‘Tis the Season to be Jolly!

Try visualizing a decorated pine-tree with presents lying underneath, a fireplace with stockings all over it and a really really old man dressed in red, clanging a big bell and crying out “Ho-ho-ho”. It isn’t too hard to guess that I’m talking about Christmas, the most anticipated and widely celebrated holiday among the Christian community. The big day is just around the corner and even though I don’t celebrate it, I appreciate the values it represents. It’s not just about giving out expensive gifts to your loved ones; it’s about sharing and caring for people who do not have the luxuries some of us have. For those who don’t understand the true spirit of Christmas, it’s just another uneventful day in the calendar.

Having lived outside of Pakistan for quite some time, I have had the chance to witness some really great Christmases. It’s always the same:

  • the adults constantly complaining about being short of cash during the last days of this season and maxing out all their credit cards
  • the children writing their innocent little letters to Santa and praying it won’t be too difficult for the man from the North Pole to give them all what they have requested (ergo, the broke Dad)
  • the malls setting up exciting discounts to clean out all their low-selling items and slightly perking up the prices on their best-sellers

Although I have never really attended a Christmas party, I know that home-cooked food plays a vital role in this celebration. A simple batch of customized sugar cookies is sure to perk up the mood in your household. The Royal icing recipe included in this post is quite simple, stays firm and will let you create elegant, colorful, matt-finish designs on the cookies. So get right into the kitchen with your kids and start baking!

Recipe: Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Ingredients for Cookies

  • 1¾ cup flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ½ cup (115 gm) unsalted butter [at room temperature]
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract/essence

Method for Cookies

  1. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside
  2. In another bowl, beat the butter and sugar using an electric beater until light and fluffy (for roughly 3 minutes)
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla essence to the butter mix until combined
  4. Now add the flour mix to the butter mix and beat until you have a smooth dough
  5. Put the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour or until it is hard enough to roll
  6. Pre-heat oven to 180º C and lightly grease two non-stick baking sheets
  7. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to an even thickness of about ¼ inch; keep picking up the rolled dough so that it doesn’t stick on the surface
  8. Cut out the cookies using your favorite shapes and put them on the baking sheet
  9. Put the baking sheets with the cookies in the fridge for about 15 minutes to cool the dough, preventing the cookies to spread out and lose their shape during baking
  10. Bake these for about 10 minutes or until the edges start to turn brown
  11. Remove from oven and let the cookies cool to room temperature on the baking sheet

Ingredients for Royal Icing

  • 2¾ cups icing/confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2tsp lemon juice
  • Food colors

Method for Royal Icing

  1. Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined
  2. Sift the sugar to remove lumps and add to the  egg mix
  3. Beat on low setting using an electric beater until nice and smooth
  4. Put in separate bowls and add food colors to them. NOTE: this icing starts hardening very quickly so keep it in an airtight container or covered with plastic wrap when not in use
  5. Fill a piping bag with the icing and make your desired designs on the cookies

Ghanwlas (A Pakistani version of pancakes with a twist)

My mother has been making these for as long as I can remember and they are absolutely amazing. This flour-egg-based concoction is ideal to satisfy your sweet-tooth during Ramadan, especially at the time of breaking your fast. This family secret that has been passed on from generation to generation is now being presented for your eating pleasure by yours truly.


For Batter:

  • 1 liter Milk
  • ¾ cup Sugar
  • 6 Eggs
  • 6 tbsp Flour
  • 3 tbsp Condensed milk
  • ¼ tsp Rose Essence (you can use vanilla or any other flavor instead)
  • Few drops Yellow food color
  • Few strands of Saffron
  • Oil or Ghee (Vegetable shortening) for cooking

For Filling (optional):

  • Fruit Jam
  • Chocolate – coarsely chopped
  • Candy – cut in small chunks



  1. Put milk, sugar, condensed milk and saffron in a pan, and cook on a low flame until the entire mixture reduces to about 75% of the original quantity
  2. While the milk mixture is cooling, beat all eggs with a whisk and gradually add 5 tbsp flour; make sure that the consistency of the eggs remains liquid-like (if you think the consistency is too thin, you can add up to one more tbsp of flour)
  3. Mix in the food color and the rose essence in the egg mixture
  4. Once the milk mixture has cooled down to room temperature, add in the egg mixture with a whisk
  5. You need to keep this mixture in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours so prepare it well in advance

Cooking (see video for details)

  1. Take a non-stick pan and put it on low-medium flame
  2. Once hot, add some oil or ghee and grease the pan
  3. Add 1/3 cup of the mixture into the pan and spread it evenly; if you miss out any spots, add some mixture just to fill up the holes
  4. Add a few drops of oil or ghee around the pan so that the ghanwla can easily be removed
  5. After about 10 seconds or so, start folding the ghanwla with a flat-ended spoon
  6. This step is optional – once you have folded half of the ghanwla, add the filling of your choice (Kitkat and Bounty are personal favourites)
  7. Fold the rest of the ghanwla and dish it out on a platter
  8. Enjoy while hot!