There are many Sri Lankan “sweets” that really should be called Sri Lankan savouries. I can think of many that are sweet and spicy with a heavy emphasis on the spice. Cookies, sweet, fried batters and cakes are all balanced with ground spices when it comes to their traditional treats. Some, honestly, have so much spice that I’m still acquiring a taste for them, but I absolutely love the hit of cardamom in aluwa. The texture too, is something quite unique. The rice flour creates a structured base but one that’s airy like good shortbread. It’s a sophisticated bite that would be perfect on a holiday sweets table or to serve with tea year-round. That diamond-shaped contraption is an actual aluwa press, which my cousins in Sri Lanka gave to my aunt who lent it to me. Unless you have that kind of a hookup, no one expects yours to look like this. Press the dough into a level square and take your favourite cookie cutter to the thing.
1 1/2 c kithul treacle (or palm or coconut treacle)
275 g rice flour
1/4 c raw cashew nuts, powdered in a food processor
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp kosher salt
Bring the treacle to a boil in a medium saucepan (large enough to serve later as a mixing bowl), stirring. When it starts to froth, remove from heat and set aside to cool for ten minutes. Do not leave it to cool for much longer as it will become hard.
Meanwhile, roast the flour in a saucepan on medium heat, stirring frequently, until smoking and light brown in colour. If using a gas stove, drop a pinch of flour onto the flame from high and it should spark or light if it’s done toasting. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
Set aside 2 tablespoons each of rice flour and treacle, separately.
Add the cashew nut and cardamom powders to the large portion of rice flour and mix to combine. Gradually add this mixture to the treacle in the saucepan and stir well. When fully incorporated into a dough, turn it out onto a board dusted with some of the reserved rice flour. Press out into a 1/2-inch thick square and cut into 12 diamond shapes, or if you have an aluwa mould or other mould, flour it and press some dough into the mould, set and release with a knife or push the shape out with your fingers. Use a floured cookie cutter in the absence of a mould. If the dough gets very dry before you finish working with it, add a little of the reserved treacle to it and mix well to moisten. Coat each piece in a little of the reserved rice flour, or a lot if preferred.