powder into the rest of the dessert, and whisk again. Some of the jaggery might not have dissolved, but thats not a huge issue, you can always use a ladle to smash the jaggery at the bottom of the pot.
Grease an oven-friendly bowl with a little butter to help it the pudding un-mold when serving. Pour everything into the bowl. Sprinkle the cashew throughout the top - almost as a garnish. This dish needs to steam in the oven, so place the entire dish in a metal tray filled roughly a quarter full of water.
Let it cook in the oven for 40 minutes. To check if its ready, the custard should be risen a bit like bread and there should be cracks all around. If this isn't the case put it back in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes more.
Let it rest outside the oven while still sitting in the hot water for a couple of minutes. When the puffiness has gone down, take it out of the hot water and let it cool and then refrigerate. Cool it over night or give it 2 hours to chill.
Tip it over on a plate that you are going to serve it in, I like to add some crushed up cashews on top for decoration. Now all you have to do is enjoy this delicious dessert.