Natilla is a rich, flan-like pudding that is enjoyed during Christmas in Colombia. There are many variations of the pudding throughout the country. Natilla is similar to custard, but it is thickened with corn flour, and often made with panela, a dark molasses-like sugar that is a by-product of sugarcane processing. It is sweet, thick, and comforting. Serve natilla this Christmas for a taste of Colombia straight from your own kitchen!
Grandma’s special recipe for the tasty Christmas dessert was once passed down from generation to generation. Today, a lot has changed and families with little time on their hands often take the easy option by buying the standard packet mix that has invaded the supermarket. Those who choose the artificial mix are missing the essence and ritual of this traditional Colombian sweet. Not so long ago, the whole family was involved in making natilla and every family had their unique ingredient or particular twist on the recipe. Trays of natilla were regularly shared around the family – and if there were any leftovers then there would be a knock at the neighbour’s door. Ask any adult for their childhood memories at Christmas time and they would certainly mention the treat of devouring excess natilla that they had scraped from the bottom of the pan. Natilla is eaten by everyone, from the President at his table in the Palacio Nariño to locals buying it from Xmas kiosks and eating it on the go in the streets. In Colombia, Christmas simply wouldn’t be Navidad without natilla!
So, if you’re bored with the typical stodgy Christmas pudding back home, then why not try making this lighter Colombian-style Christmas dessert! It’s really easy to make and we’ll tell you how to do it, just the way Grandma used to make it….
Natilla Colombian Pudding (6-8 servings)
1 litre whole milk
8 heaped tablespoons corn flour
½ cup sugar
½ cup condensed milk
4-5 cinnamon sticks
Pinch of salt
1. In a beaker of cold milk add the corn flour a spoonful at a time and stir or whisk in until it has dissolved with no lumps. Leave to the side.
2. In a saucepan, heat the rest of the milk and add to it the cloves, cinnamon, sugar, condensed milk and a pinch of salt. When the milk starts to simmer, start pouring in the milk and corn flour that you set aside while stirring continuously.
3. Heat on a low heat at just under a simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring constantly until the mixture has thickened. Don’t let the mixture clump or burn at the bottom. You’ll know the mixture is ready when you scrape a spatula along the bottom of the pan and you see the bottom for several seconds before the mixture closes in on itself.
4. Remove from heat and take out the cinnamon sticks and cloves. Pour the mixture into a greased Pyrex dish and shake it to level the mixture. Lightly dust the natilla with cinnamon powder. Leave it to set and cool for an hour.
5. Cut in to slices and serve at cold with blackberry sauce.
Natilla is traditionally served with round deep-fried cheese fritters, similar to doughnuts, called buñuelos. Some recipes intensify the dessert with a dash of aguardiente to give it an extra kick – if you can’t find Colombian aguardiente then a splash of rum or brandy would suffice. Other variations of the recipe add freshly shredded coconut or replace the sugar with arequipe, a type of local caramel. You could also try adding chocolate chips to the mix.
Wherever you are we hope you give natilla a try this Christmas!
A Very Merry Christmas from the Uncover Colombia Team!!!