A sweeter match
Chefs are mixing and matching to turn out desserts that combine the best of the East and West, says Rahul Verma
Gajar halwa strudel
Some desserts are to die for. Bhapa doi — a Bengali sweet prepared with curd and milk — is one of them. The first time I ate it was when my mother-in-law cooked it for us, eons ago. I was completely wowed by the steamed dessert — light, mildly sweet and different.
Then last year I had a version of that at a new restaurant in Delhi which again floored me. This was a bhapa doi cheesecake that I ate at Caf Lota soon after it had opened at the Crafts Museum at Pragati Maidan. What was wonderful about the dessert was that it had given a traditional Bengali sweet a European touch. The result to my mind was a harmonious mix of this and that.
Rasmalai chocolate mousse
I am not one of those purists who baulk at fusion food, but I also believe that the mix and match has to be perfect. And I find that in desserts the combinations of the East and the West work rather well. If you check out on some desserts that Sujan Mukherjee, the executive chef at The Taj Bengal in Calcutta, has been working on, you'll know what I mean. On his list is a new version of sonpapri — he takes the flaky sweet and turns it into a sonpapri lemon curd millefeuille. And he bakes grated carrot into a gajar halwa strudel.
The chef explains that the trick lies in using mild flavours, which adapt well with Western desserts. "Fried or strong flavours may not work out," he says. "You have to keep the subtleties of Western desserts in mind."
I like his idea of a Rasmalai Chocolate Mousse. For this, cook chocolate (200g) and double cream (100ml) in a double boiler. When cool, mix this with whipped cream and then put it in a glass bowl with 20 pieces of rasmalai. Garnish with chocolate flakes, refrigerate for 20 minutes and then serve.
Sonpapri lemon curd millefeuille
"These (fusion) ideas come up when you are thinking of doing something new. For example, I thought of a kalakand and then thought I could merge it with a cheesecake — and the result was a Kalakand Rose Cheesecake," chef Muk-herjee says.
For 12 servings of this, you have to press a mix of cookie crumbs (250g) and butter (50g) to the bottom of an ungreased 9-in springform pan. In a large bowl, beat mascarpone cheese (200g), powdered sugar (25g), kalakand (400g) and rose essence ( tsp) until smooth. Fold in whipped cream (200ml). Pour onto the crust. Freeze overnight and remove 15 minutes before serving.
Kalakand rose cheesecake
But even in desserts, not all fusion attempts work. Ranveer Brar, senior executive chef at the Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach, realised that when he tried to give a Western touch to kaju katli. "We tried 10 different combinations, rolled it into a cannoli, turned it into a rose, but somehow it just didn't work," he says.
But like chef Mukherjee, he finds that chhena-based sweets such as rasgullas and gulab jamuns gel well with Western desserts.
"The spongy texture of the rasgulla gives a new dimension to a Western dessert. For instance, we prepare a rose lemon mousse layered with long slices of a rasgulla. Lemon flavours go especially well with chhena," chef Brar says.
Kipling can say what he wants to, but the twain can meet — and end up pleasing the palate.